Most Important Skills Needed to be an Electrician
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- Important soft skills for electricians include communication, problem-solving, and customer service.
- These professionals should be able to work individually and as part of a team.
- Electricians need strong math skills to make measurements and calculate electrical current values.
Electricians install and repair electrical power components — including for communications and lighting — in private and public buildings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for electricians will experience 8% growth from 2019-2029 — a rate much faster than the national average for all jobs. According to the BLS, electricians earned a median annual salary of $56,900 in 2020.
Job prospects are growing, but aspiring electricians must still develop the right skills to launch and maintain a successful career. Electricians need proper training and experience so that they can work as part of a team or as an independent contractor. In the following sections, explore the most important skills needed to be an electrician.
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Top Soft Skills for Electricians
Effective problem-solving involves diagnosing problems correctly and devising creative solutions. In some cases, electricians must think outside the box to resolve electrical issues at a worksite. These professionals must be able to think quickly and adapt to resolve problems for their clients.
“What causes a light or outlet to mysteriously stop working? I say that finding the cause is like solving a puzzle, and I enjoy the challenge.”
Steve Schnute has worked as a residential and commercial electrician for nearly 25 years, and his favorite part of his job is troubleshooting electrical problems. "What causes a light or outlet to mysteriously stop working? I say that finding the cause is like solving a puzzle, and I enjoy the challenge."
In many cases, electricians respond to issues at worksites they have never visited before. When called into a home or place of business, electricians must quickly familiarize themselves with the electrical system, identify the problem, and come up with a solution that will work in that particular situation.
Willingness to Learn
Electricians must cultivate knowledge in mathematics and physics and develop practical skills that can be applied to construction work. Learning new skills and staying abreast of the latest technologies can improve the quality of an electrician's work and help them advance professionally.
"I still learn new skills after all this time as an electrician, and I never have the same day twice," says Schnute.
In general, electricians only need a high school diploma (or GED certificate) to find work. However, some electricians opt to attend trade school to further their education and training.
“I still learn new skills after all this time as an electrician, and I never have the same day twice.”
Trade schools represent a postsecondary education option pursued by many learners. Students can typically complete an electrician program in 1-2 years. These programs offer classes that cover circuits, commercial and residential wiring, and the national electrical code. A trade school program may also prepare students for electrician certification.
Many electricians join apprenticeship programs to develop their technical skills, such as blueprint reading and soldering. Apprenticeship programs may last 4-5 years and provide about 2,000 hours of paid, on-the-job learning.
Electricians must also prepare for certification in electrical work. Certification proves that electricians have the knowledge and experience necessary to perform their duties successfully. More information about electrician certification can be found on the National Electrical Contractors Association's website.
Electricians often come into direct contact with their clients, especially workers who specialize in home repairs. These professionals must speak with clients on the phone to understand the issue and then interact with clients once they enter the home to solve the electrical problem. Electricians may also conduct follow-up calls with clients after completing the service.
Even electricians who work in construction or service commercial buildings may interact with their clients. As such, electricians should develop excellent customer service skills. Customers expect electricians to act in a professional manner and solve problems in a timely fashion. Electricians should clearly communicate any problems and unexpected issues.
“I regularly meet new people, including contractors, designers, homeowners, and other tradesmen.”
Schnute's experience affirms the importance of customer service. "I regularly meet new people, including contractors, designers, homeowners, and other tradesmen."
Additionally, professionals in this field should maintain a positive disposition when dealing with customers. Electricians who keep their clients happy by being courteous and professional often retain customers. This can help electricians grow their business and create opportunities for more work in the future.
Electricians who make repairs in private residences often visit more than one worksite in a day. Clients expect electricians to keep appointments and arrive on time. Professionals must also allow for adequate time at each worksite to understand and resolve the electrical issue. Electricians who are good at estimating how long a job will take can avoid arriving late to appointments later in the day.
Electricians working at a construction site also need excellent time management skills. Construction projects work on a tight schedule. Every delay in the project costs the client time and money. Electricians must budget enough time to finish their projects without delaying the construction work as a whole.
Additionally, electricians who work with a team must remain conscious of how their timeliness affects others. If one member of the team lags behind, parts of the project may not be able to move forward.
Independence and Collaboration
Depending on the project, electricians may work as part of a team or as individuals. Large projects, such as construction projects, may require multiple electricians working on the same site. As such, these professionals must develop team skills such as communication, time management, and collaboration.
Smaller projects, such as residential repairs, typically only require a single electrician. Professionals in this area must know how to work independently. This includes diagnosing and repairing electrical issues without relying on the knowledge and expertise of others.
Electricians in leadership roles, such as project managers or business owners, must also learn how to allocate team resources effectively. Leaders need to assess how many electricians to assign to each project so that work gets completed on time, and they may need to adjust schedules and team dynamics if issues arise.
Whether working independently or as part of a team, electricians need excellent communication skills. Customers expect clear communication about scheduling and repairs. Electricians may also need to explain technical knowledge to the client to relay critical information about the repair.
Electricians working as a team must establish clear lines of communication to define their roles and tasks on a worksite. These professionals must also interact with nonelectrical construction personnel and ensure that all tasks are completed safely and on time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electrician Skills
How important is physical fitness for an electrician?
Electricians should remain in good physical condition. This job may require spending long hours on construction sites or completing repairs in a private residence. Electricians often need to access roofs and basements, which may require climbing stairs and ladders. Additionally, this job sometimes requires working in cramped conditions.
Why can't an electrician be color blind?
Electrical wires are color coded. Electricians must decipher wiring colors correctly -- sometimes in low-light conditions -- to ensure the safety of themselves and others. However, people with color blindness can still become electricians, as long as they use different color filters to correctly identify wire colors.
How much math does an electrician need to know?
Electricians must make accurate measurements of room dimensions and wiring length to determine where to best place electrical components in a building. These professionals must also accurately determine the angles of pipes and circuits. Most importantly, electricians must correctly calculate electrical current values.
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