Are you interested in how an electrician works, or just want to know more about who you need to contact for your next electrical project?
Same Day Pros is here to help you fill the gaps and dive into the technical world of an electrician’s day-to-day.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the different types of electricians, what kind of projects they can help you with, and the different levels of expertise and experience each requires.
What Are the Different Types of Electricians?
There are many different specializations and types of electrical work an electrician can choose once they have passed all their apprenticeship requirements.
First, however, it is important to understand the levels of training that each electrician must go through to earn their status.
Formal education is not required, but relevant fields of study can reduce the amount of time in an apprenticeship that the individual must complete.
Before an electrician gets into the field, he may choose to take a school program to help him move through apprenticeship. These programs typically run for four years, which allows the electrician to begin as an electrician’s assistant. At this stage, these individuals are considered apprentice electricians and do not yet hold any licenses to enable them to work on their own projects. They must always be supervised when on the job.
A journeyman electrician has completed their apprenticeship. To become a journeyman officially, however, they must first take a test to earn their license. The specifics of the test and other qualifications depend on the state of operation. Becoming an official journeyman electrician means that the electrician may work unsupervised.
A master electrician has spent a certain number of years or work hours on the job as a journeyman electrician and has passed another exam to receive a new license showing their expertise and experience.
While specifics vary from state, the average time an electrician must spend as a journeyman before being eligible to take the master electrician’s test is about 4,000 working hours. A master electrician may oversee larger projects, file permits, and work on more complex or hazardous projects.
A specialized electrician has continued their education beyond the master’s licensure in a specialized field of electrical work. While they are still qualified to work on all types of projects, they may choose not to as it may not be their preferred line of work.
What does an Electrician Do?
Electricians are one of the most in-demand occupations currently, and the technical level of knowledge combined with the hands-on learning aspect of an apprenticeship has attracted thousands of passionate electricians to the field. (1) While electricians must pass tests and fulfill a certain number of work hours to gain their licenses as individuals, they may also fulfill different roles within a company.
Although most electricians learn through a formal apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school.
Depending on their role, an electrician may be responsible for certain areas of each project and require additional training to prepare them properly for the required work environment.
Whenever hiring an electrician, it is important to never sacrifice skill or expertise for a cheaper bid. Electrical work is an investment, and quality work from an experienced electrician will ensure the safety of the project and lower the risk of repairs and faults in the future.
An outside lineman works primarily with power lines alongside homes, commercial buildings, and streets. These linemen must ensure that the utmost care is taken when dealing with these wires, as the voltage can be harmful if mishandled.
The responsibilities of these outside linemen include ensuring that the wiring is functioning properly, that the connections are safe, and that it is being distributed evenly to individual buildings.
These workers are required to go through additional training to ensure that they remain safe while in the air handling these lines. This ranges from safety training to specialized training in how to climb poles, to performing rescues in the event a coworker is injured on the job.
High-voltage linemen require additional safety and emergency training to ensure that they can safely work on the larger electric lines that can be deadly if mishandled.
These wiremen primarily handle the wiring inside a building or on-premises. They are responsible for connecting electrical equipment and appliances to the power source that is routed to the building.
Most commonly, these wiremen are hired by residential homeowners and commercial business owners alike to help install lighting fixtures, electrical outlets, alarm systems, and other types of fixtures.
Inside wiremen may also be responsible for repairing or maintaining these systems’ wiring within the facility, and do not typically require any additional training unless their company deems it necessary.
Basic Job Requirements for an Electrician
An electrician must have certain qualifications before they are allowed to work in the field. It is required that the electrician has at least a journeyman’s license in the state of operation and has completed an apprenticeship or technical program in their field.
They must also have a valid driver’s license and have a working knowledge of mathematics, and comfortability with reading plans and blueprints. Beyond this, there is no formal degree required, though a relevant degree program will help when searching for a job.
Electricians must also be able to pass a physical exam when they begin working with a company to ensure that they are fit enough to keep up with the demands of the job.
This means that they must be able to squat, bend, or kneel for extended periods, as they may be required to when working on a wiring problem. They must also be able to lift or carry up to 50 pounds and be comfortable working with power tools.
All these requirements are a part of the job, and while companies may provide further specifics in their hiring process, these basic requirements qualify most electricians for fieldwork.
What Can an Electrician Specialize In?
Once an electrician has reached a certain level of expertise, they can further specialize in other fields of work. The demand for this type of work may not be as great as a residential or commercial electrician’s, but the rates make up for this.
Specialization is desirable for the increase in pay that it can bring, but it is equally sought out by electricians who want to get into a specific field of work, as many individuals in the field are passionate about what they do and find it rewarding.
Typically, electricians can work on projects that are under their level of expertise, but many find it is not worth their time, as they can command higher prices for the more specialized work, even if it is in less demand.
Wherever there is technology, there is demand for an electrician. Electricians can specialize in a wide range of fields, including working exclusively on marine or aerospace crafts, however, the more common specializations are listed below:
A residential electrician does not require specialization but does require certification as an electrician.
Because a residential home’s typical needs are low voltage, they do not need any additional safety training unless their company deems it necessary. They may also work as independent contractors available for hire.
Residential electricians are primarily responsible for upgrading, maintaining, installing, or repairing the electrical system within residential homes.
Whether the building is an apartment, condo, or home, these electricians must understand foundational wiring techniques to troubleshoot and diagnose potential problems and install wiring that is compliant with current building codes.
A commercial electrician is similar to a residential electrician in that they provide similar services but on a commercial-grade level. Commercial buildings often have different wiring and voltage needs and are governed by different building codes that they must adhere to when installing new appliances or renovating the building.
