Electricians


Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

Duties

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 an electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power the 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 include 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 hand 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.

Although lineman electricians install distribution and transmission lines to deliver electricity from its source to customers, they are covered in the line installers and repairers profile.

Electricians held about 715,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of electricians were as follows:

Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 66%
Manufacturing 7
Self-employed workers 6
Government 3
Employment services 3

Electricians work indoors and outdoors, at homes, businesses, factories, and construction sites. Because electricians must travel to different worksites, local or long-distance commuting is often required.

On the jobsite, they occasionally work in cramped spaces. The long periods of standing and kneeling can be tiring. Those who work in factories are often subject to noisy machinery. As a result, hearing protection must be worn to protect workers from excess noise.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew, directing helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working with electricity can be dangerous. Electricians must take precautions to avoid getting hurt. Although accidents are potentially fatal, common injuries include electrical shocks, falls, burns, and other minor injuries. Workers must therefore wear protective clothing and safety glasses to reduce these risks.

Work Schedules

Almost all electricians work full time. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends, and may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.

Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may have the ability to set their own schedule.

Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required to become an electrician.

Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.

Training

Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training as well as some classroom instruction.

In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They may also receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship requirements vary by state and locality.

Some electrical contractors have their own training programs, which are not recognized apprenticeship programs but include both classroom and on-the-job training. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some electricians enter apprenticeship programs after working as a helper. The Home Builders Institute offers a preapprenticeship certificate training (PACT) program for eight construction trades, including electricians.

After completing an apprenticeship program, electricians are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own, subject to any local or state licensing requirements.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require electricians to pass a test and be licensed. Requirements vary by state. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board. Many of the requirements can be found on the National Electrical Contractors Association’s website.

The tests have questions related to the National Electrical Code and state and local electrical codes, all of which set standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment.

Electricians may be required to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Electricians must identify electrical wires by color.

Communication skills. Electricians work with people on a regular basis. They should be friendly and be able to address customers’ questions.

Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance in order to determine the best course of action.

Physical stamina. Electricians often need to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire.

Physical strength. Electricians need to be strong enough to move heavy components, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.

Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.

The median annual wage for electricians was $55,190 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,620.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for electricians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $62,110
Manufacturing 58,990
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 53,450
Employment services 48,500

Apprentices receive less pay than fully trained electricians, but their pay increases as they learn to do more.

Almost all electricians work full time. Work schedules may include evenings and weekends, and may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.

Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may have the ability to set their own schedule.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, electricians have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union. Although there is no single union that covers all electricians, the largest organizer of these workers is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Electricians

Median annual wages, May 2018

Electricians

$55,190

Construction trades workers

$44,810

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

Employment of electricians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Increases in construction spending and growing demand for alternative energy sources will drive demand for electricians.

Alternative power generation, such as solar and wind, is an emerging field that should require more electricians for installation. Increasingly, electricians will be needed to link these alternative power sources to homes and power grids over the coming decade. Employment growth stemming from these sources, however, will largely be dependent on government policy.

Job Prospects

Electricians who can perform many different tasks, such as electronic systems repair, solar photovoltaic installation, and industrial component wiring, should have the best job opportunities.

Employment of electricians fluctuates with the overall economy. On the one hand, there is greater demand for electricians during peak periods of building construction and maintenance. On the other hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction and maintenance falls.

Employment projections data for electricians, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Electricians

47-2111 715,400 789,500 10 74,100 Get data

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of electricians.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2018

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

See How to Become One $63,060

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

Associate’s degree $55,550

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.

Associate’s degree $64,330

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor’s degree $99,070

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment.

See How to Become One $57,890

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

High school diploma or equivalent $79,780

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.

Postsecondary nondegree award $47,610

Line Installers and Repairers

Line installers and repairers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

High school diploma or equivalent $65,880

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,680

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

High school diploma or equivalent $83,020

For more details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local electrical contractors, firms that employ maintenance electricians, or local union-management electrician apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeship and training programs for electricians, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

Explore the Trades

Home Builders Institute

IBEW – NECA Electrical Training Alliance

Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc.

National Association of Home Builders

National Electrical Contractors Association

NCCER

O*NET

Electricians


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Electricians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm (visited ).


 

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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