An electrician is a skilled professional who focuses on the design, installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems in residential and commercial environments. Electricians often have specializations and certifications that allow them to focus their skills in particular areas of electrician work and jobs. In this article, we’ll examine the different types of electricians, common training and specializations they obtain, the jobs they work on and what the outlook is for this career and typical earnings.
Different types of electricians:
- Residential electricians
- Inside electricians
- Commercial electricians
- Industrial electricians
- Electrical Inspectors
- Maintenance electricians
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) installer electricians and electrical components
- Automotive Electrician
- Marine Electrician
- Sustainable Transportation System Electrician
Residential Electrician vs. Commercial Electrician
The main difference between residential electricians and commercial electricians is the size of the projects they work on. A residential electrician typically works on single-family or multi-family homes, while commercial electricians typically work on larger projects, such as office buildings, residential towers hospitals and schools.
A residential electrician is typically an independent electrical contractor – many are owned by one electrician who is state-licensed. Often these small electrical contractors hire and employ novice or apprentice electricians who receive on the job training as part of their salary as they gain experience to upskill themselves and perhaps become a licensed electrician themselves.
Commercial electricians install electrical systems, maintain electrical equipment, install commercial electrical control panels and wiring systems that will meet specific commercial safety and code requirements. In some cases they may need to obtain a special license or certification to work on certain projects such as power plants or larger buildings with complicated electrical systems.
Common tasks for both types are repairing or replacing defective switches, receptacles, fixtures and other electrical components in residential structures. Install lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, appliances and home entertainment systems. Wiring for new construction or major renovations. Other common tasks include:
- Estimating the cost of a project and provide a written estimate to the customer.
- The purchase of materials and scheduling installations.
- Coordination with other contractors, such as plumbers, carpenters and HVAC technicians, to complete projects.
Residential and commercial electricians are both in high demand and many licensed electricians began in residential settings performing entry level electrical work earning their apprenticeship training and progress to a commercial setting. We detail commercial electricians who focus on buildings further below.
Outside Electricians vs. Inside Electricians
An electrician’s work can be divided into two general categories: outside work and inside work.
Outside electricians are also referred to as line workers, power linemen or construction electricians. They focus on the design, installation, maintenance and repair of outdoor systems and equipment, such as traffic lights, streetlights, communications systems, power lines, and electrical substations. If you do not like heights a job working with power lines may not be a good idea!
Inside electricians, also known as service electricians or installation electricians, focus on the design, installation, maintenance, and repair of indoor systems and equipment. This includes wiring for lights, outlets, appliances, HVAC systems, and security systems.
Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Electricians
In the United States, electricians are classified according to their level of experience and training. An apprentice electrician have little to no experience and typically work under the supervision of a journeyman or master electrician. They learn the basics of using tools like insulated screwdrivers to protect themselves from electrical current. Information on becoming an apprentice electrician can be found here.
Journeyman electricians have completed an apprenticeship and have the skills and knowledge to work independently on most electrical projects. A journeyman electrician can also supervise apprentice electricians to ensure they perform electrical work correctly.
Master electricians have the most experience and are certified to work on any electrical project, regardless of its complexity. These are often the owners of an electrical contractor business and will often have many years of experience and credentials.
Electricians and Commercial Buildings
Commercial electricians typically work in office buildings, retail stores, hotels and other similar environments. They are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing electrical systems such as:
- Control systems
- Lighting systems
- Industrial machinery and equipment
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. electricians are also responsible for the maintenance and repair of these systems.
Similar to a commercial electrician, an Industrial electrician typically works in factories or other industrial settings. They are responsible for installing and maintaining systems that power machinery and equipment. An industrial electrician may also be responsible for troubleshooting problems and ensuring the safety of employees.
The main responsibility of an electrical inspector is to ensure the safety of electrical systems. They typically work for a government agency or municipality and inspect residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Electrical inspectors may also be responsible for writing reports and issuing permits. – Inspect completed installations for conformance to code and safety standards.
Maintenance electricians are responsible for keeping electrical systems running smoothly. They may work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, factories and office buildings. Maintenance electricians typically perform routine inspections and repairs including on commercial air conditioning systems.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installer Electricians
Solar PV installer electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining solar panel systems. They may work in a variety of settings, including residential homes, commercial businesses and industrial facilities. Solar PV installer electricians typically have experience with electrical wiring for installation of solar panels and interfacing with batteries and power grids.
An auto electrician is someone who specializes in electrical repairs for motor vehicles. This can include cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other types of motorized vehicles. Auto electricians typically have experience with a variety of electrical systems, including vehicle diagnostics with computer based repair tools, engine starters, headlights, taillights, and stereos. Main responsibilities typically include diagnosing and repairing problems with the electrical system.
In some cases, electricians may specialize in working with marine electrical systems and marine equipment. These electricians typically have experience with boat wiring, navigation lights, bilge pumps, ship to shore watertight connectors and other similar equipment. They may be employed by a boat, yacht electronics manufacturer or a repair shop that specializes in maritime repairs.
