|Number of Jobs:||133,700|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Construction Jobs||#8|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#93|
Circuits, fuses, volts, and watts—terms that we vaguely recall from our grade school science class—are all part of an electrician’s jargon. The more than 577,000 workers in this profession know the ins and outs of designing lighting systems, installing wiring, inspecting electrical systems, diagnosing problems, and repairing faulty wiring and fixtures. To qualify for such work, electricians have to undergo at least four years of training as an apprentice, followed by whatever licensing their state might require. Most in the profession specialize in either designing, installing, maintaining, and repairing the motors, equipment, and electrical systems of businesses and factories, or in installing, maintaining, and repairing the electrical systems of residences. “I like to work on projects that have complex systems, such as water and waste water treatment facilities,” says Ryan Lee, an apprentice with the Ohio-based company Claypool Electric. “I am kind of a perfectionist and these types of facilities require a great deal of accuracy to ensure that tasks are done accurately.”
There are other subsets, like electricians who specialize in wiring ships and airplanes, or electricians who coordinate the lighting for a motion picture or television program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most stable employment is for electricians who work for businesses and factories. And at present, this is a profession where employment is expected to blossom. Learning to use alternative energy sources in homes and businesses requires coordination with electricians, and maintenance still needs to be performed on older electrical systems. The BLS predicts this occupation will grow by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, which translates to 133,700 new positions.
This can be a lucrative career. In 2011, the median wage for an electrician was $49,320. The highest-paid earned north of $80,000, while the lowest-paid electricians earned around $30,000 that year. The best-paying industries include motion pictures (where electricians are known as gaffers), and natural gas distribution. The best-paying cities include Vallejo, Calif., New York City, and Fairbanks, Alaska. An apprentice usually makes between 30 percent and 50 percent less than someone who is fully trained.
“My job is physically demanding, but that does not mean that I have not had a great deal of education to do it correctly,” says Claypool Electric’s Steve Underwood. “I work with complex systems that could kill you in an instant. ... Just because you can wire a ceiling fan in your house does not make you a competent electrician. What we deal with is much more complex, which is why it takes four years of study to reach journey-level status.” Some choose to attend a technical school before entering their apprenticeship program, although this isn’t required. And most program entrants are at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Not everyone enters the field at a young age, however. “I never knew there would be a way for me to become a state-certified journeyman electrician at this point in my life,” says Martin Messerly, another employee with Claypool Electric who had previously worked 27 years as a journeyman mean cutter. “I always thought that it was something that you had to do right out of high school. Now, I just finished my fourth year of apprenticeship training and with a few more [on-the-job training] hours I will be a state-certified journeyman electrician.”
An electrician may be taught about volts and amperes during an apprenticeship, but some of their most-used skills are inherent. Many of those who excel are critical thinkers who can quickly diagnose electrical problems. They also should be good listeners and practice patience—”it takes time to solve complex issues with equipment that can be expensive,” says Anthony Pennybaker, a Claypool Electric employee.
Learning to respect and collaborate with other construction workers is also essential. Underwood says it’s important to know “that all levels of people on a job site can have a good idea, and [to have] the willingness to listen to them.”
|Upward Mobility||Below Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|