This career is expected to grow 12 percent—about as fast as average—through 2018.
Electricians will be needed to install and maintain electrical devices and wiring in homes, factories, and offices; construct power plants; and build and repair new technologies such as robots and automated manufacturing systems. Electricians with a wide range of skills—voice, data, and video wiring—will fare best, though all may experience cyclical swings due to recessions.
In 2008, electricians earned an average wage of $22.32 per hour. The middle 50 percent earned between $17.00 and $29.88. The highest 10 percent earned more than $38.18.
Those working in motor vehicle parts manufacturing earned the most; those working through employment services earned the least.
Electricians bring electricity into homes, businesses, and factories. They install and maintain the wiring, fuses, and other components through which electricity flows. Many electricians also install and maintain electrical machines in factories.
Electricians connect all types of wires to circuit breakers, transformers, outlets or other components. They join the wires in boxes with various specially designed connectors.
When installing wiring, electricians use hand tools 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, oscilloscopes and other equipment to test connections and ensure the compatibility and safety of components.
Electricians generally focus on either construction or maintenance, although many do both. Electricians specializing in construction primarily install wiring systems into factories, businesses, and new homes. Electricians specializing in maintenance work fix and upgrade existing electrical systems and repair electrical equipment.
Most electricians learn their trade through apprenticeship programs. These programs combine paid on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Joint training committees made up of local unions or chapters of professional organizations usually sponsor apprenticeship programs.
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.
Apprenticeship programs usually last four years. Each year includes at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.
In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and cranes and elevators.
On the job, apprentices work under the supervision of experienced electricians.
Most states and localities require electricians to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Electrical contractors who do electrical work for the public, as opposed to electricians who work for electrical contractors, often need a special license.
Entering the Field:
Entry-level jobs are often available to applicants who hold certificates or diplomas in applied electronics. Many electricians earn Associate of Science degrees in applied technology/electronics or electronics engineering.
Investigate your state’s licensing requirements and apply for an apprenticeship program through a local joint training committee. If you want to become licensed as an electrician it is important that any education you take, whether online or on campus, match the educational requirements of your state’s licensing board.
Career Changers:
Anyone with solid math skills might enjoy electronics and can usually enter the field with a combination of a certificate or diploma and a supervised job placement. If you have experience in electronics it is possible to move up in your career by seeking advanced placement in any area of technology management—such as construction management or telecommunications management.
Electricians can and often do specialize in areas such as automotive electronics, telecommunications, drafting, computer electronics or commercial construction.

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