Different Types of Electricians

A career as an electrician has more than one stage. You first have to go through training and journeyman status before you can become a master electrician, an electrical contractor or an independent electrician working without supervision. Once you are an electrician you have the choice of focusing on residential, commercial or industrial work.

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Apprentice Electrician

The first step in becoming a working electrician is to apply for and enroll in an apprentice program. Union programs, like those run through the Electrical Training Alliance, and non-union programs are available in most places, but they can be competitive. As an apprentice you will be provided with everything you need to meet the requirements of licensing, including classroom hours and on-the-job training. You can also expect to earn a salary while you train.


After completing an apprenticeship you can apply to become a licensed journeyman electrician. As a journeyman you will be able to work independently and earn more money, but there are some restrictions that vary by state. For instance, you will not be able to lead a job site, train apprentices or pull permits for electrical jobs. As a journeyman you may choose to get additional supervised training in a specialty area, such as industrial electrical work. Most states require that you pass an exam to become a journeyman electrician.

Master Electrician

Once you have worked as a journeyman for a period of time, typically two years, you can apply to become a licensed master electrician. At this level you will be able to spearhead jobs, direct teams of electricians and train apprentices. To become a master electrician you need to pass certain exams as dictated by the state in which you are getting licensed.

Electrical Contractor

Not all electricians become contractors, but it is an option you may choose after you have some years of experience. States regulate licensing of contractors and usually require that you are or hire a master electrician and have a certain level of insurance. Electrical contractors are small business owners. They hire other electricians to do jobs, which may be in residential settings, in commercial buildings or in industrial plants.

Residential Electrician

As a licensed electrician you can choose the kind of work you want to do, which is roughly divided by location. Many electricians stick with residential work, which means they install, maintain and repair the wiring and electrical systems in homes and small apartment buildings. They may work on new construction or existing buildings and most often work for electrical contractors.

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Commercial Electrician

Commercial electricians work in commercial buildings. The type of power used in these settings is a little bit different from that used in smaller residential buildings. To focus on commercial work, you will need to have completed a certain number of hours of your apprenticeship training in commercial settings. As with residential work, you may be working on new buildings or maintaining and fixing wiring in older buildings.

Industrial Electrician

As an industrial electrician you will work in power plants, manufacturing facilities, chemical plants and other types of industrial buildings. These are large facilities with big equipment and machinery and more electrical needs than commercial and residential buildings. To focus on industrial work, you will need to get work experience under a licensed industrial electrician, either during your apprenticeship or as a journeyman.

Regardless of which type of electrician you choose to become, you have opted for a lucrative career with a bright future. Expect to earn a good salary and to enjoy stability and your pick of jobs. Careers for electricians are on the rise, and demand will continue to be high for qualified workers.

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