Your Career as an Electrical Technician Could Take Many Paths
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Electrical technicians fill a variety of workplace roles, installing and maintaining electrical power, communications, lighting, and other systems in homes and businesses. Electrical technician jobs are in-demand: Career opportunities as an electrical technician are expected to grow by 9% through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is plenty of room for specialization and growth through the apprenticeship system, with a huge range of position types in different industries. But how does someone become an apprentice, and train toward becoming a journeyman and master electrician? And what opportunities exist along the way?
Electrical technician jobs in a variety of industries seek trained candidates for facility & equipment maintenance, electrical system installation, and more. Employers seek candidates who understand how to troubleshoot equipment, read blueprints and diagrams, and install new wiring. People seeking a career change as an electrical technician should note: employers often require a diploma or degree from a certified program. These programs teach safe practices, code, reading blueprints, and other important skills, and can help electrical technicians land that first apprentice-level job. Vista College’s Electrical Technician Diploma program satisfies these requirements for many potential employers.
Electrical Technician Duties
Electrical technician duties vary greatly, depending on the job type. They could be based in an industrial facility, troubleshooting and maintaining equipment. They could be part of a work crew that installs fire alarm equipment, or lighting fixtures and systems. If an organization sells specialized heavy equipment with electrical components, chances are their work crews include electrical technicians.
Electrical technicians interested in gaining additional skills and training can seek an Apprenticeship. This can start a career path for an electrical technician leading to a great number of places. Apprenticeships exist in the form of job positions with contractors, as well as in programs run by trade unions. These typically last 4–5 years, and also requires 500–1,000 hours of training, varying state by state. Many people looking for a career change start with a diploma program in a trade school, which counts toward apprentice training hours. Vista College’s Electrical Technician program combines important safety and code knowledge with practical instruction. Because it is certified by the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER), these course-hours count toward apprenticeship training.
Candidates can seek entry-level apprentice positions with local unions or independent contractors that participate in apprenticeship programs. Sometimes these jobs require experience. If you’re seeking experience to become an apprentice, you can also find work as an electrical technician or an electrician’s helper.
Apprentice Electrician Duties
At first, an apprentice electrician should expect to do a lot of basic labor, and a lot of listening. A willingness to chip in, and a hardworking attitude will work wonders.
Apprentice electrician duties include hauling gear, preparing jobsites, drilling holes, setting anchors, running wires and cables, installing fixtures, testing currents, making connections, cleaning up jobsites, and otherwise generally assisting electricians with their tasks. These responsibilities can be divided among several larger electrician specializations, including outside linemen, inside linemen, residential, or low-voltage. If you’re considering a career change as an electrical technician, start considering the type of work you would like to pursue at an early stage.
Apprentice Electrician Salary
The salary for an apprentice electrician varies by area and experience and can grow over the course of the apprenticeship. For example, some programs begin at 45% of a journeyman salary, and end at 85%, according to the Houston Chronicle, ranging from $13.33 per hour to $26.44 per hour by the end of the sixth year. Glassdoor pegs the average apprentice electrician salary nationwide at $46,886 per year.
A journeyman electrician is licensed to work and operate independently. Apprentice electricians who have satisfied work and training requirements can seek licensing and certification to become a journeyman. At this point in their career, they are expected to understand code requirements in their given specialization. They may assist master electricians in the supervision of helpers or apprentice-level electricians. Journeyman electricians command a higher salary and are also eligible to continue work toward master electrician licensing.
Journeyman Electrician Duties
Journeyman electricians can take on one of several specializations.
Outside linemen maintain electrical power systems. This could include assembling substations, installing insulators, maintaining transformers, installing underground distribution systems, installing and repairing overhead lines, setting up towers and poles, and stringing new wire. They can also find jobs on construction sites.
Inside linemen create and maintain power distribution systems for commercial and residential customers. This could include breakers, transformers, switches, grounding systems, service panels, and other systems. They also install wiring and fixtures for lighting systems and maintain fire alarm and security systems.
Low voltage electrical work addresses an even wider variety of systems, from telecommunications to home entertainment systems. Seeking out training in these types of applications can open new opportunities.
With these increased responsibilities comes an emphasis on project management and system design. A journeyman electrician should understand how pieces of a larger job fit together, and how to properly execute the job with regards to safety and electrical code requirements.
As with apprentices, journeyman electricians can further their work experience and training toward certification as a master electrician. This varies by state. In Texas, for example, journeymen must work at least two years and pass the state’s master electrician exam. Other states have different levels of the master electrician exam.
Master electricians are certified to operate independently by their states. They may start their own independent contracting businesses or enter supervisory roles. Master electricians oversee the work of journeyman and apprentice electricians on job sites. Though they often perform the work of electrical system installation and repair, they also manage larger projects and design systems. They oversee code compliance and paperwork such as permits and design blueprints.
Master Electrician Duties
The day-to-day work of a master electrician varies greatly depending upon the job type and environment. They could find themselves overseeing a residential construction wiring project or designing transmission systems.
In more specialized scenarios, organizations have a master electrician on staff. This could involve continuing maintenance of equipment in an industrial facility, or working for the maintenance department of a school, university, city, municipality, or building. Each of these scenarios has its own challenges and rewards. Having a master electrician license qualifies applicants for a much wider variety of jobs.
A World of Opportunities
Whether working as part of a crew, for a large company, or striking out on one’s own, you have a lot of options in front of you if you’re considering a career change as an electrical technician. The field has so many ways to gain training and experience that motivated workers can carve out a career path that suits their own interests.
If you’re seeking electrical technician jobs and training, Vista College’s Electrical Technician diploma program is an excellent first step. The program combines a thorough grounding in electrical code, safety practices, and an understanding of the field with hands-on training in the skills potential employers seek. Courses are offered at convenient times and can be completed in under a year, with full-time continuous attendance. Contact an admissions representative to get started.