Electricians are needed everywhere, and the job outlook for them is expected to better than average in the coming years, but that’s not the only reason becoming an electrician could be a good career choice.
Massive career growth
Becoming an electrician opens so many opportunities and specialty paths that lead to a life-long rewarding career. Positions and opportunities range from being part of a business at a trade level through to middle management, engineering roles or owning and running your own business. What’s more, within the electrical industry many electricians select a specialty that they focus on whether it is building and construction, green energy/solar, automation, manufacturing, mining, energy or water supply industries.
The electrical industry is always changing with new technologies, so if you’re looking for a career that is flexible and challenging, being an electrician is a life-long rewarding career.
Do You Want To Make a Good Living?
Electricians earn a good living. As we discussed on our homepage, the income that an electrician makes is higher than the average income of any other kind of worker, in 47 out of the 50 states. That’s pretty incredible. It’s even more incredible when you consider that most electricians don’t have as much student loan debt as those other people making more than the average state income.
Note that we wrote, “Good Living” and not “Great Living.” If you want to be filthy rich, go into banking. Or become a journeyman electrician and then start your own company!
What Qualifications Are Required to Be an Electrician?
Working as an electrician is one of the best jobs you can secure with only a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Rather than attending school to gain a degree, electricians get their education on-the-job. This is often obtained through an apprenticeship program lasting four or five years. Apprentices must be at least 18 years of age, with a high school diploma or equivalent, and one year of algebra behind them. They must also pass an aptitude test and a substance abuse screening exam.
During an apprenticeship, trainee electricians must complete 144 hours per year of technical training, where they learn about blueprints, safety and first-aid practices, electrical code requirements, mathematics, and electrical theory. Besides, apprentices participate in 2,000 hours of practical on-the-job experience each year.
Less commonly, electricians attend a technical school. Their courses cover basic electrical information, safety practices, and circuitry. Technical school graduates typically receive credit towards an apprenticeship program.
Most U.S. states require electricians to hold a license. The National Electrical Contractors Association website offers information about each state’s licensure requirements.
Electricians often receive ongoing training throughout their careers. This helps them stay on top of changes to the electrical code, new safety practices, and how to handle specific products.
As electricians do not need a degree, their experience is more important than their education levels. That’s why on-the-job experience is a major component of apprenticeship programs around the country. It also accounts for the relatively large salaries of experienced electricians compared to new hires.
Consequently, electricians with less than a year of experience make up just 2 per cent of the workforce. Accounting for 31 per cent of the workforce, most electricians have between 10 and 19 years of experience. Twenty-four per cent of electricians have at least 20 years of experience, 22 per cent have between one and four years of experience, and 21 per cent have between five and nine years of experience.
This points to the value an electrician’s experience brings to the role. Electricians passionate about their profession should find numerous opportunities throughout their careers.
Electricians rely on a variety of technical skills and personal attributes to excel in their positions. While these attributes aren’t usually listed on an electrician job description, don’t underestimate their appeal to hiring managers:
- Understanding of electrical standards – Electricians must meet recognized standards for all installations and repairs.
- Understanding of mathematical and scientific principles – While electricians don’t need advanced mathematical and scientific skills, they will apply the basic principles of these disciplines to their work.
- Good comprehension skills – These will help electricians interpret and understand memos, blueprints, and technical documents they receive on new job sites.
- Keen eyesight and hand-eye coordination – Working with electrical products, components, and systems are precise work which relies on steady hands and excellent vision.
- Independent worker – While electricians may work as part of a larger construction team, this position tends to be a solitary role that suits people who prefer working on their own.
- Time management – It’s essential for electricians to complete work to manage their time well and complete projects on schedule.
- Concern for safety – Electricians work in dangerous environments which place them at risk of shocks and burns, so it’s important to be cautious.
- Critical thinking – After product and system testing, electricians use the data they collect to diagnose problems and determine the best solutions.
- Logical problem-solving skills – When electrical products and systems fail, electricians must think logically to find solutions to these problems.
- Customer service skills – Having a personable demeanour helps electricians deal with residential and business customers.
- Physical endurance – Electricians often have to stand or kneel for extended periods, which can take a toll on the body.
- Physical strength – It’s not uncommon for electricians to move heavy components weighing as much as 50 pounds.
