Approximately 715,400 electricians are employed in the United States. They work in almost every industry imaginable, from construction to telecommunications to health care to transportation and more. Most work for contractors, but many work for institutional employers that require their own maintenance crews, or for government agencies. About 6 percent of electricians are self-employed.
People seeking to enter this field may either begin working as helpers or they may enter an apprenticeship program. Leads for helper jobs may be located by contacting electrical contractors directly or by checking with the local offices of the state employment service or in newspaper classified advertising sections. Students in trade and vocational programs may be able to find job openings through the placement office of their school.
If you are interested in an apprenticeship, you may start by contacting the union local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the local chapter of Independent Electrical Contractors Inc., or the local apprenticeship training committee. Information on apprenticeships also can be obtained through the state employment service.
The advancement possibilities for skilled, experienced electricians depend partly on their field of work. Those who work in construction may become supervisors, job site superintendents, or estimators for electrical contractors. Some electricians are able to establish their own contracting businesses, although in many areas contractors must obtain a special license. Another possibility for some electricians is to move, for example, from construction to maintenance work, or into jobs in the shipbuilding, automobile, or aircraft industry.
Many electricians find that after they are working in the field, they still need to take courses to keep abreast of new developments. Unions and employers may sponsor classes introducing new methods and materials or explaining changes in electrical code requirements. By taking skill-improvement courses, electricians may also improve their chances for advancement to better-paying positions.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Insights (http://www.ieci.org/newsroom-and-insights/sections/insights-magazine) to learn more about the electrical contracting industry.
Become certified in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.
Join unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.