Electricians install, repair, and maintain electrical wiring systems. They ensure that all wiring adheres to local and national safety standards, and are knowledgeable about electrical codes and safety protocols. Electricians may work on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. Some electricians specialize in specific types of installations, such as fire alarms, solar panels, or data lines.
Getting Started as an Electrician
A high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum requirement for becoming an electrician. However, most electricians get their training on-the-job, through an apprenticeship program that lasts four to five years. An apprenticeship typically includes classroom instruction that teaches students about electrical theory, on-the-job safety, and reading blueprints. Apprentices also receive a wage while they learn their trade. In some cases, trade schools offer career certificates for electricians or associate’s degrees in electrical technology that can serve as a bridge to an apprenticeship.
Some electricians are union members, which means they belong to a trade organization such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Being part of a union comes with benefits such as access to jobs at more reputable employers and the ability to negotiate contracts with private businesses that contract with the IBEW to do work. Union members are typically required to pay union dues as well as attend meetings with their union representatives to stay up-to-date on issues that may affect them.
In addition to their on-the-job training, electricians often take courses in advanced math, electronic circuits, and power distribution systems. They may also pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, which can provide a more comprehensive education and improve their job prospects.
A major downside of a career as an Electrician is that the work can be very stressful, especially when dealing with complex and dangerous electrical problems. Other challenges include the need for on-call duty and working irregular hours, such as nights and weekends.
Because of the complexity and power involved in their work, electricians must follow strict safety protocols. If they are not careful, they could cause fires, electrocutions, or other injuries. Electricians are required to wear protective gear, including gloves, eye protection, and sturdy boots.
The work can be physically demanding, and electricians must be able to climb ladders and other structures to reach electrical equipment in hard-to-reach places. In addition, they are frequently required to stand for long periods of time.
As the demand for electricity grows, so does the need for skilled electricians. The industry is always changing, so electricians must continually update their skills and learn new techniques to keep up with advancements. They must be adaptable to different situations and working environments, from installing solar panels on a roof to running LAN cables in an old mill.
One potential drawback of the field is that the number of jobs available depends on larger economic trends. When the economy is booming, so are employment opportunities for electricians. But when the economy slows, so do job prospects. As such, electricians must be prepared for periodic layoffs.