Electrician vs. Wireworker: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 6, 2022 | Published August 4, 2021

Updated June 6, 2022

Published August 4, 2021

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.

People looking for careers in electricity may have many options depending on their skills and desired work environment. A career as a wireworker involves servicing residential and commercial buildings, while a specialized electrician may work on construction sites or in factories. Learning the differences between a wireworker and an electrician can help you decide which role is best for you.

In this article, we discuss what electricians and wireworkers are and share the differences between these jobs, such as their responsibilities, education, training and salary.

What's an electrician?

An electrician is a tradesperson who builds, installs, repairs and inspects electrical equipment for buildings and communities. Some of the key responsibilities of electricians are:

  • Identifying electrical issues

  • Installing, troubleshooting and repairing electrical systems

  • Creating or interpreting blueprints for installing wiring and equipment

  • Applying local and federal standards and regulations when performing duties

  • Supervising apprentices

There are several specializations for electricians:

  • Residential: Residential electricians handle electrical issues within people's homes. Their tasks might include installation, repair or inspection.

  • Commercial: Commercial electricians work in commercial buildings like offices and retail stores to ensure electrical equipment functions correctly and complies with regulations and standards.

  • Industrial: Industrial electricians work in factories, power plants or other industrial facilities. They may handle large equipment and computer systems to ensure machinery operates properly.

  • Maintenance: Maintenance electricians work in places like industrial buildings, factories and commercial buildings to inspect, repair and replace electrical equipment and wiring.

  • Installation: Installation electricians read blueprints to install electrical equipment for new buildings, both residential and commercial. They may also install lighting or heating and cooling systems.

  • Construction: Construction electricians work in new buildings during construction to ensure electrical systems are safe and can accommodate the needs of facilities.

  • Automotive: Automotive electricians handle motor vehicles like cars, construction equipment and trains. They also run diagnostic tests to identify and repair issues within the equipment.

  • Marine: Marine electricians install, repair and maintain electrical equipment on sea vehicles, such as boats and submarines.

  • Highway system: Highway system electricians handle the electrical needs of roads and highways. They may repair or install streetlights, traffic lights and signs.

What's a wireworker?

A wireworker is a type of electrician who connects outdoor power systems to power sources in homes, offices or other indoor environments. Some responsibilities of a wireworker include:

  • Handling equipment such as generators, motors, circuit breakers, control units and transformers

  • Installing new wiring and repairing broken or old wires

  • Installing new fixtures and lighting

  • Inspecting and installing raceways

  • Assisting and guiding new wireworker apprentices

  • Inspecting and installing new systems for buildings like security, telephone or fire alarm systems

There are two main types of wireworkers:

  • Inside wireworker: This type of wireworker handles systems of electrical controls and wiring in businesses, factories or other industrial settings. Their duties can include installing or repairing outlets, lighting units or other basic electrical needs.

  • Residential wireworker: This type of wireworker works with electrical equipment in homes, apartments and other residences. They may inspect circuit breakers or replace wiring between lighting fixtures.

Related: Wireworker vs. Lineworker: What's the Difference?

Electrician vs. wireworker

Even though a wireworker is a type of electrician, there are key differences between these two positions. These roles differ in the following areas:

Functions

An electrician typically focuses on interpreting blueprints and understanding electrical systems within buildings, while a wireworker connects residential or commercial electric units to an outside power. A wireworker usually connects buildings to power units that already exist, such as power lines. Electricians are more likely to work in many industries on complex machinery and equipment, and they may solve more complex issues using diagnostic software and different blueprints.

Related: Electrician vs. Lineworker: What's the Difference?

Education

Education requirements for electricians and wireworkers can vary based on the state where they work. Many states require electricians to have a high school diploma or equivalent. They also need to complete an apprenticeship and learn from other journeymen, or trained electricians, for three to five years.

A wireworker can follow this same route or earn an associate degree at a trade school or community college in electrical engineering. Both electricians and wireworkers may need to earn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification or other first-aid certifications in order to receive their licenses.

Related: FAQ: What Are the Different Electrician Levels?

Work environment

Electricians can work in different work environments depending on their specialization. For example, marine electricians may install electrical systems on cruise ships, while automotive electricians may diagnose electrical problems on train systems. However, wireworkers work in residential or commercial buildings. Though the size and scope of their projects can vary, wireworkers often complete similar tasks at each location, such as installation, repair, maintenance and inspection.

Training

During their apprenticeships, both electricians and wireworkers learn the practical training required for their positions. However, those aspiring to be inside wireworkers or residential wireworkers shadow journeymen to practice connecting and repairing electrical equipment for homes and businesses. Wireworkers also learn and train in labs, residences or buildings.

Since electricians can specialize in different fields, their training depends on their respective fields. For example, if you hope to become an automotive electrician, you might train with automotive electrician journeymen to learn important standards, tools and practices.

Licensing

Many states require journeymen electricians to have around 8,000 hours of proven work and pass a licensing test based on the National Electric Code (NEC). Inside and residential wireworkers require a similar amount of time as well, but some states require them to become master electricians, or experienced electricians who supervise other electricians, or receive specific licensing as residential wireworkers. In some locations, wireworkers may also need an additional license that the city's or state's building department authorizes.

Related: Certified Electrician vs. Licensed Electrician

Salary

The salary for wireworkers and electricians can vary based on location, specialization and experience. According to Indeed salaries, the average salary for a wireworker is $49,662 per year. Meanwhile, the average salary for an electrician is $57,787 per year.

Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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