Sustainable Transportation System Electrician
A sustainable transportation system electrician is someone who specializes in electrical systems for alternative forms of transportation, such as electric cars and buses. They typically have experience with a variety of electrical systems, including charging stations and battery packs. Sustainable transportation system electricians may also be responsible for repairing and maintaining these systems.
Electrical Machine Repairer
An electrical machine repairer is someone who specializes in repairing and maintaining electrical machines, such as motors, generators, and transformers. They typically have experience with how to repair existing systems a variety of electrical systems, including AC and DC power systems. Electrical machine repair technicians may also be responsible for testing and inspecting these machines to ensure they are functioning properly.
Other unique places electricians work and common electrical jobs:
Electricity generation and transmission:
- Power plants: electricians in a variety of types of facilities including coal, gas, and nuclear facilities. They can be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment that generates electricity or administering the systems that control the power generation. As you can imagine working at a powerplant requires specialized training, especially for nuclear plants.
- Substations: an electrician working in a substation is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment that distributes electricity.
- Transmission lines: electricians who work on transmission lines are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment that transmits electricity from one area to another
- Wind turbines, solar panels (described above). Electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of wind turbines and solar panels. Wind turbines are complex projects that require industrial electrical workers in construction sites with many environmental and state approvals.
Electricians who specialize in lightning protection are responsible for the installation and maintenance of systems that protect buildings and other structures from damage caused by lightning. These electricians may also be called upon to investigate damage caused by lightning strikes. This is a relatively unknown area compared to other paths we have described given rarity of lightning strikes is most areas.
Transportation Systems Electricians -Lighting and Traffic Systems:
Street lights and traffic signals – there are many of them in the United States and electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of streetlights, tollbooths and traffic control and are often employed by local utility companies and government agencies. There are about 4 million miles of roads in the United States!
Railroad traffic signal systems need electricians who work on railroad traffic signal systems are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of the equipment that controls the flow of trains. There is just over 160,000 miles of railroad track. These persons are normally employed by the railroad companies that move freight and passengers around.
Traffic management systems need electricians who help with the installation, maintenance and repair of the equipment that manages the flow of traffic. This can be applied to automobiles, subways and train, airplanes and marine applications.
An instrumentation electrician is someone who installs, maintains and repairs electronic equipment used to measure and control process variables in a variety of industries. This can include everything from pressure gauges to programmable logic controllers (PLCs). These electricians typically have experience with a variety of electrical systems, including AC and DC power systems. Instrumentation electricians may also be responsible for testing and inspecting these instruments to ensure they are functioning properly.
Large commercial or residential buildings often have elevators with complex systems and and electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of elevators. As technology continues to evolve, most complex projects arise including taller buildings and control systems with more electronics and complexity.
Electricians are also responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of escalators used in high pedestrian traffic areas such as sporting venues, malls, airports and large commercial buildings.
Wheelchair lifts are designed to provide access for people with disabilities and electricians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of these devices.
Manufacturing facilities : electricians in these types of facilities are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment that is used to manufacture goods including assembly lines which can be quite complex with a number of mechanical and electrical infrastructure supporting the overall operation.
A red hot area for the electrical industry with applications in many industries including car and airplane assembly but also many others.
– Home automation
– Electric vehicles
– Aircraft and avionics
Electrician training typically involves an apprenticeship, which can last from four to five years. During this time, apprentices learn about electrical theory, safety procedures, wiring and soldering techniques, and the proper use of electrician tools. They also work under the supervision of a journeyman or master electrician. There are a number of programs that offer electrician training, including community colleges, technical schools and online courses.
Electricians must have a strong understanding of electrical theory and be able to apply it to real-world scenarios. They must also be able to work safely and efficiently, as well as follow all local codes and regulations. Electricians who are interested in pursuing a particular specialization or certification may need to complete additional training.
In 2018, the median annual wage for electricians was $54,110, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 25 percent of electricians made $70,350 or more per year, while the bottom 25 percent earned $43,490 or less. This is up from 2016 as according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for electricians was $52,720 in May 2016.
The average wage for electricians also varies depending on their specialization, certification and level of experience. However, this figure can vary significantly on location.
Electrician Job Outlook
The job outlook for electricians is very good. There are many types of electricians and field to choose from to suit any interest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for electricians will grow by nine percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to the increasing demand for electrical services in residential and commercial buildings. It is safe to say electrician positions are not go away anytime soon due to the need to be local to install, maintain, help with emergency repairs and updates.
There are a variety of places where electricians can work and a variety of types of electrical equipment that they can maintain and repair. Electricians have a number of different certifications and specializations, which allows them to work in many different industries. They may choose to specialize in working with certain types of electrical equipment or systems, or they may choose to pursue a particular certification.
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