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Electrician Career Paths: The Ultimate Guide

electrician career path featured image

Have you ever thought about how essential electricity is to your everyday life? Without it, cities would go dark and everyday tasks like charging cell phones and making coffee wouldn’t be possible.

Electricity is crucial to modern life. And, just as important are the men and women who make sure it reaches our homes and offices: electricians.1

electrician career paths outlook

What Does an Electrician Do?

Nearly every building has electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems. Electricians are responsible for installing this equipment during construction and maintaining and repairing it afterward. They apply their trade in an array of settings, including homes, businesses and factories.

Electrician Job Duties

  • Interpret blueprints of electrical systems.
  • Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems.
  • Test and troubleshoot electrical equipment.
  • Repair and replace faulty parts.
  • Train and manage the work of other employees.
  • Adhere to the National Electrical Code and local and state rules.2

Electrician Work Schedules & Conditions

  • Many electricians travel for work.
  • It’s common for electricians to work full-time.
  • Working on evenings and weekends is necessary for some electricians.
  • Work schedules may vary during times of inclement weather.
  • Overtime can be expected during scheduled maintenance or on construction sites.3

Are There Different Types of Electricians?

There are different types of electricians servicing the various fields where electrical wiring is needed. An electrician’s expertise and specialization can depend on the industry in which he or she works.4

Residential Electrician

  • Common Responsibilities: Installing the electrical equipment found in homes and apartments, as well as the outdoor lighting around their landscaping. Residential electricians also perform maintenance and system upgrades.
  • Work Environments: Homes, apartment buildings, condos and hotels, motels and vacation homes.
  • Career Requirements: A combination of formal electrician training in the classroom and an apprenticeship of at least 4 years. Passage of rigorous state testing.5

Commercial Electrician

  • Common Responsibilities: Installing wiring and electrical systems during building construction, including commercial security systems, water heaters, electronic key systems and mechanical electrical equipment. Troubleshooting problems caused by faulty wiring and completing system upgrades are other responsibilities.
  • Work Environments: Construction sites and commercial buildings.
  • Career Requirements: Work involves the safety of the public, so training under a master electrician and obtaining a license is typically required.6

Maintenance Electricians

  • Common Responsibilities: Usually called upon to troubleshoot and repair malfunctioning electrical equipment.
  • Work Environments: Variety of work settings, ranging from homes to industrial complexes.
  • Career Requirements: Formal training via an apprenticeship is typically required. Employers might prefer a certificate in electrician training or an associate degree. State licensure is usually necessary.7

Appliance Installer

  • Common Responsibilities: Installing large appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers, replacing worn parts and running diagnostics on broken appliances.8
  • Work Environments: Customers’ homes.9
  • Career Requirements: Employers generally prefer applicants with some formal training and an associate degree.10

Service Technician

  • Common Responsibilities: Traveling from one job site to another inspecting and repairing the parts of power supply and transmission systems. Service technicians typically specialize in specific types of systems, such as: Transportation systems (Industrial and commercial machines and Utility company-owned power transmission systems.)
  • Work Environments: Industrial and commercial settings.
  • Career Requirements: Formal training and an associate degree can prepare individuals for this career path.11

Industrial Electrician

  • Common Responsibilities: Installation of industrial machinery systems, like the conveyors and industrial robots in manufacturing plants and the massive power systems and control panels supporting steel smelters.
  • Work Environments: Factories, manufacturing plants, shipyards, mining operations and other industrial settings.
  • Career Requirements: Formal training and apprenticeship is typically required to start. Apprentices may progress to the journeyman and then master electrician level. Industrial electricians usually need a state license.  Employers may require professional certifications.12

Solar Panel Installer — the Fastest-Growing Occupation in the Country13

  • Common Responsibilities: Assembling and installing solar panels on rooftops. Connecting solar panels to the electrical grid (depending on state laws and the position). Performing maintenance on a routine basis.14
  • Work Environment: The rooftops, attics and crawl spaces of homes. At ground level when building solar farms.15
  • Career Requirements: A high school diploma is usually required. Many workers train on the job for up to a year. Others train at a technical school, community college or via an apprenticeship.16

What Is the Job Outlook and Pay for Electricians?

Electricians are needed in many industries across the country, and the job outlook is expected to be healthy in the coming years.

Electrician Career Statistics

  • Median annual wage for electricians in 2018 was $55,190 ($26.53 per hour).17
  • Highest 10% earned $94,620 a year.17*
  • Number of electrician jobs in 2018: 715,400.18**
  • Job outlook: 10% growth through 2028 (faster than average for all occupations – 5%).18***

Where Are the Electrician Jobs?

