Electricians are highly trained craftspersons who install, maintain, and repair power and electrical systems for public, private, and commercial customers. Electricians generally specialize in construction or maintenance work though many perform both services. Electricians who specialize in construction install and maintain the wires, control equipment, and other devices required to carry electricity within new homes, businesses, and factories.
Electricians who specialize in maintenance repair work quickly to minimize interruptions in electrical services as they replace or upgrade existing electrical equipment and systems. Some electricians work within industrial environments and do complicated repairs and maintenance work. These electricians work closely with management, engineers, technicians, machinery mechanics, maintenance workers, and line installers or repairs replacing and maintaining electrical components, like motors, generators, controllers, and transformers, on industrial machinery or robots. Industrial electricians also propose plans to management when equipment malfunctions or is in need of repair to allow continued operation or decrease the risks of hazards from faulty machinery.
All electricians follow blueprints which map out the locations of panel boards, outlets, circuits, load centers, and other aspects of an electrical system. Electricians often help in the planning of electrical projects as well as the execution by installing components, connecting wiring, and placing circuit breakers, outlets, transformers, and other aspects of electrical systems. Electricians use a variety of tools, from simple screwdrivers, knives, pliers, saws, and wire strippers, to more complicated, like conduit benders, ammeters, drills, voltmeters, harmonic testers, and other safety or test devices. Electricians use simple tools when installing wiring and later test connections and ensure proper operation and safety with more complicated tools. Electricians frequently inspect all components and equipment within an electrical systems to ensure efficiency and prevent problems.
Electricians work within a number of indoor and outdoor environments, like private residences, construction sites, businesses, industrial complexes, and factories. Electricians have strenuous and often hazardous jobs. Electricians must be able to lift heavy objects, stand, stoop, kneel, and bend conduit as well as follow safety protocols to prevent electrical shock, falls, cuts, scrapes, and other injuries. Most electricians work 40 hours or more per week to accommodate clients with evening or weekend emergencies. Electricians who work within industrial organizations may work overtime hours during retooling or scheduled maintenance periods. Some electricians who work for larger organizations with 24 hour operations may work first, second, or third shifts.
Individuals must complete formal training, gain hands on experience, and fulfill licensing requirements as determined by state and employer regulations in order to qualify for employment as an electrician. High school students interested in establishing careers as electricians may prepare by participating in courses like science, shop, technical drawing, mathematics, physical education, business, and English. Many high school students also work as assistants to electricians to gain hands on experience. Upon earning a diploma or G.E.D., many students advance to apprenticeships, trade or technical school programs, community colleges, or universities to expand education.
Apprenticeship programs provide individuals with the ability to participate in classroom studies combined with hands on experiences. Most apprenticeship programs are sponsored by the National Electrical Contractors Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Independent Electrical Contractors Association, or individual electrical contracting companies. Apprenticeships require students to invest a minimum of 4 years of training to gradually learn the most basic techniques to more complex information necessary to qualify for employment. Apprenticeship programs feature courses based in mathematics, electrical code requirements, blueprint reading, electrical theory, safety regulations, first aid practices, and communications. Apprenticeship programs generally provide paid on the job training working closely with more experienced electricians so students may apply information learned within classroom settings. Apprenticeship programs also feature the ability to specialize training in fields like soldering, fire alarm systems, elevators and cranes, or communications. Students within apprenticeships usually begin with simple tasks, like drilling holes, attaching conduit, or setting anchors, and then advance to measuring, fabricating, connecting, testing, or installing conduit, outlets, switches, and other components. Individuals who complete apprenticeships generally advance to employment as electricians.
Trade or vocational schools provide students with an extensive understanding of the knowledge and skills necessary to advance as electricians. Courses include: HVAC technician, basic designing and installing, basic programmable logic controllers, basic voice and data cable installation, commercial wiring, conduit bending, electrical estimating, electrical systems containing automatic transfer service, electrical theory, foreman training program, gas and oil burner control wiring, general maintenance, installation of multiganged meter equipment, introduction trade electricity, lead certification, low voltage license preparation, master electrician license preparation, motor and motor controls, national electric code, fire alarm installation, OSHA, fire alarm practical, security and fire alarm, techniques of the trade, understanding of the National Electric Contractors Association, and wiring and family dwellings. Individuals who complete training within trade or vocational schools often advance to certification and licensing programs
Associate degree programs offer students an expanded educational basis required to advance to careers as an electrician. Courses include: electrical foundations, introduction to residential wiring, basic wiring techniques lab, electrical foundations, residential wiring, transformers, advanced wiring, motor controls, motor theory, OSHA construction safety and health, industrial controls, motor drive systems, advanced industrial controls, renewable energy systems, advanced PLCs, photo-voltaic energy, renewable energy sources, environmental science, photo-voltaic energy, and renewable energy sources. Students enrolled within associate degree programs also complete laboratory and practical experiences to apply course theories in hands on settings. Graduates from associate degree programs generally advance to employment or continue studies within electrical engineering programs.
