What Does an Electrician Do?

Electricians repair or replace electrical wiring and equipment. They also inspect the work they do to ensure it meets local codes. Some electricians have union representation, which can mean lower health insurance premiums and deductibles and better access to benefits.


The demand for skilled labor is growing as technology shifts toward more electricity-powered vehicles, devices, and buildings. But fewer young people are pursuing careers in the trades.

To become a licensed electrician, you must complete an apprenticeship program and pass your state’s exam. Some apprenticeship programs require specific high school courses, including algebra and physics. You may also want to take shop and mechanical drawing classes. Those who are considering an apprenticeship should consider attending a trade school, which can provide a shorter path to becoming a journeyman. In addition, trade schools are accredited by national agencies that set standards for educating students.

Apprenticeship programs typically last 4-5 years and combine classroom training with on-the-job experience. They are available through community colleges, vocational schools and electrical contracting companies. Apprenticeship programs can be very competitive, and many students apply to multiple programs before securing an apprenticeship.

Electricians use blueprints and diagrams to create, repair, and maintain electrical equipment. They must have excellent color vision and be able to perform physical work, such as climbing ladders and using personal lifting devices to reach high places. They must follow strict safety protocols to prevent electrical shock and fires.

An associate degree in electrical technology can prepare you to be a licensed electrician. This degree can be completed in two years and is offered by some community colleges and technical schools. Some associate degrees include specializations in areas like renewable energy or industrial electrical technology.

A bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field may prepare you to work as a power engineer, an area of specialty that requires advanced training and education. These degree programs are available at some four-year universities.

Some Electricians choose to earn an associate degree in electrical technology and then pursue a paid apprenticeship to become a certified electrician. This alternative is a good choice for those who prefer to attend college or those who need financial assistance. Some schools that offer this degree are accredited and qualify for federal financial aid programs. Others offer scholarships and other types of student aid. Students should fill out the FAFSA form to see what grants, loans and scholarships they may be eligible for. Those who attend college must also consider their living expenses and whether or not they are comfortable with going into debt.

Job Duties

Electricians assemble, install, test, troubleshoot and repair electrical wiring, fixtures, equipment and control devices in all types of buildings and structures. They read and interpret blueprints, shop drawings, sketches, maintenance and operation manuals to determine the proper procedures for electrical installation and repair. They operate a wide variety of hand and power tools to perform their job.

They may be employed by electrical contractors, in building maintenance departments or as self-employed electricians. They are often required to communicate with customers, supervisors and other staff members to plan work, give estimates and discuss options for upgrading or repairing systems. They are also responsible for ensuring that all new and existing wiring follows electrical codes, safety regulations and specifications.

This is a highly competitive field, so if you want to attract the best candidates, be sure your electrician job description makes your company stand out from the rest. For example, highlight your company’s commitment to employee safety, the opportunity for advancement and projects that use state-of-the-art equipment or are in sectors with expected growth, such as solar.

You should also describe the type of work you are seeking, such as a maintenance electrician or an industrial electrician. This can help eliminate applicants who aren’t suitable for your open position, such as those who lack the necessary experience or skills.

Electricians must have good physical condition and manual dexterity to work on electrical wires. They must also be comfortable working at heights on ladders and scaffolding, or in confined spaces such as crawlspaces. Many electricians work in teams to complete larger jobs, such as installing lighting or electrical panels. Others specialize in certain aspects of the field, such as telecommunications or commercial wiring.

If you are looking for an apprentice, be sure to note that an apprenticeship can last four or five years and requires at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. The final exam for an apprentice can be challenging, so you will need to carefully screen applications before hiring anyone to make sure they have the right mix of education and experience. Also, consider asking your candidates about their knowledge of sustainable or green energy and how they plan to incorporate those principles into their work.

Work Environment

Working with electricity involves some serious hazards, such as shocks, falls and cuts. Electricians need to follow strict safety procedures to avoid these and other possible injuries. In addition, the job often requires heavy lifting, repeated bending and twisting of conduit, and standing, stooping or kneeling for long periods of time. The work environment also includes the use of tools, cleaning solvents and other hazardous materials.

Apprentice electricians are trained in the classroom and through on-the-job experience under a certified electrician called a journeyperson. They earn while they learn and must pass a drug screening test before being allowed to work on their own. Journeymen generally have years of experience and supervise the work of apprentices and other electricians.

Electricians can find work across the country and around the world. The type of work done can vary from home renovations to commercial projects. Many electricians prefer to focus on one type of work while others enjoy the opportunity to be able to change their work environments regularly.

Residential electricians install wiring and solve electrical problems in homes. They may collaborate with contractors, architects or engineers to design electrical systems. Commercial electricians usually focus on commercial buildings such as offices, retail spaces or restaurants. They can also be responsible for installing complex electrical panels and ensuring compliance with commercial electrical codes.

Those who are employed as part of the construction industry typically work a standard 40-hour week, although overtime is often available. Those who specialize in maintenance may be required to work nights or weekends and must be on call for emergencies.

The work of an electrician often requires the use of ladders and other climbing equipment. It is important for those in this field to be physically fit and have good eyesight because of the need to read blueprints or other technical documents. Strong cognitive skills are also essential to understanding instructions or other information provided at the job site.


Electricians are a necessary part of any society that relies on electricity, and they are in high demand across the country. They are in a profession that offers competitive salaries with room for growth, and they can choose to work for large corporations or small companies. They can also choose to be self-employed, once they have gained enough experience.

There are a few ways to increase your salary as an electrician, including moving to a new state or company that pays higher wages, completing advanced degrees, and getting management experience. Additionally, many employers offer benefits such as health insurance, which can greatly increase a worker’s overall income.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians earn more than the national average in every state but five. The lowest-paying states for electricians are in the South and Upper Midwest regions, likely due to the lower cost of living and annual wages.

One way to earn more money as an electrician is to specialize in a certain type of electrical work. For example, a low-voltage technician installs, repairs, and maintains the wiring and electrical systems in homes and businesses. This can be an extremely in-demand position because of the constant need for maintenance and upgrading of electrical infrastructure, particularly with aging buildings and the transition to alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

Similarly, a marine electrician installs and repairs the electrical systems on boats to ensure they can run safely and efficiently. This is a highly-demand position because more people are choosing to sail rather than drive or fly when traveling, so the need for marine electrical services is increasing.

Other specialty electricians include:

As the need for electrical work continues to grow, electricians will continue to be in high demand. This makes it a great career choice for those who are interested in providing valuable services and gaining a steady income. Electricians often enjoy a good work-life balance, as they can set their own schedules and generally control the types of projects they are assigned to. They can also earn a lot of benefits, such as health insurance and retirement benefits.