Electrician (Skilled Trades)

Electricity is essential for light, power, air-conditioning, and refrigeration. Electricians install, connect, test, and maintain electrical systems for a variety of purposes, including climate control, security, and communications. They also may install and maintain the electronic controls for machines in business and industry. Although most electricians specialize in construction or maintenance, a growing number do both.

Electricians work with blueprints when they install electrical systems in factories, office buildings, homes, and other structures. Blueprints indicate the locations of circuits, outlets, load centers, panel boards, and other equipment. Electricians must follow the National Electric Code and comply with State and local building codes when they install these systems. In factories and offices, they first place conduit (pipe or tubing) inside designated partitions, walls, or other concealed areas. They also fasten to the walls small metal or plastic boxes that will house electrical switches and outlets. They then pull insulated wires or cables through the conduit to complete circuits between these boxes. In lighter construction, such as residential, plastic-covered wire usually is used instead of conduit.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Job opportunities for electricians are expected to be good. Numerous openings will arise each year as experienced electricians leave the occupation. In addition, many potential workers may choose not to enter training programs because they prefer work that is less strenuous and has more comfortable working conditions.

Employment of electricians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. As the population and economy grow, more electricians will be needed to install and maintain electrical devices and wiring in homes, factories, offices, and other structures. New technologies also are expected to continue to stimulate the demand for these workers. For example, buildings will be prewired during construction to accommodate use of computers and telecommunications equipment. More factories will be using robots and automated manufacturing systems. Additional jobs will be created by rehabilitation and retrofitting of existing structures.

Wages and Earnings Potential:

In 2002, median hourly earnings of electricians were $19.90. The middle 50 percent earned between $14.95 and $26.50. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.81, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.21. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of electricians in 2002 are shown below:

Motor vehicle parts manufacturing $28.72
Local government 21.15
Building equipment contractors 19.54
Nonresidential building construction 19.36
Employment services 15.46

Depending on experience, apprentices usually start at between 40 and 50 percent of the rate paid to fully trained electricians. As apprentices become more skilled, they receive periodic increases throughout the course of their training. Many employers also provide training opportunities for experienced electricians to improve their skills.

Many construction electricians are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Among unions organizing maintenance electricians are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers; the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Union, United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; and the United Steelworkers of America.

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.