If you’re thinking about becoming an electrician in Australia, you’re probably wondering what exactly the job entails. After all, the process of completing an apprenticeship and learning about the industry via on- and off-the-job training is an extensive journey, so it’s critical to understand exactly what sort of work you’ll be competing at the end of the process.
While there can be a huge variation in the paths that licensed electricians to take, there are a few aspects of electrical work that are common to all of them. This is particularly true in the early stages of an electrician’s career when they’ve just completed an apprenticeship and are able to take on residential and commercial work.
What is an Electrician?
Electricians are tradesmen whose responsibilities are to design, install, maintain and troubleshoot electrical wiring systems. These systems can be located in homes, commercial or industrial buildings, and even machines and large pieces of equipment. Electricians work either inside or outside to make possible the use of lights, televisions, industrial equipment, appliances and many other items essential to life.
Electricians are in charge of installing the wirings and systems that provide electrical power to any building or facility. Being an Electrician involves a great deal of problem-solving since these professionals often need to test existing systems to identify and fix any abnormality—a process more commonly known as “troubleshooting”.
An Electrician’s job is very demanding, and it requires manual physical manipulation of electrical wiring, cabling conduit and, in some cases, even telephone wire. Depending on their skills and knowledge, some Electricians may even repair engines, transformers, generators, and electronic controllers.
Electricians usually work as freelancers, either being employed on a project-basis by different construction companies or securing these contracts themselves when having their own company. The latter implies a lot of self-promotion and might also lead them to carry out more clerical tasks.
What does an Electrician do?
Electricians are either inside wiremen or outside linemen. These are the main concentrations of a practising electrical professional, but there are various areas of specialization within each category. Duties also vary widely with each type of position or specialization.
Electricians are tradesmen whose responsibilities are to design, install, maintain and troubleshoot electrical wiring systems.
Electricians who fall into the inside wiremen category focus almost solely on the wiring of buildings. Structures range from a newly built home to an aged industrial building that’s being repurposed for a new use. Inside wiremen, as their name implies, spend most of their careers working indoors. Working with blueprints, they install new electrical systems in new buildings and troubleshoot problems or replace older systems.
Outside linemen, by contrast, work most of their careers outdoors. They must exhibit a moderate amount of physical fitness due to the requirement of climbing telephone and power poles when a lift bucket is not available. Outside linemen must also endure inclement weather in order to repair power outages for all the homes, businesses and other structures in the area affected by the outage. These electricians work with transformers, transmission lines and traffic signals. They may also be required to trim trees or assemble electrical substations.
These main categories are subdivided into several areas. Service electricians, for instance, specialize in troubleshooting wiring problems and making repairs. Construction electricians, in contrast, focus on laying wiring for new buildings and rarely perform maintenance. Electricians also specialize in marine, air, research, and hospital-specific applications.
Electricians typically do the following:
- Read blueprints or technical diagrams
- Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
- Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
- Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices
- Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools
- Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
- Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment
Almost every building has electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power lights, appliances, and equipment that make people’s lives and jobs easier and more comfortable.
Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is often less complicated than maintaining equipment in existing buildings because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. Maintaining equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.
Electricians read blueprints, which are technical diagrams of electrical systems that show the location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment. They use different types of hand and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used hands and power tools include screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills, and saws. While troubleshooting, electricians also may use ammeters, voltmeters, thermal scanners, and cable testers to find problems and ensure that components are working properly.
Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. For example, experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other construction specialists, such as elevator installers and heating and air conditioning workers, to help install or maintain electrical or power systems. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.
Installation vs. Maintenance
If you notice, the tasks in the list above are split between “installation” and “maintenance.” New construction and installation are important and are a very satisfying part of an electrician’s job. However, maintenance is also vitally important. Have you ever been in an office building when the electricity goes out? The place shuts down. Electricians must do routine maintenance checks and periodic testing to make sure systems are running smoothly, and no interruption of operation will occur.
For residential wiremen, maintenance may mean replacing a run-down fuse box with a new circuit breaker or adding new electrical equipment, such as light fixtures or ceiling fans. For inside wiremen working in factories, the maintenance work can be more difficult and can include working on generators, transformers, assembly line machinery, or motors. Factory work can be much more dangerous.
When something goes wrong, it can be very difficult to figure out what is broken, and then, it can difficult to figure out how to fix it! A good maintenance electrician who can keep a facility running smoothly (and quickly fix problems when they arise) will have a long and prosperous career.
How to Become an Electrician
The National Electrical Contractors Association (link opens in a new tab) describes electricians as a “highly technical profession that requires a thorough understanding of how electricity works and the materials and components used to deliver power, as well as electrical safety and standards.” In order to develop this understanding, on-the-job training or vocational training is vital.
The most common avenue to become an electrician is through an apprenticeship program that consists of 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. This usually takes about 4-5 years to complete, after which a license is usually required according to each state’s regulations. An accredited technical school can be acceptable and have courses in safety practices, circuitry and basic electricity, as well as some math and blueprint reading.
Education & Training Required
Apprenticeship programs combine paid on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Joint training committees made up of local unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association; individual electrical contracting companies, or local chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association usually sponsor apprenticeship programs.
Because of the comprehensive training received, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both maintenance and construction work. Apprenticeship programs usually last four years. Each year includes at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and cranes and elevators.
