Looking for a career with some spark? Not only are electrician skills beneficial for upkeep on your own home, they can form the basis of a successful career. Electricians play a key role in the building trades, reading and following blueprints to install the electrical wiring in new homes and buildings.
Electricians also perform electrical repair and expansion of electric lines in buildings, hard-wire industrial equipment and major appliances such as central air conditioning units to fuse boxes, and maintain and repair electrical industrial equipment. Electricians may choose to specialize in construction or maintenance and repair, although many electricians do both.
Electricians must know how to read blueprints and must be well-versed in jobsite safety practices as well as the National Electric Code and state and local electric codes. Most electricians learn their trade through a combination of classroom work and paid hands-on training as an electrician's apprentice.
Classroom instruction typically covers the properties and behavior of electricity, reading blueprints, electrical code, mathematics, safety practices and first aid. The hands-on training covers construction practices, including installation of conduit, outlets and switches, diagramming electrical systems and testing electric lines. Apprentices will also learn to use basic construction tools and tools specific to their trade, such as ammeters, ohmmeters, voltmeters, oscilloscopes.
Over the course of an apprenticeship, an apprentice electrician can learn all aspects of the trade. Apprenticeships generally last four years, with at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training required each year. Apprenticeships are typically sponsored by chapters of local electrician builders or contractors unions, building trade groups, or local electrical contracting businesses or associations of businesses.
In most states, you will need to pass a licensing exam after completing an apprenticeship. The exam tests your knowledge of electrical theory as well as national, state, and local codes. You may also have to take periodic continuing education courses covering changes to the electrical code to maintain your license.
Job Market for Electricians
The job market for electricians is large--more than 700,000 jobs in 2006, with 23,000 new jobs expected in the field over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the new job growth lags behind job growth overall, the size and stability of the field means steady opportunities for new electricians as positions open up due to retirement and advancement.
Electricians also have a lot of opportunities for career advancement, with jobs as supervisors, project managers, construction superintendents, or electrical inspectors. Some of these positions may require additional training and certification in vocational programs. You can also increase your marketability as an electrician by learning specialized skills such as working with alarm systems, communications lines and elevators. According to the BLS, electricians earned an average of $48,100 in 2007.