Career Story: Residential Electrician

Residential Electrician

Job Title: Owner

Education: Black Hills State College, (South Dakota) Summer school •• Gorham State College (Maine) Summer School •• Eastern Nazarene College (Mass.) BA in History

Previous Experience: I started working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as an apprentice electrician, then left and went to college. After graduating I worked as a substitute teacher, and house painter for 5 years, and then got my NH Master Electricians license and have done electrical work for the past 32 years

Job Tasks: My company deals primarily with installing, repairing and updating electrical systems in older houses or existing housing. We also do other residential work such as underground wiring runs, generators Cable for television and phones and the like.

A day in my life starts with getting up at about six in the morning to do "paper work" on the computer and I leave for work at 6:30 to 7:45 depending on the job, the need to get additional material for it, and the distance to travel to the job. Typically I would be adding electrical outlets, some outside lights, maybe a generator hook up with an automatic transfer switch.

A change of pace would be wiring a new house with all the outlets, switches, and new breaker panels that is in it. I would also be doing wiring for TVs and telephones, as well as some computer networking. Depending on the job I either use my morning hours to write up a bill, or write one on the spot. An on the spot bill takes five to fifteen minutes to write out depending on the amount of material used.

Since I specialize in older houses, I do do a lot of driving - 120 to 150 miles a day is not unusual.

Of course I could work on commercial or industrial wiring, but while the money is good, it usually means that I would be working for some other contractor and I do like the independence of being my own boss, with the liberty of taking an extra five or ten minutes to do something right if the situation requires it.

Just a quick review on getting to be an electrician: If you're starting out you will need four years of apprentice training under a licensed electrician, and four years of vo-tech schooling. You will be getting paid more each year as your knowledge increases, and at the end of the four years you'll take a license test.

Yes, you'll need your own tools. The sky is the limit of course, but you WILL need, linesman type wire cutters, screwdrivers, wire strippers, and a meter to check for power. A rechargeable drill is good too, but if your employer does not supply one for you make sure you get a "name brand" one. An 18 volt one is probably your safest choice.

You know that math and geometry stuff that you have to sit through? It really comes in handy, speeds everything way up.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: For me the best part of the job is doing something that people thought was impossible, Getting wires through walls, or changing a single switch light into a multi switch light. A close second is finding stuff that was hidden long ago, like lots of rum runner bottles from the 20's or civil war newspapers under floor boards.

The worst is being unable to do a job in a timely fashion. This is when Murphy's Law intervenes and nothing goes right.

Job Tips:
1. Get those basic math courses under your belt. Yeah, the stuff everyone says you'll never need!

2. It's a great paying job, but don't forget, you are dealing with someone's life and property. DO IT RIGHT! Being an electrician is NOT a hobby.

3. You're going to have to deal with people, customers, and other contractors. Practice biting your tongue...a lot.

4. If you're on your own, keep a good bank account. It is not uncommon to have to spend multiple thousands on a job.

Additional Thoughts: It's going to take time, you have to study, both books and by listening to someone else teach you. But the end result is worth it. Right now fifty dollars an hour is on the low end for an independent electrician to make. (Uncle Sam will want his cut of it too. so keep good books)

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