How to Become an Electrician
Electrician West Chester assembles, installs, tests, troubleshoots, and repairs electrical wiring, fixtures, and equipment. They are often employed by electrical contractors or building maintenance departments.
An associate degree in electrical technology can prepare aspiring electricians to start their apprenticeship program immediately after graduation or serve as a steppingstone to a four-year bachelor’s degree.
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree isn’t required to become an electrician, but taking classes at a trade school may help you qualify for an apprenticeship. These programs typically include classroom instruction and on-the-job training. An apprenticeship can take four years or more to complete, but it moves you closer to licensure without the need for a college education. Some apprenticeships will even allow academic credit earned in a community college program to count toward the on-the-job training requirement.
Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience in the electrical field and are one of the best ways to learn the trade. These programs usually combine classroom work with on-the-job training with a master electrician, and some states require that an apprentice pass exams to obtain a license.
After completing an apprenticeship, you can choose to specialize in a specific area of the field. For example, some electricians focus on installing electrical power for lighting systems and communication devices. Other electricians specialize in the higher voltages of electric utility company distribution systems, while others specialize in the lower-voltage wiring used inside homes or businesses. Some electricians also work with solar energy systems and other alternative energy sources.
In addition to their technical knowledge, electricians must have excellent people skills to communicate with customers and coworkers. This can be especially important if you are part of a team that installs power for new construction. Others may work directly with homeowners to repair problems or upgrade their home’s wiring.
While the job isn’t dangerous, it requires physical stamina and attention to detail. You must be able to stand or sit for long periods of time while running wire and connecting fixtures. You must also be able to lift or move heavy equipment when necessary.
Electricians must continue to improve their skills throughout their careers. New techniques and technologies come into use quickly, and regulations change at a rapid pace. Continuing education is a great way to stay current on the latest codes and practices.
Electricians install, troubleshoot, and repair electrical wiring and systems used in homes, businesses, and industrial structures. They use tools such as wire strippers, pliers, multimeters, and screwdrivers to perform their work. They also read blueprints and other technical documents to understand the electrical systems they are installing or repairing.
Some electricians have a steady job that keeps them at one location, while others travel from project to project. They may have to climb ladders and enter small spaces or confined areas of structures. They must wear personal protective equipment when doing so, such as hard hats and safety glasses. Electricians also must take frequent breaks to prevent exhaustion, as they often have to stand and work for long periods of time.
Those who are interested in becoming electricians should consider the physical demands and safety risks involved in this field before making a commitment to it. Individuals who enjoy working with their hands and solving problems with precision should be drawn to this career. The flexibility offered by the many different types of electrician jobs also makes this a desirable choice for many people who enjoy changing careers or industries as they grow into their careers.
While most electricians are self-employed contractors, some are employed by large companies to assist with new construction or repair projects. These employees typically have full-time schedules and can expect to work 40 hours a week. Independent electricians and apprentices tend to have more sporadic schedules. They may have to work extra hours or spend more than a few days at a job site if they are called in for emergency repairs.
All buildings require electricity to function, so the demand for electricians will continue to be strong for some time. As alternative power sources, such as solar and wind, become more widely used, the need for those who can install and connect these systems to the main power grid will increase. The industry is constantly evolving, however, so it’s important for those who are interested in this career to keep up with new technologies and trends.
Electrical workers work with electricity every day, and it poses a potential risk for injury or even death. Responsible electricians familiarize themselves with the dangers and have a healthy respect for electricity at all times. This, plus a variety of safety measures, can help minimize the risk.
Whenever possible, use nonconductive gloves and protective clothing when handling electrical equipment. If you must use a metal rod to hold an open circuit panel, make sure it has a nonconductive handle. Also, avoid touching the conductors directly with your hands or feet when working with energized equipment. If contact is made, the forceful muscular contractions caused by shock can cause injuries such as burns and electrocution.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing or operating an electrical product. It’s best to seek guidance from a qualified electrician for any repair or maintenance work that you cannot do yourself. Inspect cords and plugs regularly for signs of wear, such as frayed or cracked insulation, bent prongs on plugs, and hot outlets. Place halogen lighting away from combustible materials, and do not store chemicals or gasoline near electrical equipment.
Before any work begins on an energized (“hot”) circuit, it must be shut off, locked out, and tagged out—then tested to ensure that it is de-energized. An unexpected restart of a circuit could cause serious injury or even death.
A switchboard is an important piece of electrical safety equipment that enables the safe distribution of current to different circuits and devices. Electrical power entering a switchboard must closely match the amount that is distributed from it. This is done by using fuses and load-limiting devices to prevent overheating, fires, and explosions.
It’s a good idea to assume any location in which you’re working is damp, even if there’s no visible water. Damp conditions increase the risk of electric shock and fire. Make it a habit to carry personal protection equipment, or PPE, with you on the job site so that you can quickly use it when necessary. Placing it in a prominent position will be a reminder, too.
As a highly skilled craft profession, electricians have the potential to make very good salaries. Those who work in large factories can earn up to $150,000 or more per year, depending on their level of education and experience. Electricians who run their own businesses can often set their own wages and benefit packages. These may include health and dental insurance, disability insurance, retirement plans, profit sharing or equity participation, vacations, sick days, maternity and paternity leave, and other special bonuses and incentives.
Those who choose to specialize in construction can also enjoy great job security, as they are always needed at new and existing construction sites. The pay for electricians can vary, however, based on where they live and the demand in their area. Some areas have higher living costs and thus have higher pay rates for professionals, while others may see lower salaries as a result of less competition for talent.
In addition to the base salary, many electricians earn extra income by doing cash jobs for their customers. These can be for simple tasks such as installing a hot tub or repairing a broken heater, but they are a great way to boost an electrician’s earnings. Those who work for larger companies or organizations will usually need to report those earnings on their tax returns.
One thing that can help increase an electrician’s salary is to get advanced degrees, which could allow them to move into management positions that would come with higher pay. This can be done through continuing education courses, additional certifications, or even attending trade schools.
Another way to improve an electrician’s salary is to change employers, as some companies are more willing to pay a higher wage for their expertise. However, this can also take time and money, which may not be available to everyone.
If an electrician owns their own business, workers’ compensation insurance is a must-have to protect them and their employees from potential injuries. A policy can be purchased from private insurers that offer affordable options for small businesses. These providers can also provide safety training and other risk mitigation strategies to help reduce the chances of a claim. This helps show your team that you are invested in their wellbeing and that you take workplace safety seriously.