Some say that Benjamin Franklin was the world’s first electrician.

Benjamin Franklin flying a kite with a metal key attached to the kite string.

But if we’re going to keep the power on for nearly 90% of the world's population, we'll need more than a kite and a metal key. Electricians keep the world running!

Electrician working on a powerline Photo by Anton Dmitriev on Unsplash

What Does an Electrician Do?

An electrician installs, repairs, maintains and operates electrical equipment and power lines. While most people encounter residential electricians who may rewire your home or install electrical outlets, there's quite a range of types of electricians:

  • Commercial

  • Residential

  • Automotive

  • Maintenance

  • Power line

  • Construction

  • Emergency

Man installing electrical device

Electricians work anytime and in any environment. Your preferences and experience will determine which job is right for you!

What are the Job Requirements for an Electrician?

As with any career, it's no shock that being an electrician has its requirements.

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Most electrician jobs require a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. While electricians learn the trade on the job, many attend trade or technical colleges to earn an advanced degree. The hours spent in the classroom also count toward apprenticeship.

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Junior electricians spend about four years in apprenticeship programs. In this program, you'll learn how to read blueprints and schematic diagrams, code requirements, and safety. You may even learn more advanced skills such as soldering.

Apprenticeship programs are offered by trade schools, contractor associations, or the local union. Check with your state or province licensing board to find out the minimum requirements for the apprenticeship.

Quiz

Anuja is thinking about becoming an electrician. Her only option is to enroll in a technical college's electrical program.

Skills, Qualities, and Licensing of an Electrician

Skills and Qualities

To be an electrician, you should be able to perform physical work as well as maintain technical know-how. Here are some of the skills you may be expected to have:

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  • Take accurate measurements and perform other mathematical functions (such as algebra or trigonometry)

  • Read and/or draw technical diagrams

  • Operate diagnostic equipment

  • Demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills

  • Regularly lift heavy items

  • Work in confined or dusty spaces for extended periods of time

Licensing

You'll see that nearly every electrician job description in both Canada and the United States requires you to be licensed. You can't perform electrical work for hire in most states or provinces without one.

Electrician licenses are issued by your state or province's licensing board after you have successfully completed a specified number of hours and/or passed an electrical exam.

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Each state and province has different requirements, so be sure to check your local licensing board's website for details.

Job Duties and Career Paths of an Electrician

Job Duties

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What you do from day to day depends on your area of specialization. In general, an electrician reads blueprints and technical diagrams, installs new wiring, or maintains existing electrical systems.

As a residential or facility electrician, you may work alone to bring power to a home or office.

As a construction electrician, you might work alongside others from different trades as the building is erected, floor by floor.

Linemen work from great heights on high tension lines and must undergo rigorous safety training and climbing practice.

Electrical Career Path

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There are three levels in this career pathway:

  • Apprentice — At this beginning level, you'll learn from a seasoned electrician. After completing a number of hours under supervision, you can take a test to become a journeyman electrician.

  • Journeyman — At this point, you're a fully licensed electrician and can work without supervision.

  • Master — This electrician has earned the highest levels of certification and can work on more complex electrical projects. Masters also supervise other electricians.

Do I Have to Join a Union to be an Electrician?

While it is not a requirement to be a licensed electrician, joining an electrical worker union can afford you many benefits not afforded to non-union peers. These include:

  • Apprenticeship programs

  • Competitive wages and benefits negotiated on your behalf

  • Access to training and professional development

  • A strong focus on safety

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is the labor union that serves electricians in both Canada and the United States. Visit the IBEW website for more information about what they do!

Woman in grey uniform with a clipboard checking a control box

Electrician's Salary Range

Below are the average annual salaries for electricians in both the US and Canada.

Flaticon Icon $57,395 (USD) per year

Flaticon Icon $71,285 (CAN) per year

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This Byte has been authored by

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Jen Russo

Instructional Design