What is an Electrician

If you're wanting to add a spark to your life, maybe you should become an electrician. They work with electrical power, communications, light and control systems. And as long as they do it right, they don't literally add a spark.

Electricians typically start out as apprentices, but there are some who choose to attend technical school. Since they have such an important job, electricians usually work full-time with some evenings and weekends thrown in there. If you're looking for a path that will include some overtime pay, you've found the right career.

What Does an Electrician Do

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

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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. 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.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Many apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. 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 programs, which are not recognized apprenticeship programs but include both classroom and on-the-job training. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some electricians enter apprenticeship programs after working as a helper. The Home Builders Institute offers a preapprenticeship certificate training (PACT) program for eight construction trades, including electricians.

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

Some states may require a master electrician to either perform or supervise the work.

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. Many of the requirements can be found on the National Electrical Contractors Association’s website.

The tests have questions related to the National Electrical Code, and state and local electrical codes, all of which set standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment.

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. Residential electricians work with people on a regular basis. They should be friendly and be able to address customers’ questions.

Physical stamina. Electricians often need to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire.

Physical strength. Electricians need to be strong enough to move heavy components, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.

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.

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Average Salary
$49,755
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
10%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
9,449
Job Openings
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Average Salary for an Electrician

Electricians in America make an average salary of $49,755 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $67,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $36,000 per year.
Average Salary
$49,755
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Electrician Demographics

Electrician Gender Statistics

male

86.4 %

unknown

8.3 %

female

5.3 %

Electrician Ethnicity Statistics

White

66.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

22.0 %

Black or African American

7.0 %

Electrician Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

61.4 %

French

7.5 %

German

4.4 %
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Electrician Education

Electrician Degrees

High School Diploma

32.2 %

Associate

29.9 %

Bachelors

17.2 %
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Top Skills For an Electrician

  • Electrical Systems, 27.3%
  • Hand Tools, 11.4%
  • RUN Conduit, 8.3%
  • Transformers, 6.8%
  • PLC, 5.2%
  • Other Skills, 41.0%
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Best States For an Electrician

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an electrician. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota. Electricians make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $81,489. Whereas in Washington and Oregon, they would average $74,128 and $67,956, respectively. While electricians would only make an average of $66,455 in Minnesota, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Electrician Jobs:
52
Highest 10% Earn:
$96,000
Location Quotient:
1.79
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Montana

Total Electrician Jobs:
72
Highest 10% Earn:
$103,000
Location Quotient:
1.79
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Electrician Jobs:
210
Highest 10% Earn:
$103,000
Location Quotient:
1.45
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Electricians

How Do Electrician Rate Their Jobs?

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4.0

Master electricanFebruary 2020

4.0

Zippia Official LogoMaster electricanFebruary 2020

What do you like the most about working as Electrician?

Designing power plants Show More

What do you NOT like?

Working out in the coldwhen other trades do not Coordinate with you to work out problems on the blueprints before work starts Show More

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5.0

JourneymanFebruary 2020

5.0

Zippia Official LogoJourneymanFebruary 2020

What do you like the most about working as Electrician?

I simply enjoy the work I do as a journeyman electrician! I have been working in the electrical field for 18 years, and I find great satisfaction in doing guality (as well as guantity) work! Show More

What do you NOT like?

Working in the state of Florida, the pay scale is not as high as most of the country. I am 8 to 12 years away from retirement, and I need to find an increase in pay. Show More

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4.0

master electricianJanuary 2020

4.0

Zippia Official Logomaster electricianJanuary 2020

What do you like the most about working as Electrician?

have worked residential commercial and industrial work for 33 yrs Show More

What do you NOT like?

climbing thru attics lol but if it needs to be done it gets done Show More

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Electrician FAQs

Do electricians get paid well?

Yes, electricians get paid well, with a median salary of $56,900 per year, or $27.36 per hour. Electricians are paid the highest out of all the trades. The pay structure for electricians varies greatly based on where you are in your program.