Commercial electricians’ responsibilities include installing, maintaining, and repairing wiring in commercial settings, often with higher voltage lines. These electricians will often be called out to upgrade wiring for large appliances or install security systems for offices to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
An industrial electrician holds the certification necessary to allow them to work on large, industrial-grade projects such as factories, power plants, and other industrial buildings. These buildings often exceed the necessary electrical wiring and voltage available to commercial or residential spaces.
Industrial electricians often work in teams and must be able to familiarize themselves with computer systems and large machinery components to provide the kind of work that these operations require. They are primarily responsible for installing, maintaining, repairing, and designing electrical systems to fit new machinery or update wiring to stay compliant with safety codes as they change.
Maintenance electricians are commonly employed by factories or plants that must ensure all their equipment is operating efficiently. Much like industrial electricians, these electricians hold a specialized license that allows them to operate and work around industrial equipment.
These electricians, however, are primarily responsible for installing, maintaining, and most importantly monitoring the electrical systems within the building. The frequent inspections they make must be thorough, and if they notice any issues, they must make plans for repair or replacement to ensure the company has as little operational downtime as possible.
An installation technician works alongside inside wiremen to help install a low-voltage network of wiring for media outlets, such as internet, video, and television cables.
This work is commonly contracted when a home needs new internet or cable services installed, but they may also work alongside an inside wireman on new construction buildings or renovations to complete other low voltage wiring projects whenever necessary, such as installing heating and cooling systems or security systems.
The conditions this installation technician must work under are often difficult, as buildings may have small crawlspaces for access, or may not yet have temperature control systems installed.
These electricians must stay up-to-date with building codes and methods of basic wiring, as they are responsible for hooking up a building’s initial wiring during construction work.
Not only does this electrician’s work need to be done on a tight timeline before interior walls and ceilings are added to the building, but it requires an in-depth knowledge of the building’s blueprints and local regulations.
The construction electrician may also be responsible for designing the initial wiring layout according to the building’s drafted plans.
Highway Systems Electricians
It is not uncommon for outside linemen to specialize as highway systems electricians, however, instead of simply repairing these lines when they are downed, they provide services to lines that help direct or affect traffic.
These electricians are responsible for upgrading, maintaining, and repairing the infrastructure of electric lines along highways and other types of roadways, such as lines that connect to street lights, signage, and other traffic management systems.
What are the Highest-Paid Electricians?
Electricians are considered some of the higher-paid tradespeople in today’s world, which makes this industry a prime example of a career where a hands-on apprenticeship can outpace formal education. (2) With increasing demand in recent years, electricians have also gotten a pay raise, with the annual salary only expected to increase.
The national average annual wage of an electrician is $59,190, according to the BLS, somewhat higher than the average annual salary for all occupations
An electrician’s annual salary depends not just on their state of operation, however, but also their level of specialization. Journeyman electricians will not be paid as much as master electricians, but specialized electricians have a very unique skill that requires additional training.
Maintenance electricians, outside linemen, and industrial electricians are considered some of the most well-paid electricians today, however, their working conditions are not often envied. These technicians must also be willing to take on a certain level of risk that comes with working in these environments, above and beyond the risk that comes from working with electricity.
Often, electricians who are looking to balance the level of risk with a stable paycheck work on commercial and residential projects on a contractual basis, or within a company where their responsibilities are often confined to designing and monitoring electrical work, rather than repairing and maintaining it themselves.
When Should You Hire an Electrician?
You should always call an electrician before making changes to the wiring in your home, even if it is proposed by a handyman or construction company. If you are renovating the home, an electrician should be involved when the wiring must be removed, rerouted, or installed.
You might have heard before that only a certified electrician should work with the circuitry or wiring of a building. The reason for this is not clever marketing on behalf of electricians, but to prevent potential safety hazards, burn risks, or penalties for failing to adhere to residential codes.
Rewiring, installation of new wiring, or repairs to wiring should never be made on a DIY basis as it is dangerous to handle even residential wiring without the proper knowledge and training.
An electrician has gone through years of hands-on technical experience to be able to handle these aspects of the home or business safely and should be consulted when making any changes to these systems.
Whenever an electrical problem is discovered, it should be addressed by an electrician as soon as possible to rule out any potential safety hazards. Failure to maintain and repair live electrical systems is the leading cause of electrical fires in the United States.
Finding a Licensed Electrician
Finding a licensed electrician that can help you with your project doesn’t have to be difficult, no matter how specialized the project is. The first step is to narrow the search down to electricians in your area who are available in the timeframe you need for the project.
Same Day Pros can help you narrow down the search by filtering through available electricians local to you, no matter where you are.
All that work that is usually done by searching for hours online or asking around for in-person referrals is now automated to a seamless, easy, and stress-free search that can be done in just a few clicks.
Once you’ve found a few electricians that match your needs, you can request quotes and compare the bids to what works best for your project. Typically, this will narrow it down to one or two companies at most, with the next deciding factor often coming down to a companies’ policies around customer service or quality of work.
By finding a company that matches your needs and budget, you can afford to be selective about who you work with, providing better peace of mind in hiring contractors for any type of electrical work, from replacing burnt-out outlets to major rewiring projects.
- Huffpost.com, 9 Great Second Careers That Don’t Require 4 Year Degrees, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/second-careers_n_1812067
- Forbes.com, Here’s How Much Money Electricians Make in Every State, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/2019/11/14/electrician-salary-state/?sh=91f629b67de2