There are more than 625,000 electricians in the United States. You might be interested in becoming one as well. But you could still be curious about what exactly an electrician does, what it takes to become one, and where the best places to work as one are.
What does an electrician do?
Let’s start with a quick definition. An electrician is a skilled tradesperson whose job is to design, install, and maintain electrical systems. But what exactly does that look like on an average day? That depends on the electrician.
For example, electricians can work both inside and outside of buildings. They can also work in residential homes, businesses, and factories. The specific tasks that an electrician handles each day will vary based on the sector that they work in.
That being said, there are some duties of an electrician that are common across most roles. They include:
- Planning out electrical systems for new buildings or home additions
- Reading and interpreting blueprints
- Installing various types of wiring, lighting fixtures, and control systems
- Installing switches, circuit breaker panels, relays, and related equipment
- Performing electrical maintenance tasks to ensure systems continue functioning optimally
- Troubleshooting electrical problems and repairing them
- Replacing outdated electrical equipment with modern upgrades
The specific amount of time that you would spend on each of these tasks as an electrician could vary significantly. So it’s important to spend some time figuring out the main responsibilities of a position before accepting it.
Do electricians make good money?
Money is something you should take into account before making any career decision. The good news is that electricians across the United States make $59,10 on average. You can compare that to the national average wage for all positions, which is $51,960. From this comparison, we can see that electricians do make good money.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that your salary as an electrician can vary significantly for several reasons. For example, the state that you’re located in could play a big role in determining how much you make.
The hourly rate that you command as an electrician will also change based on your level of experience. For example, an electrician with less than one year of experience in California earns about $27.43 per hour on average.
But an electrician with more than 10 years of experience will earn $33.86 on average. That’s the difference between $57,054 per year and $70,428 per year.
How do you become an electrician?
To start, you should figure out which type of electrician you’d like to become. That will give you a sense of direction when you decide the types of training that you’re going to pursue.
There are several specialties that you can pursue in this field:
- Industrial electrician
- Commercial electrician
- Residential electrician
- Maintenance electrician
- Auto electrician
Regardless of your decision, you’ll need to get some training before you can get hired as a full-time electrician. Here’s a look at the educational options and certifications that are worth pursuing.
High School (or its equivalent) is the first educational milestone that you need to complete to become an electrician.
You can start developing your electrical skills by taking specific courses during this time. Some of the best high school-level courses for aspiring electricians include:
- Algebra and trigonometry
- Mechanical drawing
Next, you may also want to consider attending a trade or vocational-technical school. These schools can help you refine your electrical skills so that you’re ready to excel the moment you hit the workforce. You’ll learn more about electrical theory, load calculations, electrical controls, and much more.
Perhaps more importantly, you’ll earn a degree when you graduate from a trade or vocational school.
Degrees are a fantastic way to demonstrate your knowledge to potential employers in a concrete way. Earning one could make it easier to find work as an electrician in your area.
Whether you decide to attend a trade school or not, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship before becoming a licensed electrician. Most states make this a requirement of their licensing process for new electricians.
During your apprenticeship, you’ll work alongside an experienced electrician. The process will give you the hands-on training that you need to improve your real-world electrician skills.
There are several ways to find an electrician apprenticeship in your area. Trade schools often offer them as part of broader electrician training programs.
But if you don’t want to attend a trade school, that’s okay too. You can also find apprenticeships through unions and non-union organizations.
There are lots of useful certifications that electricians can earn to distinguish themselves from the competition in the job marketplace. You should consider the type of electrical work that you wish to do. Then, figure out which certifications would make you more valuable to employers in that industry.
For example, if you want to work in secure maritime job sites, then you could earn the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC). With it, you’ll be able to apply for jobs that require security credentials.
Or maybe you plan on being an electrician who often provides their clients with price estimates. If so, you could pursue a Certified Estimating Professional (CEP) certification. This would demonstrate your expertise in the development of project budgets and calculation of project resource requirements, among other estimating tasks.
Other useful certifications for electricians include:
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- OSHA 10-hour Construction Certification
- NICET Electrical Power Testing Certification
- Contact Release Certification
Where are the best places to work as an electrician?
You can make a good living as an electrician just about anywhere in the United States. But there are some states where you’ll get paid much more for your efforts on average than others.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The District of Columbia is the number one place in the country to be an electrician. That’s because the average salary for electricians here is nearly $80,000. On average, an electrician in DC will make $79,870. You could even make more than that once you gain some experience.
New York is another great state for electricians. Those who work here make an average of $79,480 per year. Of course, the highest wages in the state will be for electricians who work in New York City due to its high cost of living.
It’s also worth mentioning that New York also has one of the largest pool of electrician jobs in the country. There are roughly 43,890 electrician jobs in the state.
You can also make a great living as an electrician in the state of Illinois. Those who work here make an average of $78,790 per year. That number looks even better when you consider that Illinois has the 16th-lowest cost of living in the country.
This is another state where there’s a solid pool of electrician jobs available as well. There are a total of approximately 25,400 electricians employed in Illinois.
Hawaii has the highest cost-of-living in the entire United States. So it makes sense that electricians here are paid among the highest in the country. The average electrician in Hawaii earns $77,530 per year.
Alaska rounds out our list as the fifth-best place to be an electrician in the United States. There are only about 1,620 electrician jobs in Alaska, but 5.1 out of every 1,000 workers in the state is an electrician. Those who work here earn an average salary of $75,350.
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