The job starts at the apprentice electrician level, where you are paid as you learn. Starting, you can expect to earn between $10-$20 hourly. The journeyman level pays $20-30 hourly, and the master electrician can earn upwards of $30 an hour, leading to an annual income between $55,000 to $90,000.

Electricians are paid differently based on the field they are working in. There are residential, commercial, and industrial electricians. Here are some examples of specialties and differences in pay:

  • A lineman earns $55,000 working in the outdoors on powerlines

  • Solar installers earn $65,000 installing photovoltaics (PV)

  • Automation technicians earn $78,000 programming and repairing electrical systems for industrial processing or manufacturing

Harsh environments correlate with some of the highest national average salaries. Alaska's average is $91,000 for electricians, with Wyoming and Montana also showing high averages at $69,000. New York and Illinois are at $56,000.

Most electricians belong to a union. The Brotherhood of Electrical is a union that represents 775,000 workers and retirees in the electrical industry and is dedicated to fair wages and helping to bring in two to three times over what electricians can make on their own.

Considering the work's expertise, training, and risk, the union ensures electricians are compensated correctly.

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How do I start my electrical career?

To start your electrical career, it is best to find a local program to become an apprentice electrician. You often take an entrance exam and go through an interview to get into an apprentice program that hires based on need in your area.

Typically you are matched with an employer that allows you to work in the field while attending classes. This means you earn as you learn.

To move up to the journeyman level, you need to acquire the necessary work experience to take the certification exam. To apply for a journeyman electrician's license, you must have at least 7,000 hours of work experience and between 500-1000 hours of classroom experience.

If you have graduated high school, or have a GED, you can start your career as an apprentice. Even later in life, people in their 30s and 40s will start a career in the trades and still receive various benefits from the work.

Another route available to start a career in electrical work would be as an electrical construction technician or industrial electrical technician. These programs last 4-9 months and can get you positioned in the field as you decide to advance further.

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How long does it take to train to be an electrician?

It takes four to five years of training at the apprentice level to become a journeyman electrician. As soon as you are accepted into a training program, you earn wages and learn on the job while attending classes twice a week.

To qualify for the journeyman electrician license, you will need to have completed at least 7,000 hours in the field, plus at least 500 classroom hours. The journeyman level shows that you have completed all essential training and can work independently.

After seven years, you can become a certified master electrician, which allows you to run your own company. With this certification, you have an even larger scope of responsibilities, such as project managing. Rather than interpreting electrical blueprints, at this level, you can design blueprints and work alongside architects and engineers.

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Is becoming an electrician hard?

Yes, becoming an electrician might be considered hard because it is a job that uses both the mind and body. The work environment of electricians can vary from working in cramped spaces, inclement weather, or at the top of an electrical pole.

As you enter the field as an apprentice, you work under a boss and attend classes twice a week. This means you are learning on the job and taking tests regularly while working around various personalities.

On-the-job attention to safety and details is critical. The job injury rate for electricians is above average, with shocks, burns, cuts, and bruises. People depend on you to do the job correctly.

Having a good grasp of math is important. To become a journeyman electrician, you must commit to 7,000 - 8,000 hours of work plus 500-1000 hours in the classroom.

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Is it hard to be an electrician?

Yes, it is hard to become an electrician because it takes time and commitment to reach the journeyman or master level. Working as an electrician is physical work that requires attention to safety.

To become an electrician takes four to five years of working as an apprentice. You earn money as you attend classes about twice a week. When you have reached enough hours of working in the field, you are eligible to take the certification exam to become a journeyman electrician. After being certified, your pay increases significantly.

Being an electrician can be demanding work, where safety is a primary focus working with live electricity in outdoor and indoor settings. It is physical, precise and can involve working in cramped spaces, inclement weather, or at the top of an electrical pole.

Electricians are reported to have higher than average injuries, including shocks, cuts, burns, and bruises.

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Updated August 18, 2021