March 11, 2015
Electricians know the ins and outs of designing lighting systems, installing street lights and intercom systems, ensuring electrical work is up to code and repairing electrical wiring. Electricians must go through at least four years of training as an apprentice, followed by the licensing their state requires. Most in the profession specialize in either designing, installing, maintaining and repairing the motors, equipment and electrical systems of businesses and factories or installing, maintaining and repairing the electrical systems of residences. “I like to work on projects that have complex systems, such as water and wastewater treatment facilities,” says Ryan Lee, a journeyman electrician and crew leader with the Ohio-based company Claypool Electric. “I am kind of a perfectionist, and these types of facilities require a great deal of accuracy to ensure that tasks are done accurately.”
There are other subsets, like electricians who specialize in iron and steel mills, or electricians who coordinate the lighting for a motion picture or television program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most stable employment is for electricians who work for businesses and factories. And this is a profession where employment is expected to blossom. Installing alternative energy sources in homes and businesses requires coordination with electricians, and these professionals are still needed to maintain older electrical systems. The BLS predicts this occupation will grow by 19.7 percent by 2022, which translates to 224,600 new positions.
This can be a lucrative career. In 2013, the median wage for an electrician was $50,510. The highest-paid earned north of $80,000, while the lowest-paid electricians earned around $30,000 that year. An apprentice usually makes between 30 percent and 50 percent less than someone who is fully trained. The best-paying industries include motion pictures (where electricians are known as gaffers) and natural gas distribution. The best-paying cities include San Francisco; Oakland, California; and New York City.
The job of an electrician is physically demanding and can be very dangerous if it’s not done correctly. That’s why a good training program is imperative. “Some choose to attend a technical school before entering their apprenticeship program, although this isn’t required. And most program entrants are at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, not everyone enters the field at a young age. “I never knew there would be a way for me to become a state-certified journeyman electrician at this point in my life,” says Martin Messerly, another employee with Claypool Electric who had previously worked nearly three decades as a journeyman mean cutter. “I always thought that it was something that you had to do right out of high school. Now, I just finished my fourth year of apprenticeship training, and with a few more [on-the-job training] hours, I will be a state-certified journeyman electrician.”
An electrician may be taught about volts and amperes during an apprenticeship, but some of their most-used skills are inherent. Many of those who excel in this field are critical thinkers who can quickly diagnose electrical problems. They should also be good listeners and have patience. ”It takes time to solve complex issues with equipment that can be expensive,” says Anthony Pennybaker, a Claypool Electric employee.
Learning to respect and collaborate with other construction workers is also essential. Underwood says it’s important to know that “all levels of people on a job site can have a good idea, and [you should have] the willingness to listen to them.”
|Upward Mobility||Below Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|