What Does an Electrician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Electricians design, install, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, factories, and public spaces and thoroughfares, in addition to ensuring that electrical work is up to code. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 631,080 people were employed as electricians as of May 2017.
Electrician Duties & Responsibilities
Electricians' duties are diverse and depend on the employer and specialty, but some responsibilities are common to most:
- Diagnosing electrical problems by studying diagrams or blueprints
- Installing and repairing electrical systems.
- Inspecting, troubleshooting, and conducting tests.
- Pinpointing problems using a range of testing devices.
- Safely using various hand and power tools.
- Planning the layout and installation of electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures.
- Complying with all safety standards and regulations per the National Electrical Code.
- Supervising and training others in the installation and repair of electrical components.
Electricians who work for the government tend to be the most highly compensated, but median annual salary across all sectors is about $56,000.
- Median Annual Salary: $59,190 ($28.46/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $94,620 ($45.49/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less Than $32,940 ($15.84/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training & Certification
This job doesn't require a college education, but it does require schooling and licensing. Electricians must be at least 18 years old.
- Education: You'll need a high school diploma or a GED.
- Apprenticeship: Electrician apprenticeship programs generally last four to five years and include a minimum of 576 hours of classroom instruction and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.
- Licensure: Most states and municipalities require that electricians be licensed. You'll have to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local electrical and building codes.
Electricians are a highly unionized profession. In fact, the percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2016 was higher than that of workers in any other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Electrician Skills & Competencies
Working as an electrician requires multiple skills, traits, and abilities:
- Manual dexterity: An electrician must have good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination.
- Color vision: You must be able to identify wires by color, so normal color vision is critical.
- Physical fitness and a good sense of balance: You may have to be on your feet all day in addition to routinely lifting objects that weigh up to 50 pounds.
- Troubleshooting/analytical skills: You'll need to decide which device is the right one for testing a wide variety of problems and then figure out the best solutions.
- Ability to work on a team: Many electricians work in crews with limited supervision.
The job outlook for electricians is good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of electrician jobs will increase by about 9 percent, or about as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2016 and 2026.
Experienced electricians also have many opportunities for advancement, which may or may not involve changing employers. For example, an electrician can become a supervisor or if she works in construction, a project manager. An electrician can also become an electrical inspector for a municipality.
Electricians might work indoors in residential and commercial buildings or outdoors on construction sites, sometimes in inclement weather.
Working as an electrician can be uncomfortable and, at times, dangerous. Electricians work in cramped spaces and spend a lot of time standing or kneeling. They're prone to minor injuries such as burns, shocks, and falls, so wearing protective clothing and equipment at all times is important.
Electricians typically work full-time and may work overtime hours as necessary, sometimes working evenings and weekends. Self-employed electricians might opt to work longer hours in the interests of maintaining and growing their businesses.
How to Get the Job
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Join an apprenticeship program sponsored by the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or by the Independent Electrical Contractors and "learn a trade while being paid."
Once you've finished your apprenticeship, use expert-sourced practice interview questions to prep for your first job interview.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Similar jobs may require more education and be subject to different licensing requirements.
- Drafter: $55,550
- Electrical Engineer: $99,070
- Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic (HVAC): $47,610
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018