Bachelor degree programs within the discipline of electrical engineering offer students the ability to strengthen skills, expand education, and gain hands on experiences necessary to advance to a number of career options. Courses include: computers and programming, calculus, general chemistry, English composition, Western civilization, introduction to economics, oral communication process, calculus, Physics, digital hardware organization, fundamentals of circuit analysis, data structures, linear Algebra, differential equations, applied quantum physics, social forces, signals and systems, principles of electronics, microprocessors, advanced writing t-lines and electromagnetic fields, human values, electronic product design, and laboratory or practicum experiences to apply course theories to work experiences. Graduates who complete bachelor degree programs may advance to employment or higher degrees.
Master degree programs in electrical engineering gain the means of specializing knowledge and refining skills necessary to advance or establish their careers. Courses include: entrepreneurial engineer seminar, integrated circuit fabrication processes, principles and models of semiconductor devices, the Fourier transform and its applications, introduction to linear dynamical systems, introduction to VLSI systems, introduction to wireless personal communications introduction to statistical signal processing, computer systems architecture, introduction to computer networks, fundamentals of energy processes, advanced integrated circuits technology, digital MOS integrated circuits, RF integrated circuit design, VLSI signal conditioning circuits, VLSI data conversion circuits, nanophotonices, wireless communication, convex optimization, digital image processing, colloquium on computer systems, advanced processor architecture, topics in international technology management, topics in international advanced technology research, entrepreneurship in Asian high tech industries, feedback control design, micro/nano systems design and fabrication laboratory. Graduates who complete master’s degrees may advance to employment or continue studies within doctoral degree programs.
Doctoral degree programs offer candidates the ability to gain the education and skills necessary to qualify as experts in the field of electrical engineering. Courses include: testing of digital systems; introduction to semiconductor processing; statistical analysis; parametric/functional device testing; very large scale integrated circuit design; design and analysis of analog integrated circuits; modern communications circuits; computer aided circuit design; fiber optic systems; advanced communications systems; modern optics; digital signal processing; system modeling and simulation; advanced digital systems design; industrial co-op; special topics in design, simulation, and testing of electronic systems; special topics: DC-DC converter design and test; biomedical signal processing; biosensors and bioelectronics; dissertation research; dissertation; and graduate seminar. Graduates who complete doctoral degrees often advance to positions as educators, researchers, or consultants within colleges, universities, or self owned businesses.
Electricians are generally required to gain licensure upon completion of training programs as determined by state regulations. Licensing programs allow electricians to demonstrate their skills and knowledge of the field to gain the certification necessary to qualify as master electricians. Candidates must pass an examination which tests their understanding of the National Electric Code, local and state electric and building codes, and the electrical theory. Many states require electricians to gain specialized licensing to work for public organizations or for electrical contractors. Most states also require electricians to complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and seven years of work experience to qualify as master electricians.
Electricians have the ability to establish lucrative careers. Earnings for electricians are based upon several factors including: skill level, level of education, work experience, organization of employment, geographic location, and area of specialty. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports average hourly wages for most electricians range from $17.00 to $29.99 per hour. Electricians who work within electric power generation, transmission, and distribution earn $28.15 per hour. Electricians employed by local governments earn $25.66 per hour. Electricians within nonresidential building construction earn $22.21 per hour. Electricians who work within apprenticeships earn 30 to 50 percent of the salary a fully trained electrician earns and have the ability to receive pay increases as they advance skills throughout their training. Many electricians become members of unions which include: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the United Steelworkers of America, the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers, and the International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft, and Agriculture Implement Workers of America.
Skilled electricians who meet formal training, licensing, and work experience requirements are expected to find favorable job prospects per reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Job growth in the field is predicted to increase by 12 percent through 2018. Candidates who demonstrate their knowledge, complete formal training, and are competent with voice, data, and video wiring are expected to find increased employability in comparison to candidates with less training and experience. Technological advances, population growth, increases in electricity consumption, the rise of green energy, and improvements within older structures will further job growth in the field. Employment is expected to remain stable for electricians though fluctuations in the economy could adversely affect the construction industry and number of jobs available to construction electricians. Maintenance electricians are expected to find steadier employment than those working within construction, automotive, and manufacturing industries due to cyclical economic fluctuations though increased employment opportunities within electrical consulting firms generally offset job losses and instability.
Experienced electricians often advance to supervisory or project management positions within construction, contracting, or other related businesses. Many experienced electricians also advance to positions as electrical inspectors. Electricians are required to continue education through their careers to remain current of any industry changes, safety protocols, manufacturing changes, or management issues. Electricians must be familiar with changes of the National Electric Code, maintain licensure, and acquire familiarity with changing industry or safety advances.