- Leadership Skills– As electricians progress in their careers, they will be called on to manage apprentices and junior electricians in the workplace.
Job Security and Career Growth
In an era when many jobs are disappearing, the job outlook for electricians is pretty bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the projected per cent change in employment from 2012 to 2022 will be a 20% increase for electricians—and only an 11% increase for all occupations. If you’re a gambler, a career as an electrician is a pretty solid bet.
Another way of asking this is, do you want to change jobs five years from now? Some people like having a bunch of different careers. They like the unscripted life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. More and more Americans are forced to dramatically change their career trajectory at least once during their professional career.
Other people, however, want to know, “Ten years from now, I’ll have a job, and I’ll make more money than I’m making now.” That’s not true for a lot of people in a lot of jobs, but it’s true for electricians.
Typical pay for electricians is significantly higher than standard pay for all occupations. The median pay for electricians was $49,840 per year as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as compared to $34,750 for all jobs. In smaller communities or less-thriving locations, the pay is more moderate. The BLS indicated that the top 25 per cent of electricians earned $82,930 or more. Geography plays a part in pay, as electricians in Alaska, New York and Illinois earned more than $70,000 per year.
You should never choose a career based on what you’ll earn, and you need to be passionate about what you’re going to do with your career. But let’s be honest we all want to know what we’re going to earn. A 1st-year apprentice can start on approx. $25,000, a 4th Year apprentice about $44,000 and once you have your A grade, the average salary is $60,000 and upwards.*
*salary based on minimum award wage and payscale.com
When choosing a career field, it’s a good idea to select something that has a high level of job growth. Since you’ll need to spend some time either in education or training, you’ll want to be sure that there are still plenty of jobs available once you’re ready to join the workforce. The good news is, the job growth average for electricians is much higher than many other careers.
The United States Department of Labor estimates that electricians will see a 14% increase in job growth through 2024, which is considered to be much faster than average. With the growth in solar and wind energy fields, the need for electricians is constantly rising in the United States. Those who begin an electrician apprenticeship now will most likely have plenty of work to choose from once they’re ready to work on their own.
Flexibility and Variability
You do have some career flexibility as an electrician, although it isn’t necessarily greater than that of other career paths. You can work for firms that specialize in residential or commercial installations and repairs or for general providers. The BLS also noted that 9 per cent of all electricians were self-employed as of 2012. Electrical work is relatively stable because homes and buildings always need electricity. The BLS indicated a 20 per cent projected growth rate in electrician jobs from 2012 to 2022, which compares favourably to the 11 per cent projected growth for all occupations.
Electricians may spend their time working inside buildings under construction or renovation or outdoors on power and telecommunications systems. They may work in large spaces or cramped conditions. These working environments often involve live electrical wires, so they can be quite dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Often electricians work independently on projects, but they may also be part of a larger construction team.
Unlike many employees who have a regular place of work, electricians work on a remote site for a certain period of time, ranging from a single day to a few months, before moving on to the next job. Job sites can be far from electricians’ homes. It’s not uncommon for electricians to travel 100 miles or more from their home to complete work.
Electricians have a relatively dangerous career. The BLS indicated that, as of 2012, electricians have a higher rate of injuries and accidents on the job than the rate for other occupations on average. Electrical shocks are among the most common and potentially severe risks. Electricians also fall off ladders or other high points when installing or fixing wires. Protective clothing, hard hats and eyewear are usually required on jobs, which can become cumbersome as well.
Unlike many professional occupations, electricians typically don’t need a traditional college education. However, as with other trade careers, you need to go through intensive training to become an electrician. You must typically dedicate yourself to train as an apprentice for four or five years, logging 144 technical training hours and 2,000 hands-on paid training hours. Thus, your training process usually takes at least as long as earning a bachelor’s degree. You also normally have to pass a state licensing exam to become licensed for electrical work. The training and testing process has a heavy concentration on safety factors and familiarity with electrical codes.
Be your boss
If you’re interested in starting your own business, many electricians are self-employed who own and manage their own business; this can be fun and exciting and a good reason to become an electrician.
Electricians will always be in demand
There is currently a skills shortage in the electrical industry (and doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon). Plus there will always be a need for electricians as the electrical industry evolves with changing technologies, electrical systems need to be installed and maintained by professionals in domestic, commercial, industrial, and mining industries.
