Skilled labour is always in high demand, which means that a career as an electrician has longevity. Even more so now than previous decades, as the green movement has brought on a wave of new products and procedures. Individuals and companies alike are seeking new ways to save on energy, and electrical workers are becoming more creative than ever before.
Armoring yourself with electrical skills and knowledge means that you will be able to find work when others cannot, and it provides you with a platform from whence you will be able to start your own business, should you so desire in future.
What’s more, as an electrician, you are able to either generalize or specialize in your fields of expertise as much as you like, focusing on specific clients or building a broad spectrum in clientele.
If you are considering a career change, but you are not quite sure where to start or what it entails, here’s a quick overview of the most often sought-after information.
Electrician Job Description
Most Americans have had contact with, known or contracted an electrical contractor into their homes at some point in their lives. It seems that we should know offhand what it is that these skilled workers do. However, a detailed description of an electrical worker’s job reveals a good many dimensions that the position demands. There is so much more to it than simply laying out cables and checking power outlets.
The most basic of the linesman’s duties calls for the installation and testing of electrical wiring, but the maintenance of electric systems are also a big part of the job. An electric system can include appliances (such as ovens or even intercoms), and the skilled electrical practitioner is responsible for keeping the entire system connected and healthy.
The job requires the individual to have a solid and knowledgeable understanding of the working and function of all electrical components. He needs to know what electricity is, in essence, and how to harness and manage it. This includes the understanding of transformers and circuit breakers, for example. It also means that, in the case of a faulty system, that the individual should be able to diagnose and fix the problems that are affecting it. This is done through the use of testing equipment (such as voltmeters, oscilloscopes and ohmmeters).
Taking this into account, an electrical worker also needs to understand how to approach electricity in a safe way, and how to rig systems so that they are safe to others. In addition to being a problem-solver and critical thinker, the individual should also be able to identify possible dangers in a system, such as connections that can turn dangerous in time. Safety is key when you take on the responsibility of keeping your client’s home electrical-fire free. This also pertains to being able to recognize when a client’s appliances or apparatus’ have reached the end of their lives.
The individual is expected to have a firm understanding of codes and regulations, as stipulated by county authorities, which pertain to the level of standard that is acceptable when delivering a service. This also means that the individual must meet building and safety regulations of the state – no cutting corners. A good professional is aware of all his legal responsibilities, and how to meet them.
On a more basic front, the job description calls for him/her to be able to: operate a variety of power tools, use building equipment such as ladders and scaffolding, and read and interpret a blue print. Should unforeseen problems pop up, it would mean that the individual can handle him/herself and create solutions.
Should the worker own his/her own business, they must be able to compile quotes for clients and estimate costs, as well as handle other day-to-day administrative duties such as keeping licenses up to date etc.
An linesman’s skill-set is broad and it requires the person to be able to be both creative and analytical in his approach to the job at hand.
Steps to Becoming an Electrician
Your journey officially starts here. You have decided to carve out a career for yourself, but how do you go about it? Here is a simple, five-step recipe that should help you reach your goal.
First. Understand the business. Talk to experienced professionals in the field and the people who hire them. Find out if you would like to go into a more specialized field, or whether you would rather generalize your skill-set. Spend time researching on the internet. Remember that there are a great number of new sectors and areas that electricians are now involved in, due to the global energy crisis. Be diligent, and you just might find an area that interests you more than others – this will greatly aid you in the next steps, when you need to find people and places to match your choice.
Second. Enroll as an apprentice. There are a great number of recognized apprenticeship programs out there, and some Master Tradesmen are even willing to take on apprentices as well. This will make out the practical part of your learning and it is absolutely essential, as it provides you with an environment where you are able to ask questions and face unprecedented scenarios with a mentor by your side. This is a priceless and necessary step, and can take up to four years of your educational training.
Third. Enlist in a certified course. Scour the technical schools and colleges in your area and talk to qualified professionals in the field to find the best course that will suit you (including the area of expertise you are interested in). Your apprenticeship, together with your formal course training will give you a well-rounded understanding of the role. Also, you need to successfully complete such a course to become licensed in most states. You can complete this while doing your apprenticeship.
Fourth. Get a license. After completing an apprenticeship and a recognized course, apply for a license from your local authorities. This license will give you permission to work as an official, certified linesman. This is a requirement in most states.
