What to Know About Being an Electrician

What to Know About Being an Electrician

By Bethanny Parker

Published on July 29, 2021

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If you're looking for a career that doesn't require a four-year degree, you might want to consider being an electrician. You can start a career as an electrician without accumulating much, if any, student loan debt. Many people who want to become electricians start by taking a technical electrician training program.

However, aspiring electricians do not always need to complete a training program. In many cases, you can get into a career as an electrician by starting an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships can be union or non-union. If you pursue a non-union apprenticeship, you will likely have to go to trade school to earn a certificate before starting your apprenticeship.

If you want to complete a union apprenticeship, such as those offered by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), you'll have to join the union and start paying dues. However, you will also be earning a wage while you complete your apprenticeship, and you may find that you have higher wages after completing your apprenticeship as a result of having access to union jobs.

Being able to get started without incurring student debt is one of the big advantages of an electrician career. You'll also earn a good salary while enjoying hands-on work.

What Does an Electrician Do?

Electrician responsibilities include designing and installing electrical systems, as well as maintaining and repairing those systems. Electricians may work indoors or outdoors in homes, factories, and/or businesses.

There are many types of electricians. Electricians often specialize in a certain type of work, such as working on electrical systems in residences, wind turbines, or commercial buildings. Maintenance electricians work on large electrical systems in factories, while highway systems electricians install and maintain street lights and traffic lights.

Typical job responsibilities for electricians include:

Reading and understanding wiring diagrams, blueprints, and other documents Creating plans for new electrical systems, including placement of light fixtures, electrical outlets, and ventilation systems Connecting wires to form electrical circuits Following municipal codes while installing lighting, wiring, and control systems Installing brackets and hangers to support wires and other electrical products Installing relays, circuit breaker panels, and switches Maintaining lighting, wiring, and control systems Training and supervising other electricians Repairing or replacing old wiring, fixtures, and electrical equipment Testing electrical systems to troubleshoot problems

What Is an Electrician's Career Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% job growth for electricians between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than average. The BLS estimates that there will be 62,200 more employed electricians in 2029 than there were in 2019.

The BLS expects that the growth of alternative energy sources and increases in construction spending will increase the demand for electricians. Alternative power sources, such as solar and wind, will require electricians for installation. More electricians will be needed to hook those alternative power sources up to the grid and individual homes.

The BLS projects that there will be around 82,200 job openings for electrician jobs each year. Most of those jobs will be the result of replacing workers who retire or change occupations. Electricians with a variety of specialized skills will have the best chances at landing one of these jobs. The number of jobs available for electricians typically fluctuates as the demand for new construction changes.

What Is an Electrician's Salary Potential?

According to the BLS, the median electrician salary was $56,900 in 2020. Electricians with government jobs earned more, with a median salary of $64,490 in 2020, as do those in manufacturing, who earned a median of $61,510 that year. The lowest 10% of electricians earned less than $33,810 in 2020, while the highest 10% earned over $98,720.

Apprentices typically earn a lower rate. For example, IBEW apprentices in Michigan earn between $10-15 per hour plus benefits. After completing their training, workers who apprenticed through IBEW Michigan earn $40,000-$80,000 per year plus benefits.

You can expect to earn more once you have earned your journeyman license, and even more once you earn your master electrician license. According to PayScale data from June, 2021, the average wage for a journeyman electrician is $60,130 per year, while the average for a master electrician is $70,830 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions About an Electrician's Career

Is being an electrician a good career?

It can be. Electricians earn a good salary and perform needed services. They keep people's lights on and heating and cooling systems operating. There are both union and non-union electrician jobs. Many electricians opt to go out on their own by starting their own electrical contracting business, which can be very rewarding and profitable.

Is it hard to be an electrician?

Although you do not need to attend college, you may need to attend a trade school program, and you will need to complete a 3-5 year apprenticeship program. Once you have completed your training, you must pass state licensing requirements, which usually include a test. Being an electrician requires hard work and discipline, and electricians must be very careful since working with electricity can be dangerous.

How long does it take to become an electrician?

If you take a training program, it will take anywhere from a few months to two years to complete the training. After that, you'll need to complete a 3-5 year apprenticeship. In most states, you'll need to get your journeyman's license and then spend another two years as a journeyman before you can get your master electrician's license. From start to finish, it could take anywhere from five to nine years to become a master electrician.

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