Almost all buildings throughout the country have electrical power, communications and lighting, and trained electricians are needed to set up these systems and perform routine maintenance on them — they are the experts we trust with this important work.
In the construction industry, electricians install and maintain electrical wiring, control and lighting systems and fix problems before they get out of hand. They usually do this work after reading blueprints and taking time to understand the comprehensive building plan they are working on. Electricians need to be expertly trained to do their work safely, especially given the complexities involved.
A Day in the Life of an Electrician
Because electricians work on a variety of different job sites, their job and duties tend to change all the time. They might be updating wiring to an older home one day only to work on the electrical component of a large commercial project the next.
Still, no matter the job site — large or small — the core functions of an electrician tend to stay the same. Duties performed by electricians can include:
- Reading blueprints or technical diagrams to learn about electrical plans
- Installing wiring, control and lighting systems
- Maintaining electrical systems, including performing routine updates
- Inspecting electrical components, including transformers and circuit breakers
- Testing electrical systems to find errors or problems
- Replacing faulty wiring or equipment
- Learning about state and local building regulations
- Directing other workers on how to maintain and install electrical components on building projects
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, many electricians work alone. However, they may collaborate with additional electricians on larger, new construction jobs that have large electrical systems planned. Older, more seasoned electricians may also oversee the work of newer professionals, especially when they first start on the job.
Because electricians are always hopping from job to job, many find this work more exciting than other, more traditional jobs. Electricians never know where they'll work next or what type of challenges they'll face, yet they show up and do their best regardless.
Important Characteristics for Electricians
Some of the attributes that can help electricians be successful include great critical-thinking skills and solid judgment. This is not only because a lot of decisions need to be made on the job site, but because there is a lot of danger involved at these sites as well.
Electricians also need great communication skills to be able to talk and collaborate with other construction professionals. Because electricians work with wires of varying colors, they need to have color vision to do the job. Lastly, electricians need good physical strength and stamina to perform the physical and demanding aspects of their jobs.
Typical Steps for Becoming an Electrician
Becoming an electrician typically requires a few years of education that include an apprenticeship. If you are interested in this career, here are the steps you'll need to take:
1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. The first step to getting started in an electrician career is earning a high school diploma or completing a GED. You need this credential to move on to the next step of electrician training.
2. Attend community college or technical school. While not all electricians attend technical school or community college, many do. Electrician training schools offer textbook training and hands-on instruction on topics such as circuitry, safety practices and basic electrical work. Students who pursue studies like this typically receive credit toward an apprenticeship. While a degree may not be necessary for employment, there are numerous degree options one can pursue in this field. Popular options offered at electrician school include:
- Associate Degree in Electrical Technology
- Electrician Online Diploma
- Electrician Certificate Program
3. Complete an apprenticeship. Most electricians learn the bulk of their job skills during a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. These programs typically include paid, on-the-job training in conjunction with classroom instruction. After an apprenticeship is completed from start to end, electricians are considered independent workers who may perform jobs on their own.
4. Become licensed to work in your state. Most states require electricians to be licensed to work in their careers. Licensing typically involves taking a test to show your knowledge of the National Electrical Code and state and local codes in your area. Your knowledge of electrical safety will also be tested.
5. Complete continuing education courses. Electricians in certain states may be required to take continuing education courses. These courses cover changes in electrical theory or practice, new safety procedures, and training on certain products.
- Electrical Technology Associate Degree, New England Institute of Technology, https://www.neit.edu/Programs/Associate-Degree-Programs/Building-Technologies/Electrical-Technology
- Electricians, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-24 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm
- Online Electrician Training, Penn Foster Online Career School, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/construction-and-maintenance/residential-electrician-career-diploma