Fifth. Become a mentor. Now that you are fully qualified, why not further your career and study more, maybe start your own business, or get involved with local apprenticeship programs?
How Long Does It Take To Become an Electrician?
When it boils down to it, this is entirely dependant on the person in question and how diligently they are following the steps. Some may take longer to gain practical knowledge through their apprenticeship, while others may face troubles with exams. In the end it is entirely up to the individual, and the area he chooses to specialize in (some take longer to learn).
However, to give you an idea, you can take the following into account: to gain an apprenticeship, you are required to have at least a high school diploma or General Equivalent – this is because you will be required to take a test that includes algebra to qualify. The average apprenticeship can last up to four years, depending on whether you specialize or not. During your apprenticeship, you can study and complete your technical course. Some technical schools even include apprenticeships as part of the package.
The short answer? If you start off with your high school diploma or GED in your back pocket already, and you give it your all, you should be done and dusted within four years.
How Much Do Electricians Make?
It is incredibly important to note that you should not base your choice of career on the amount of money you will make from it. Learning and studying takes a good amount of effort and time, and you should be spending it on something you are passionate about. There is no sense in finding out you hate your job, two days in, after you’ve spent four years trying to learn how to do it. Throw yourself into something you are passionate about, and your working years will bring you pleasure.
That said, you have to keep in mind that the career you are aiming for is linked to both a rewarding and physically strenuous job. If you are technically apt and have a knack for solving problems, this career should bring you a lot of happiness.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians across the United States earned an average of $52 910 in 2011 (annually). This is very good and reflects greatly on the global need for skilled workmen, especially as the planet is going greener and new energy practices are being developed and implemented.
However, this differs greatly in region, as well as field of work. Higher skilled, more specialized workers will earn more, for example. The highest paying states in America for people in the field in general are (in descending order):
Alaska ($72 030 per year)
New York ($70 680 per year)
Illinois ($70 430 per year)
The lowest paying state is North Carolina with $39 640 per year.
Keep your experience, expertise and region in mind when researching what you will be earning. Keep your day-to-day costs in mind, as well as the lifestyle you are aiming for in future. But also make sure that your new career will suit you and bring you a lifetime of workplace happiness!
Electrical Apprenticeship Programs
There are a great many number of apprenticeship programs available in the United States. Some technical colleges and schools offer apprenticeships as part and parcel of your studies with them. Local licensing authorities should also be able to point you in the right direction.
However, there are a few apprenticeship programs that stand out and that you should definitely consider seriously, as they are highly acclaimed and widely recognized. Here is a short list:
IECRM. This four year apprenticeship program is recognized by United States DOL Office of Apprenticeship. They are regarded as the largest trade school in Wyoming and Colorado, with campuses in Loveland and Denver. They also have an online program for students in other states. Even more impressive is the fact that the program boasts with a 95% employment rate for their students.
NJATC Apprenticeship Training. This apprenticeship program focuses on the construction world and offers its member classroom training, as well as access to local courses. Their training centers are strewn all across the United States, as well as Canada. Visit their website to find a campus near you.
IEC Apprenticeship. With an astounding number of campuses (50 in total), the IEC is able to train around 10 000 students in a year. They are also recognized by United States Department of Labor and State Apprenticeship Councils throughout the country, and the institution is often regarded to be the very best one out there.
Take the time to ask around and do research. The easiest thing would be if you knew whether you would like to specialize (and in what), or whether you would like to become a generalist or a more specialized worker. This way, you can search for a facility that meets those needs first. Second would be to find one that is close and affordable, and that would put you in contact with all the right experiences for you to step out of your apprenticeship, and into your career.
Being an electrical professional requires you to be a special kind of person. You need to be technical and analytical. You need to be creative and able to solve problems. You need to be able to think on your feet and take initiative to prevent future issues. An linesman is skilled, bold, responsible, and disciplined.
If you tick all the boxes above, why not start on your career right now? If you are still in school, apply yourself to math and science. Seek out an apprenticeship as soon as you can. Take time to research the technical course that will meet your needs. Be prepared to work hard, and remember that, at the end of the day, you are delivering a service to a client that entrusts their electrical safety and systems in your hands.
Time to flip the switch on your career!