Nature of the Work
Electricians install and maintain wiring and control equipment through which electricity flows.
The electricians workmanship is guided in great detail by State and local building codes and the National Electrical Code .
Electricians usually start their work by reading blueprints— technical diagrams that show the locations of circuits, outlets, load centers, panel boards, and other equipment. After determining where all the wires and components will go, electricians install and connect the wires to circuit breakers, transformers, outlets, or other components and system;, seek to resolve operating problems within the system.
Electricians use handtools such as conduit benders, screwdrivers, pliers, knives, hacksaws, and wire strippers, as well as power tools such as drills and saws. Later, they use ammeters, ohmmeters, voltmeters, harmonics testers, and other equipment to test connections and ensure the compatibility and safety of components.
Maintenance electricians may replace items such as circuit breakers, fuses, switches, electrical and electronic components, or wire.
Electricians also periodically inspect all equipment to ensure that it is operating properly and to correct problems before breakdowns occur.
Electricians may repair motors, transformers, generators, and electronic controllers on machines. They also advise management as to whether the continued operation of certain equipment could be hazardous. When working with complex electronic devices, they may consult with engineers, engineering technicians, line installers and repairers, or industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers.
Electricians work indoors and out. The work may be strenuous at times and may include bending conduit, lifting heavy objects, and standing, stooping, and kneeling for long periods.
Many electricians must work nights or weekends and be ‘on call’ to the work when needed; and have periodic extended overtime during scheduled maintenance or equipment installation periods.
Electricians risk injury from electrical shock, falls, and cuts, and must follow strict safety procedures and wear special protection for certain duties, to avoid injuries.
Education and training.
Most electricians learn their trade through apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with related classroom instruction.
Apprenticeship programs combine paid on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Joint training committees made up of local unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association; individual electrical contracting companies; or local chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association usually sponsor apprenticeship programs.
Because of the comprehensive training received, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both maintenance and construction work.
Apprenticeship programs usually last 4 years. Each year includes classroom instruction and on-the-job training. In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first aid practices.
On the job, apprentices work under the supervision of experienced electricians. At first, they drill holes, set anchors and attach conduit. Later, they measure, fabricate, and install conduit and install, connect, and test wiring, outlets, and switches. They also learn to set up and draw diagrams for entire electrical systems. Eventually, they practice and master all of an electrician’s tasks.
The community college can be the most reliable resource for access to apprenticeship training programs.
Education continues throughout an electrician’s career. Electricians may need to take classes to learn about changes to the National Electrical Code, and they often complete regular safety programs, manufacturer-specific training, and management training courses. Classes on such topics as low-voltage voice and data systems, telephone systems, video systems, and alternative energy systems such as solar energy and wind energy increasingly are being given as these systems become more prevalent.
Most States and localities require electricians to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary from State to State, electricians usually must pass an examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local and State electric and building codes.
Applicants for apprenticeships usually must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. They also may have to pass a test and meet other requirements.
Other skills needed to become an electrician include manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance. Electricians also need good color vision because workers frequently must identify electrical wires by color; and must have a good work history.
Additional information regarding apprenticeship programs is located here.