What do electricians do? – The Why, When and How

Electricians are qualified and trained craftsmen that involve themselves in the installation and maintenance of wiring and appliances driven by electricity that powers our homes, factories and business establishments.

Every profession has members specializing in different fields and the same is true of Electricians; you will find several types of licensed electricians displaying a wide spectrum of knowledge, expertise and specialization.

In the US there are broadly two categories of electricians relating to the place they work:

I.Residential electricians

What they do…
These are the experts involving themselves in installing, maintaining and upgrading electrical systems in apartments, houses and outdoor gardens and landscape lighting.

How they get there…
Classroom coaching and a minimum four years as an apprentice supervised by an experienced electrician. The trainee then appears for a state test.

II.Commercial (Business/Industry) electricians

What they do…
You will find them:

  • Working extensively in commercial building projects, residential and business construction sites and factories where industrial machinery needs to be installed, serviced or maintained.
  • Installing a wide variety of appliances from water heaters and commercial security systems to electronic key systems.
  • Troubleshooting systems plagued by faulty wiring, and they also recommend upgrading existing systems.

How they get there…
The commercial electrician has to work for a specified period under close supervision of a master electrician and the skill levels and standards for qualifying a license are higher and stricter. There is a valid reason for this – the jobs are hazardous and public safety is paramount.

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Whether as a small business firm or a giant company you will find an army of electricians operating at a given point of time:

I.Apprentice electricians

What they do…
These are the juniors working hard to learn the fundamentals of the vastly specialized electrical trade. The learning process generally involves thousands of hours of classroom instruction in electrical theory and electrical building codes. They are then placed under the general administration of a Master Electrician and report directly to a Journeyman Electrician at commercial and industrial sites and homes.
Apprentices need to follow standardized electrical codes and observe service ethics over a fairly long period ranging from three and six years. During apprenticeship they receive a fraction of their employer’s pay as remuneration.

How they get there…
In the US, individual states take on the responsibility of issuing licenses to three categories of electricians – apprentice, journeyman and master, all of them following the National Electric Code or NFPA 70, which is the national standard for reliability and safety in installing and servicing electrical wiring and equipment within the United States. Applicants looking out for apprenticeship must have attained the minimum age of 18 years and possess a high school diploma or a G.E.D.

II.Journeymen electricians

What they do…
You will find them working in utility companies and in construction sites of businesses and industries. These are electricians involved in installing overhead power lines, and fixing mechanical connections, lighting and power systems, and security and communication systems in homes, factories and business concerns.

How they get there…
A journeyman electrician gets his certification after he successfully clears the Journeyman’s Electrical Exam following an extended period of apprenticeship under a master. He would be expected to put in at least 6120 hours of on the job training backed by around 144 hours of classroom theory. The exam is an opportunity for candidates to showcase their mastery of the National Electrical Code, or NEC.

Certification as journeymen allows these experienced electricians to take on and train apprentices under their direct supervision. The electrician license requirements vary from state to state, and you will have to study each state carefully to know its rules and regulations.


III.Master electricians

What they do…
Usually these are highly skilled electricians assuming a supervisory role in installation, servicing and maintenance in home, business and industrial projects. They are generally employed for their expertise in troubleshooting power problems and for their managerial abilities in larger projects where teams of civil and mechanical laborers, junior apprentices and experienced journeyman electricians have to be managed.

How they get there…
The majority of states stipulate a minimum experience of seven years or a University degree in electrical engineering for being certified as a master electrician.

IV.Electrical Contractors

These are master electricians operating their own businesses independently, taking on major and minor residential, commercial and industrial designing, installation, maintenance and servicing functions on a fixed or variable contract basis.

They are useful when individual home owners and businesses wish to engage services of senior qualified electricians on an ongoing basis, services that are efficient yet less expensive than big electrical companies.

The scope for electrician jobs is enormous
If you have the zeal and aptitude for the job then finding work as an electrician will be much easier; you have to be thorough, methodical and focused on what you want to become.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the decade from 2010 to 2020 is estimated to see employment opportunities for electricians grow by 23% to service the boom in construction and service sectors – that translates into a national manpower demand of 710,600 jobs by 2020, higher than the average for any other job sector in the economy.

Electrician jobs showing highest employment generating potential

Industry wise highest employment generators

  • Building construction
  • Local Government departments and undertakings
  • Private employment services
  • Commercial builders
  • Utility corporations

Sector wise highest employment generators

  • Building equipment
  • Coal Mining
  • Ship building
  • Metal ore mining
  • Iron and Steel manufacturing

The best hiring companies

  • IT, Communication and Management
  • Natural gas exploration and drilling
  • Accounting and bookkeeping firms
  • Real Estate
  • Remediation and waste management

What an electrician does is intimately connected to fundamental skill sets. Electricians though are different than electrical engineers, be careful when choosing which one you want to pursue.

The basic skills a person must have to succeed in this field are a great sense of balance and purpose, extremely good eye-hand coordination, good color vision and manual dexterity coupled with extreme physical fitness to endure long hours of work.

Individuals with an impeccable work history or previous military service record are accorded top billing by employers.

Whatever your aptitude and skills and whichever job you prefer, the electrician will always be at the cutting edge of technology where your ambition will be the only factor defining the boundaries of an exciting career.