Learn About Being an Electrician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does an electrician do?

An electrician installs, repairs and maintains the electrical wiring, fixtures and outlets that make power accessible. Electricians may specialize in a particular area, such as residential wiring, outside cables or telecommunications wiring. Some duties involved in an electrician’s job can include:

  • Planning the layout of new electrical installations using blueprints

  • Installing telecommunications systems, electrical machinery and other types of electrical equipment

  • Inspecting electrical installations and equipment to make sure they’re safe, functional and up to national, state and local codes

  • Placing wires and connecting them to circuit breakers, outlets, transformers and other system components

  • Troubleshooting and repairing malfunctioning electrical equipment in homes and businesses

  • Instructing electrician assistants who help transport equipment, cut and bend wiring and perform basic maintenance

Average salary

Nearly all electricians work full time with hours that can include evenings and weekends. Their salary often depends on the company they work for, their geographical location and their level of experience. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $23.49 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.85 to $53.60 per hour.

Electrician requirements

Electricians must have specialized knowledge and specific training. Some of their work will be very advanced. To prepare them, electricians need:

Education

Electricians must have a minimum of a high school diploma. Some technical colleges offer career diplomas or certificates for electricians. An Associate of Science (A.S.) degree in electrical technology provides a more comprehensive foundation for a career as an electrician. Select colleges also offer Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in electrical technology. These B.S. degrees are often designed for professionals who already have an A.S. in electrical technology and want to advance their careers.

Training

Electricians typically complete a four- or five-year apprenticeship. These apprenticeship programs typically include classroom instruction that teaches students about electrical theory, on-the-job safety, reading blueprints and following electrical codes. Most apprenticeships will also include about 2,000 hours of paid training on the job each year, so apprentices can earn a living while pursuing a career as an electrician.

Some apprenticeship programs include:

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) electrical apprenticeship

Organized through a partnership between the IBEW and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), this apprenticeship program has options for outside linemen, inside wireman, sound and communication technicians and residential wireman.

Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Apprenticeship

IEC offers training programs through 52 chapter training centers around the United States. Graduates can get up to 41 semester hours of college credit from this apprenticeship to apply to a degree.

Home Builders Institute (HBI) Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT)

HBI’s PACT program provides opportunities to transitioning military members, justice-involved individuals, the unemployed and displaced workers. PACT programs are available for several specialties, including entry-level electrical work.

Certifications

Licensure is required for electricians in most states, so check your state’s requirements. Some states have an apprentice license you can earn to complete your apprenticeship. After completing an apprenticeship program, individuals can typically take the Electrical Journeyman exam.

Further licensure is available for master electricians and electrical contractors in most states. Check the legal requirements in the state where you plan to practice so you can accurately chart your professional path to a career as an electrician.

Skills

Electricians must have a distinct set of skills that equips them to safely perform the essential tasks involved in this occupation. These include:

  • Critical thinking skills: Electricians must test and diagnose equipment using specialized tools, such as ohmmeters, voltmeters and ammeters. Evaluating test results and diagnosing electrical problems requires strong critical thinking. 

  • Physical stamina and strength: Replacing fuse boxes, installing circuit breakers, running wiring and working with electrical cables can be physically demanding. Electricians must have the strength and stamina to work with electrical equipment and appliances.

  • Communication: Electricians need to communicate with customers, assistants and contractors. They need clear communication skills to explain problems, provide direction and collaborate with others in a professional environment.

  • Manual dexterity: Working with wires, motors, electronic controllers, generators, fuses, electrical components and switches requires a great deal of dexterity. Electricians also use drills, saws, pliers, wire strippers, screwdrivers and other specialized tools.

  • Hand-eye coordination: Hand-eye coordination is essential for an electrician to safely complete installations, maintenance and repairs. This work can be complex and requires a great degree of accuracy.

Electrician work environment

Electricians typically specialize in a particular field that influences the environment they work in. For example:

  • Residential wireman works in individuals’ homes installing and maintaining electrical wires. 

  • Inside wireman works in larger structures, such as commercial buildings, factories, schools, airports and other facilities.

  • Outside lineman works outdoors installing and maintaining the cabling that runs from power plants to individual buildings. They may lay wires in the ground or on telephone poles. These electricians are often exposed to the elements and are required to climb telephone poles.

  • Telecommunications electricians lay cabling indoors and outdoors with a specialty in communications wiring for telephones and computers. 

How to become an electrician

Electricians need to go through extensive training to gain employment in this high-demand field. The exact path to becoming an electrician will vary by state and depend on local requirements, but most electricians will need to complete the following steps:

1. Pursue education.

A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is required to train as an electrician. You may also elect to get a certificate or degree in electrical technology.

2. Join an apprenticeship program.

An apprenticeship provides hands-on experience when training to be an electrician. Some companies offer apprenticeships for their new hires, while some seek these opportunities on their own. Unions and contractor associations may offer apprenticeships.

3. Obtain state licensure.

Check with your state to determine what licensure you need to work independently as an electrician outside an apprenticeship. To gain licensure, you need to pass a test that covers the National Electrical Code and applicable state and local codes. You may also need to pursue continuing education to maintain your licensure.

4. Draft your resume.

Create a resume that details your training and experience as an electrician. Include details on your apprenticeship and any other education you’ve completed. Highlight work experience that emphasizes your attention to detail, critical thinking and communication skills.

5. Apply to electrician jobs.

Research the job market in your area and submit your resume and cover letter to electrician jobs that you’re qualified for. Consider including the language used to describe the jobs you’re applying for to better align qualifications with the employer’s expectations.

Electrician job description example

Seeking an electrician for our construction team who can evaluate blueprints and design electrical systems for new residential homes. Responsibilities include installing electrical wires, circuit breakers, controls and lighting systems, directing electrical assistants and inspecting completed jobs for adherence to the National Electrical Code and all local electrical codes.

Our electricians must have a good knowledge of heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency and home design. We are seeking experienced professionals who can help design safe, efficient and affordable home electrical systems that provide our new residents with electricity while keeping homes environmentally friendly. Applicants must have completed an electrician apprenticeship and have a valid driver’s license. An electrician degree is preferred.

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