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Wireman

Job Description

Electricians install and maintain electrical systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • “I build something every day that you can see and touch.”
  • A sense of accomplishment when you finish a project
  • Autonomy: You can work as much and as little as you want. It’s project-based.
    • Typically you start at 6:30am-3:30pm: Able to do other projects in the afternoon.
  • Work with your hands!: “When you are mechanically inclined, the trades are excellent for that.”
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • Reads blueprints or technical diagrams before doing work.
  • Installs and maintains wiring and lighting systems.
  • Inspects electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers.
  • Identifies electrical problems with a variety of testing devices.
  • Repairs or replaces wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools.
  • Follows state and local building regulations based on the National Electric Code.
  • Directs and trains workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment.
Different types of electricians
  • Outside linemen: Installs the distribution and transmission lines that move power from a power plant to a factory, a business, or your home.
  • Inside Wireman: Installs the power, lighting, controls and other electrical equipment in commercial and industrial buildings.
  • VDV Installer Technician: Installs circuits and equipment for telephones, computer networks, video distribution systems, security and access control systems and other low voltage systems.
  • Residential Wiremen: Installs electrical systems in single-family and multi-family houses or dwellings.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Math skills
  • Drafting skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Spatial intelligence
  • Dexterity, hand-eye coordination
  • Physically fit
  • Good balance
  • Color vision: dangerous to be color blind
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Customer service
Where do they work?
  • Electrical and wiring installation contractor company: Range from mom and pop shop (4-8 electricians) to large shops (200+ electricians)
    • Residential: home building
    • Commercial: malls, office buildings
    • Industrial: refineries, chemical plants, power plants
  • Ancillary
    • Manufacturer
    • Building Superintendent/Stationery Engineer
    • Building Inspector
Work Environment
  • Indoors and outdoors
  • Might work with noisy machinery in factories
  • Might work in cramped spaces
  • Physical: Requires a lot of lifting, bending, kneeling, and stretching.
Why become a union electrician?
  • Union negotiates competitive rates: mostly likely double or triple non-union rates
  • Full medical benefits (medical, dental, vision)
  • Pension
  • Annuity
  • Protection from discrimination and being out of work due to injury
  • Access to better jobs and amazing opportunities
  • Helmets to Hardhats program: Connects quality men and women from the Armed Forces with promising building and construction careers.
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Dangerous: common risks include electrical shocks and burns, cuts, and falls.
  • Irregular work schedule: Sometimes might work really early in the morning. Sometimes at night.
  • Might have to drive long distances for job site.
2016 Employment
666,900
2026 Projected Employment
726,500
Education and Training Needed
  • Electricians learn their trade through a lengthy, ~2,000-hour apprenticeship. A high school diploma/GED is needed, but a college degree isn’t
  • Some students complete an Electrician associate’s or training program from a community college or vocational school
    • Some enroll in prep-training, like the Home Builders Institute’s Preapprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) program, to prepare for apprenticeship
  • Apprenticeships are a time-honored way of learning by doing. Most are sponsored by union and contractor associations (see our Recommended Resources > Websites for details)
    • Note, apprenticeship candidates must take the Electrical Training Alliance Aptitude Test, managed by the Electrical Training Alliance
  • Practical education gained from work experience is vital. Entry-level Electrician apprentices start with basic tasks, learning under the supervision of a seasoned pro over a period of up to 4 or 5 years
  • Common areas of learning include reading circuitry, basic electrical information, blueprints, math, building codes, safety principles, first aid, soldering, fire alarm systems, and elevators
  • To become a Journeyman, Apprentice Electricians must pass an exam regarding the National Electrical Code (and other state or local codes) to get their state license
  • Tests vary by state, but may cover topics such as:
    • Electrical services, service equipment, and separately derived systems
    • Branch circuit calculations and conductors
    • Wiring methods and electrical materials
    • Electrical equipment and control devices
    • Motors and generators
  • There are dozens of specialized certification options from organizations such as:
    • American Lighting Association
    • International Association of Electrical Inspectors
    • International Association of Lighting Management Companies
    • International Code Council
    • InterNational Electrical Testing Association
    • International Municipal Signal Association
    • Professional Lighting and Sound Association
Basic requirements for apprenticeship program

Unions and contractors sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Driver’s license
  • High school diploma or equivalent (GED or take an aptitude test)
  • Physically able to do the work
  • Minimum grade of “C” for high school or college algebra.
  • Pass drug test
Things to do in high school
  • Take courses in high school such as shop, English, math, algebra, and electronics
  • Get in the habit of practicing good safety and wearing proper personal protective equipment
  • Have your color vision tested to ensure you can meet job eligibility requirements
  • Obtain your driver’s license so you can make it to job sites on time
  • Review criteria for taking the Electrical Training Alliance’s Electrical Training Alliance Aptitude Test
  • Consider taking pre-apprenticeship training
  • Study books, articles, and video tutorials related to the trade
  • Ask a seasoned Electrician if you can shadow them to get a feel for the job’s day-to-day
  • Keep a working draft of your resume, noting any skills you’ve picked up, projects completed, and other details
  • Get certified in a specialized area to bolster your credentials
  • Review educational content on the National Electrical Contractors Association website
Education Stats
  • 39.7% with HS Diploma
  • 13% with Associate’s
  • 5.9% with Bachelor’s
  • 0.8% with Master’s
  • 0.4% with Doctoral
Typical Roadmap
Electrician roadmap png
How to land your 1st job
  • Read apprenticeship ads carefully to ensure you meet the criteria to apply
  • Electrician apprenticeships are the way to break into this line of work
    • Pay: Start off with 35-50% of journeyman’s wage and increases are usually given every 6 months.
  • Union will give you the signatory list: local union will give you leads and you start making calls to contractors on the list.
  • Contact Job Corps.
  • Ask the local union for help and get on “out of work” list.
  • If attending a college or trade school, ask their career center for assistance
  • Many trade/vocational programs serve as pipelines to local recruiters, so let them know when you’re ready for work!
Description of the different positions
  • Estimator: Budgets the job then bids on the job.
  • Project Manager: Behind the scenes, paperwork. Make sure request for information is filled out. Money is getting paid. Work in conjunction with Superintendent.
  • Superintendent: Takes care of the manpower needs on a jobsite. Materials and workers.
  • Foreman: Takes care of the job.
How to stay competitive and climb the ladder
  • Dedication
  • Person who is best with tools and the union elevates these people.
  • Leader/Teacher: someone who knows the craft so well and they teach others.
  • Keeping up with new technologies and methods
Recommended Tools/Resources

Websites

  • Apprenticeship.gov
  • Associated Builders and Contractors
  • Electrical Training Alliance
  • Explore the Trades
  • Helmets to Hardhats
  • Home Builders Institute
  • Independent Electrical Contractors
  • International Association of Electrical Inspectors
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • International Municipal Signal Association
  • National Electrical Contractors Association
  • NCCER

Books

  • At Your Best as an Electrician: Your Playbook for Building a Successful Career and Launching a Thriving Small Business as an Electrician, by At Your Best Playbooks
  • The Electrician's Trade Demystified, by David Herres
  • Ultimate Guide: Wiring — DIY Home Electrical Installations & Repairs from New Switches to Indoor & Outdoor Lighting, by Editors of Creative Homeowner
Plan B

Related Careers: Electrical Engineering Technician, Elevator Installer/Repairer, HVAC Technician, Line Installer

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