Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

What is this job like?

Without these workers, there would be no lights, no computers, and no TVs plugged into our walls. Electricians bring us electricity. They put in the wires that carry electricity through houses, offices, and factories. They also fix electric machines.

Electricians start by reading maps—called blueprints—that show how electricity flows. Blueprints show where to put wires, electrical equipment, and outlets for plugs. When working on a new building, electricians draw new blueprints.

Then, electricians put tubes or pipes inside the walls. They also put small boxes on the walls to hold switches and outlets. They pull wires through the tubes to connect the boxes and make a path for the electricity to follow. A path for electricity is called a circuit.

Electricians also add circuit breakers, transformers, and other equipment to control how electricity flows. They make sure the right amount of electricity goes to the machines that use it. Electricians follow strict rules about how to wire buildings.

After they finish wiring, electricians use ohmmeters, voltmeters, and oscilloscopes to measure the amount of electricity running through the system.

Electricians also install wires for telephones, computers, and fire alarms. Sometimes, they use fiber optic cable.

Maintenance electricians fix electric machines or broken wiring. Some focus on houses. They might rewire a house. Or they could replace an old fuse box with one that can run more appliances.

Some electricians work in factories. They might fix motors, generators, and robots. They also inspect equipment and fix it before it breaks. They tell managers when equipment needs to be replaced. Electricians put in new electrical equipment, too.

Electricians use wire strippers, knives, hacksaws, and power tools. Some electricians stand for a long time and climb ladders. Some work in dusty, dirty, or hot places. But others work in clean places.

Workers need to be careful to avoid falls, cuts, and electric shock. They need good hand-eye coordination and to be good at seeing the different colors of wire.

Some electricians work nights and weekends. Some travel far to get to jobsites.

How do you get ready?

Most electricians start by becoming apprentices. As apprentices, they learn on the job. They watch and listen to experienced workers. They also take classes about electricity. They get paid while they learn. After 3 to 5 years, they are fully trained and can work on their own.

Apprentices start with easy tasks like drilling holes. Later, they learn to connect wires and draw electrical diagrams.

In class, apprentices learn blueprint reading, electronics, math, safety, and rules about electricity.

After they finish an apprenticeship, many electricians take more classes. They might learn more about telephone lines, computer lines, and other kinds of special wiring. Most electricians also need a license from the county where they work.

To become an apprentice, most people need a high school diploma or a G.E.D. They also need to pass a skills test about math and science.

To get ready for the test, it helps to take high school classes in science, shop, and technical drawing. Math classes, like algebra, are also very important. After high school, people can get training in technical schools, community colleges, and the U.S. Armed Forces.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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