Career Path Options for Electricians
A career as an electrician is lucrative, interesting and stable. If you are considering the skilled trades, this is a great option. Furthermore, you may not have realized that the career path for an electrician is so varied and comes with multiple choices. While training to become an electrician, it’s important to be aware of all your options for a future career.
Student and Apprentice Electrician
To become an electrician of any type you have to begin with learning and training. The most common way to do this is to become an apprentice. Apprentices take 500 to 1,000 hours of classes, often at night and on weekends, while also working and learning on the job. Electrical apprentices work directly with master electricians to both work and learn and also earn a living. Apprenticeship programs take four to five years to complete.
Journeyman Commercial vs. Residential Electrician
Once you have successfully completed an apprenticeship you can take the necessary steps to gain the licensing or certification that is required in your state, county and city. Most states and areas require that you work as a journeyman next, which means you have to be supervised by a master electrician.
You may also need to choose to become licensed for commercial or residential work, or both. The distinction is simple, which is that commercial electricians work on commercial buildings and residential electricians work in homes and sometimes small apartment buildings. Systems in commercial buildings are usually larger and more complex, but otherwise the jobs are similar.
After working as a fully-licensed electrician, under the supervision of a master electrician, you can become a master yourself. A master electrician is specially licensed and has at least a few years of experience beyond the journeyman level. Master electricians can do work unsupervised, pull permits, and supervise and guide other electricians. They can also take on and train apprentices. Master electricians generally earn more than journeymen.
If you have ever considered being a small business owner, you may want to go from master electrician to electrical contractor. Many states have licensing for this next level up, which is a position that allows you to start an electrical contracting business and to hire electricians to work for you. In some places, you may be required to purchase a certain level of insurance and to have a master electrician on your staff if you are not licensed. About eight percent of electricians are self-employed business owners.
Another path you may consider taking as you train as an electrician is working on outside lines. Outside linemen are the electrical workers responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing electrical lines that you see outdoors. These are the lines that carry electricity from power plants to neighborhoods, communities, and both residential and commercial buildings. Outside linemen work outdoors in all kinds of weather and often at significant heights. This can be a dangerous job with the risk of falls and electrocution by high voltage lines. But, these workers earn more than most electricians working indoors.
Other Careers for Electricians
Once you are a qualified and licensed electrician and have some experience working with electrical systems, you may want to try something new. There are many alternative careers for those who are trained as electricians, including some that you may never have realized were a possibility:
- Home inspector. Homebuyers need professional inspectors to ensure the wiring and electrical components are safe and up to code.
- Crew foreman. Ifyou enjoy leading teams you may want to be a construction foreman, in charge of all types of workers on a job site.
- Project manager.New construction projects can be pretty large and involve complex electrical systems. Contracting companies and builders need project managers to plan and guide the implementation of wiring and electrical components.
- Renewable energy specialist. With some additional training you could become a specialist in the wiring involved in solar power, wind turbines and other systems that use alternative energy.
There are many different ways that your career as an electrician can go. It’s up to you to get the right training and licensing, and then you’ll be in a great position to choose how and where you want to work.