Electricians

Summary

electricians image
Electricians inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers.
Quick Facts: Electricians
2012 Median Pay $49,840 per year
$23.96 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Apprenticeship
Number of Jobs, 2012 583,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 20% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 114,700

What Electricians Do

Electricians install and maintain electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

Work Environment

Electricians work indoors and outdoors, in nearly every type of facility. Almost all electricians work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. Although the work is not as dangerous as other construction occupations, potential injuries include electrical shocks and burns, cuts, and falls.

How to Become an Electrician

Although most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for electricians was $49,840 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of electricians is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. As homes and businesses require more wiring,  electricians will be needed to install the necessary components. Electricians with the widest variety of skills should have the best job opportunities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of electricians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about electricians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Electricians Do

Electricians
Electricians often cap wires before installing an outlet.

Electricians install and maintain electrical power, communications, lighting, and control  systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

Duties

Electricians typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints or technical diagrams
  • Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
  • Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
  • Identify electrical problems with a variety of testing devices
  • Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools
  • Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electric Code
  • Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

Almost every building has an electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power the lights, appliances, and equipment that make people’s lives and jobs easier and more comfortable.

Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is less complicated than maintaining equipment in existing buildings. This is because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. In addition, maintaining equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.

Electricians read blueprints, which are technical diagrams of electrical systems that show the location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment. They use different types of hand and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used hand and power tools include screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills, and saws. While troubleshooting, electricians also may use ammeters, voltmeters, thermal scanners, and cable testers to find problems and ensure that components are working properly.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. For example, experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other construction specialists, such as elevator installers and heating and air conditioning workers, to help install or maintain electrical or power systems. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

The following are examples of types of electricians:

Inside electricians maintain and repair large motors, equipment, and control systems in businesses and factories. They use their knowledge of electrical systems to help these facilities run safely and efficiently. Some also install the wiring for businesses and factories that are being built. To minimize equipment failure, inside electricians often perform scheduled maintenance.

Residential electricians install wiring and troubleshoot electrical problems in peoples’ homes. Those who work in new-home construction install outlets and provide access to power where needed. Those who work in maintenance and remodeling typically repair and replace faulty equipment. For example, if a circuit breaker repeatedly trips after being reset, electricians determine the reason and fix it.

Work Environment

Electricians
Electricians wear a variety of safety equipment to reduce their risk of injury.

Electricians held about 583,500 jobs in 2012, of which 61 percent were employed in the electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors industry. About 9 percent were self-employed.

Electricians work indoors and outdoors, in homes, businesses, factories, and construction sites. Because electricians must travel to different worksites, local or long distance commuting is often required.

On the jobsite, they occasionally work in cramped spaces, and constant standing and kneeling can be tiring. Those who work in factories are often subject to noisy machinery. As a result, hearing protection must be worn to protect workers from excess noise.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

Injuries and Illnesses

Electricians have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Although few accidents are potentially fatal, common injuries include electrical shocks, falls, burns, and other minor injuries. Workers must therefore wear protective clothing and safety glasses to reduce these risks.

Work Schedules

Almost all electricians work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. However, work schedules may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.

About 9 percent of electricians were self-employed in 2012. Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may have the ability to set their own schedule.

How to Become an Electrician

Electricians
Most electricians learn their skills on the job.

Although most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required.

Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.

After completing their initial training, electricians may be required to take continuing education courses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.

Training

Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They also may receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.

After completing an apprenticeship program, electricians are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own, subject to any local licensing requirements. Because of this comprehensive training, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both construction and maintenance work.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • One year of algebra
  • Qualifying score on an aptitude test
  • Pass substance abuse screening

Some electrical contractors have their own training program. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some electricians enter apprenticeship programs after working as a helper. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require electricians to pass a test and be licensed. Requirements vary by state. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board.

The tests have questions related to the National Electrical Code, state electrical codes, and local electrical codes.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Self-employed electricians must be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan payroll and work assignments. 

Color vision. Electricians must identify electrical wires by color.

Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance to determine the best course of action.

Customer-service skills. Electricians work with people on a regular basis. As a result, they should be friendly and be able to address customers’ questions.

Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.

Pay

Electricians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Electricians

$49,840

Construction trades workers

$38,970

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for electricians was $49,840 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,420, and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,930.

The starting pay for apprentices is usually between 30 percent and 50 percent of what fully trained electricians make, receiving pay increases as they gain more skill.   

Almost all electricians work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. During scheduled maintenance, inside electricians can expect to work overtime. Overtime is also common on construction worksites, where meeting deadlines is critical.

About 9 percent of electricians were self-employed in 2012. Self-employed electricians often work in residential construction and may have the ability to set their own schedule.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, electricians had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012. Although there is no single union, the largest organizer for electricians is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Job Outlook

Electricians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Construction trades workers

22%

Electricians

20%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of electricians is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. As homes and businesses require more wiring, electricians will be needed to install the necessary components. Overall growth of the construction industry and the need to maintain older equipment in manufacturing plants also will require more electricians. 

Alternative power generation, such as solar and wind, is an emerging field that should require more electricians for installation. Increasingly, electricians will be needed to link these alternative power sources to homes and power grids over the coming decade. Employment growth stemming from these sources, however, will largely be dependent on government policy.

With greater efficiency and reliability of newer manufacturing plants, demand for electricians in manufacturing should increase as more electricians are needed to install and maintain systems. However, this increase in demand will be partially offset by the closing of older facilities. 

Job Prospects

Employment of electricians fluctuates with the overall economy. On the one hand, there is greater demand for electricians during peak periods of construction building and maintenance. On the other hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction and maintenance falls.

Electricians in factories tend to have the most stable employment. 

Electricians with the widest variety of skills should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Electricians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Electricians

47-2111 583,500 698,200 20 114,700 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of electricians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Computer, ATM, and office machine repairers

Computer, ATM, and Office Machine Repairers

Computer, ATM, and office machine repairers install, fix, and maintain many of the machines that businesses, households, and other consumers use.

Some college, no degree $36,620
Construction laborers and helpers

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $29,160
Drafters

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings and plans. Workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Associate’s degree $49,630
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment.

Associate’s degree $57,850
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install, repair, or replace a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $51,220
Elevator installers and repairers

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

High school diploma or equivalent $76,650
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration and mechanics and installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called HVACR technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Postsecondary non-degree award $43,640
Line installers and repairers

Line Installers and Repairers

Line installers and repairers (also known as line workers) install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

High school diploma or equivalent $58,210
solar photovoltaic installers image

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,900
wind turbine technicians image

Wind Turbine Technicians

Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Some college, no degree $45,970

Contacts for More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local electrical contractors, firms that employ maintenance electricians, or local union-management electrician apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's toll-free help line, 1 (877) 872-5627, and Employment and Training Administration.

For information about apprenticeship and training programs for electricians, visit

National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee for the Electrical Industry sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association’s

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc.

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

O*NET

Electricians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Electricians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm (visited April 18, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014