The decision to outsource jobs to other nations in order for corporations to save money has been a troubling trend for people in many careers in the United States. Everything from car manufacturers to 911 police dispatchers have seen their jobs sent elsewhere and has been stuck trying to find new work. Thankfully, electricians have a certain level of job security in comparison to many other jobs.
Existing electrical infrastructure and installations can’t be repaired by someone overseas. Skilled, experienced electricians will always be in demand to repair and upgrade existing systems that can’t be dismantled to be repaired elsewhere or replaced.
Beginning the process of becoming an electrician is a great choice that will set you on the path of an honest career with excellent pay and a bright future ahead of it. If you’ve been searching for a career that won’t bury you in debt and will have a job waiting for you when you’re finished training, becoming an electrician is the way to go.
Should I become an electrician?
We’ve put together a few questions to ask yourself. If you can answer “yes” to enough of the questions below, then most definitely—you’d love being an electrician!
Can You Work With Others?
Many people are surprised to find out that a job as an electrician is a very social event! It makes sense if you think about it: from your very first days as a student or apprentice, you will be learning from those around you. During your apprenticeship, you will be working on teams with other electricians—but also other tradespeople of every kind (as well as the client you’re working for!). Then, once you get your journeyman license, you may even train a few apprentices of your own over the course of your career. At every turn, you’ll be working with and interacting with others.
There will be many occasions where you’ll have to go off on your own and finish a task without the accompaniment of other people, but by and large, there is a lot of personal interaction as an electrician. If you can work well with others, you’ll make a great electrician.
Next up in our discussion of “Should I Become An Electrician?”…
Are You Physically Healthy?
There is a lot of intellectual effort required to be an electrician, but there is also a significant physical aspect of the job. You’ll be using shovels to dig trenches, using saws and conduit benders to install conduit, and you’ll be climbing stairs/ladders/scaffolding / etc. many times during the day. You’ll be shimmying your way into small spaces and figuring out a way to get into hard-to-reach corners. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or an Olympian, but you do need to fit in order to be effective physically.
We mentioned this on the homepage, but it’s worth repeating, especially if you’re worried you’re not fit enough to be an electrician: there are plenty of guys in their late 40s and 50s and even 60s who you wouldn’t call “in shape,” but they get the job done. If you have a full range of motion and can move around on your feet all day, you’ll be good to go.
Are You Good With Your Hands?
Being an electrician requires a LOT of manual dexterity, and a lot of hand-eye coordination (looks like all those video games are finally going to pay off!). It may be a little surprising, but “electrician” is a very tactile job. You’ll be using your hands a LOT.
Are You Willing To Do Physical Labor?
If you’re looking for a straight-up desk job, this isn’t it! You’ll be up and down and all over the place for much of the day.
But for most of us, that’s one of the best aspects of the job! Moving around, using your muscles, staying fit—it’s one of the best parts of the work, and when you’re at home at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve done something.
Do You Have Good Vision?
If you wear glasses, and you can see, you’ll be fine. The only way that you’d run into problems is if you’re colourblind.
Colourblindness is the inability to distinguish certain colours—usually red and green—from one another, and it affects up to 8% of the male population. Because wires are often colour-coded, colour blindness can lead to wiring mistakes, and wiring mistakes can lead anything from property damage to electrocution and/or death. If you are colourblind, “electrician” may not be the career choice for you.
Can you do basic math?
Hated math in school? Don’t worry. You don’t need calculus or advanced physics to become an electrician. Just simple algebra—skills you probably learned in elementary or middle school.
If you can handle basic math, you’ll do fine in electrician training and throughout your career.
Do You Have A Good Sense Of Balance?
Also helpful. You may be called to climb to high places, and being able to keep your feet under you is a good thing!
Do You Like Electricity?
This is a weird question, but something to consider. Do you think you’d like working with electricity? Because if you become an electrician, you’re going to be thinking about electricity—a lot.
For many electricians, the idea of helping create something—an office building, a sports arena, or even a simple residence—is a source of pride. If you can picture yourself being proud to create something real and tangible, being an electrician may be a great career choice.
Does a job as an electrician sound like a good fit for you? The reasons above should help you decide. If you’re ready to begin your career as an electrician, contact a trade school today.