Electricians are needed across the country, especially in places with high populations.

Top States for Employment

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. Ohio19

Top Paying Industries

  • Government ($62,110).
  • Manufacturing ($58,990).
  • Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors ($53,450).
  • Employment services ($48,500).20

Fun Fact: Motion picture and video industries employ 2,540 electricians.21

Celebrities that Began Careers as Electricians

  • George Harrison (The Beatles).22
  • Albert Einstein.23
  • Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones star).24
  • Alfred Hitchcock.25

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Career as an Electrician?

As with most occupations, there are pros and cons of being an electrician. Knowing them can help you make an informed decision about whether a career as an electrician is right for you.

Pros

  • Healthy job outlook: Industry expected to grow 10% through 2028.18***
  • Earning potential: Electricians can advance to higher paying jobs with additional education and experience.26
  • Enjoy the freedom of setting your own schedule: 6% of electricians were self-employed in 2018.3
  • Union membership and benefits: Many electricians are members of a union.3
  • Variety: Electricians have active jobs that send them to different work sites to take on new projects rather than a routine environment.27

Cons

  • Must take safety precautions: Working with electricity can be risky.3
  • Potentially uncomfortable: Work might require you to spend long hours in tight spaces, outdoors in various types of weather or at noisy worksites where you must wear personal protective equipment.3
  • Might require lifting tools, climbing ladders or standing and squatting.27

How Do I Become an Electrician?

You don’t have to attend a 4-year college or university to become an electrician, but certain qualities and skills can be helpful when pursuing this career path. Some can be learned at a trade school, in an apprenticeship and on the job. 28

Steps to Becoming an Electrician

The path each individual takes to becoming an electrician varies. Below are some steps many men and women take to learn the trade and enter the field.

  1. Graduate from High School or Earn Your GED

  2. Complete Electrician Training at a Trade School

    • Trade schools often offer hands-on electrician training in the fundamental concepts and practices of working with electrical wiring.29
    • Subjects covered may include circuitry, safety practices and other basic electrical information.28
  3. Become Licensed and/or Certified

    • Many states require electricians to become licensed or certified before they can start working. The process typically involves completing 6,000 to 8,000 documented hours of an apprenticeship, submitting the appropriate paperwork and taking an exam.30
    • Typically, you have to take a test concerning the National Electrical Code, as well as state or local electrical codes. Requirements for testing can vary from state to state. 28

    Learn more about what certification, licenses, and registrations electricians need.

  4. Seek Employment Assistance (if you need it)

    • Many schools like The Refrigeration School offer employment assistance to its students, including help with writing a resume, searching for jobs and preparing for interviews.

Beneficial Qualities for Becoming an Electrician

  • Color vision to identify electrical wires by color.
  • Communication skills to answer customers’ questions.
  • Critical thinking skills for testing and diagnosing equipment problems.
  • Physical stamina and strength for moving around while connecting wires and lifting heavy parts.
  • Troubleshooting skills for determining why equipment isn’t working and repairing it.

Electrician Knowledge & Skills

  • Electrical circuitry.
  • Basic electricity & electrical theory.
  • Safety and first-aid practices.
  • Blueprint reading.
  • Math.
  • National Electrical Code rules & requirements.28
The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a nationwide benchmark for safety when it comes to electrical installation. NEC was created with a goal to protect people and property from the hazards of improperly installed electrical wiring and equipment.31
  • Adopted in all 50 states.32
  • First published in 1897.
  • Updated and re-published every three years to reflect the changes in technology.33

Where Can Electricians Advance in Their Careers?

With more experience and education, electricians can advance in their careers. Apprentices can build on their skills and abilities to take the exam to obtain their journeyman electrician license, and journeymen can do the same to progress to the master electrician level.34 Other advanced electrician careers include electrical inspection and becoming a general contractor—going into business for yourself.35

Train to Become an Electrician

Electricians play a vital role in modern society and are expected to have healthy job prospects in the coming years, making it a potentially bright career path for those with the right training and skills.

Where can you get started on the path to a career wiring the world? Check out RSI’s comprehensive Electrical Applications program.

Get Started on the Path to a New Career

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  • *Average starting salary for Electrical Applications is net yet reported for RSI graduates employed during the 12 month period of 7/1/17 – 6/30/18.
  • **According to BLS data Arizona employed 12,340 electricians (472111) through May 2018 http://data.bls.gov/oes.
  • ***According to BLS data job growth for electricians (472111) in Arizona is expected to grow 16% through May 2018 http://data.bls.gov/oes.

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