On the job, apprentices work under the supervision of experienced electricians. At first, they drill holes, set anchors and attach conduit. Later, they measure, fabricate, and install conduit and install, connect, and test wiring, outlets, and switches. They also learn to set up and draw diagrams for entire electrical systems. Eventually, they practice and master all of an electrician’s main tasks.
Some people start their classroom training before seeking an apprenticeship. A number of public and private vocational-technical schools and training academies offer training to become an electrician. Employers often hire students who complete these programs and usually start them at a more advanced level than those without this training. A few people become electricians by first working as helpers—assisting electricians by setting up job sites, gathering materials, and doing other nonelectrical work—before entering an apprenticeship program. All apprentices need a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (G.E.D.). Electricians also may need additional classes in mathematics because they solve mathematical problems on the job.
Education continues throughout an electrician’s career. Electricians may need to take classes to learn about changes to the National Electrical Code, and they often complete regular safety programs, manufacturer-specific training, and management training courses. Classes on such topics as low-voltage voice and data systems, telephone systems, video systems, and alternative energy systems such as solar energy and wind energy increasingly are being given as these systems become more prevalent. Other courses teach electricians how to become contractors.
Certifications Needed (Licensure)
Most states and localities require electricians to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary from State to State, electricians usually must pass an examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local and state electric and building codes.
Electrical contractors who do electrical work for the public, as opposed to electricians who work for electrical contractors, often need a special license. In some states, electrical contractors need certification as master electricians. Most States require master electricians to have at least seven years of experience as an electrician or a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field.
Other Skills Required (Other qualifications)
Applicants for apprenticeships usually must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. They also may have to pass a test and meet other requirements.
Other skills needed to become an electrician include manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance. Electricians also need good colour vision because workers frequently must identify electrical wires by colour. In addition, apprenticeship committees and employers view a good work history or military service favourably.
What is the workplace of an Electrician like?
Depending on their area of specialty, electricians work either indoors or outdoors year-round. In either case, their work is often labour intensive and requires manual physical manipulation of electrical wiring, cabling conduit and, in some cases, even telephone wire. A growing number of electricians gain competency in several types of electrical work, allowing them to work both indoors and outdoors.
In many cases, travel is an essential part of the day. Electricians may travel to upwards of 100 miles to a job site and may only work that job for a few days before travelling to another location. These electricians generally fall into the independent contractor category or work under an electrical contractor. Their hours of work vary from week to week.
Maintenance electricians, by contrast, work a standard 40-hour week. In some instances, these electricians may work on an on-call basis, commit to overtime hours or work night shifts. Their work is steady and regular and consists mostly of routine maintenance and troubleshooting.
Job Description of an Electrician
An electrician reads blueprints that reveal the location of outlets, circuits, and other equipment. He or she uses a variety of tools for the job, such as hand and power tools like conduit benders, wire strippers, and power tools. They also use tools like ammeters or voltmeters.
There are two types of electricians. One type is residential, which typically works in private homes or new home construction. The other type is an inside electrician that works most often in factories or businesses with larger electrical systems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a high growth rate in 2012-2022 in this career field based on new construction growth and alternative powers such as wind and solar energy.
Electrician Job Types
As we detailed on our homepage, there are four different kinds of electricians (there are a lot of specialties, but we’ll go into that later). The four different types are:
They install and maintain the electrical wires that go into peoples’ homes. Install wiring and troubleshoot electrical problems in peoples’ homes, which can be either single-family or multi-family dwellings. Those who work in new-home construction install outlets and provide access to power where needed. Those who work in maintenance and remodelling typically repair and replace faulty equipment. For example, if a circuit breaker repeatedly trips after being reset, electricians determine the cause and fix it.
Maintain and repair large motors, equipment, and control systems in businesses and factories. They use their knowledge of electrical systems to help these facilities run safely and efficiently. Some also install the wiring for businesses and factories that are being built. To minimize equipment failure, inside electricians often perform scheduled maintenance.
They lay the cable that is needed for all forms of communication, including phone, computer, and local area network wiring.
They set up the cables that go from power plants to buildings and homes. You’ve probably seen these folks up on telephone poles and laying thick cables on sides of the road—a very difficult (and very high-paying!) job.
Electrician Job Growth
Electricians can look forward to excellent job growth for the next decade. As of 2018, there were 715,400 electricians employed industry-wide across the country; that number is expected to increase a full 10% by 2026. This is an addition of 74,000 new jobs for Electricians*.
While electricians will see this increased demand over the next few years, they can currently rely on there being a greater demand during peak periods of construction building and maintenance. As new buildings go up or renovations take place, contractors will be looking for more electricians to ensure that the jobs are completed on schedule.
Electricians often have rewarding careers, as they are constantly improving their skills and learning new regulations and products. If you are interested in learning more about the Electrician field, please visit our electrical program at Lincoln Tech. This is a truly hands-on course of learning, and it will prepare you to read blueprints, properly install and maintain components and prepare you to enter the field as a new journeyman electrician.
Electricians know what they’re doing. They’re knowledgeable on what local codes are, how the wiring has changed over the years, and what wires do what. They are qualified to help you complete any home project that you have in mind and can get it done quickly. They are equipped to make any modification or repairs you need. Don’t put your home or self at risk, call an electrician.
If you are looking for an expert electrician in Melbourne, then look no further. We are the solution to all your electrical remodelling problems with experience in residential electrician services.
Feel free to contact us for any inquiries. You can rest easy knowing that your house will be in great hands when you choose our dedicated team.