What does an electrician do?

Essential in modern life, electricians are skilled professionals who handle a broad range of issues that have to do with electrical power in homes and businesses. As an electrician, you work independently or as a team to get electricity from its source to the consumer. Depending on your training and proficiency, you will work in a residential, commercial or industrial setting. 

Types of electricians

There are several specializations for electricians. Some electricians work on motors and machines in factories. Others involve themselves in planning and implementing electrical systems for new and existing structures. You’ll often collaborate with HVAC contractors, architects and building engineers. Line technicians work outdoors. If you’re in this position, you’ll install and maintain high-voltage electricity transmission systems. Wire technicians are electricians who work with lower voltage systems inside structures.

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What is the average salary of an electrician?

In 2021, the average annual salary of an electrician was $63,310. That’s higher than the annual average salary for all occupations, which was $58,260 that year.

Location matters

Electricians' pay varies by state. You’ll have opportunities to earn an average electrician's salary in any state. But the average annual wage for electricians in New York is the highest, at $77,810. 

Pay differences by specialization

Some specializations, such as avionics, offer higher pay than others. The amount of experience you have also influences your pay. Electrical workers with the highest level of certification are eligible for the highest compensation.


Working as an electrician

If you want a hands-on career that offers plenty of on-the-job training, a position as an electrician could be ideal for you. Candidates for electrician jobs have attention to detail, a love for learning new things and proficiency in following safety and technical instructions. 

What are the responsibilities of an electrician?

Electricians are often responsible for installing electrical systems in new construction. But they also add and repair existing wiring, transformers, circuit breakers and other electronic components on all types of properties. Some electricians are responsible for installing fixtures and components that plug into the power grid. You’ll use your understanding of circuits and relays to ensure that all parts of the system work properly.

Primary duties of an electrician

In addition to installation, electricians:

  • Perform general maintenance
  • Test electrical equipment
  • Troubleshoot electrical problems
  • Follow codes and regulations
  • Interpret technical diagrams

What type of equipment do electricians use?

Electricians have access to plenty of tools to assist them with their jobs. Your training will teach you how to use these resources effectively and safely.

Basic tools

As an electrician, you’ll use basic hand tools, such as pliers and wire strippers. But you’ll also need to know how to use some power tools. Many electricians must access hidden wiring. You’ll need a reciprocating saw and other power tools to cut through drywall and other structural materials. 

Safety equipment

An outdoor electrician uses insulated tools to help reduce the risk of electric shock. Safety equipment is also necessary for this position. When working on poles, you’ll use a climbing belt, protective boots and a hard hat. Some of the most essential equipment for electricians is unique to the job. You’ll receive training on how to use voltmeters, ammeters, cable testers and the like.

What is the work environment of an electrician?

As an electrician, you have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • New construction
  • Office buildings
  • Outside on power lines
  • Offices, stores and other commercial structures
  • Warehouses and factories

Work environment depends on your specialization

The work environment depends on your specialization. A general electrician works in a wide variety of settings. 

Flexible and changing schedules

Although you may work at the same job site for several days or weeks, after completion of the project, you’ll move to another one. This gives you the chance to establish a routine within each project. But you can still expect to perform smaller jobs that take less than a day at a particular location.

Physical work

Being an electrician is surprisingly physical work. You’ll often climb ladders or scaffolding. You will also work in some tight spaces and need to have the strength and flexibility to rest on your knees or stand for long periods. Electrical work requires you to operate in cramped spaces. 

Rugged environments

If you work on a construction or renovation project, expect a dusty and dirty environment. Working in factories or construction sites is often noisy. As an outdoor electrician, you’ll encounter inclement weather from time to time.

Safety considerations

Safety is a priority in this field because of the hazards of working with electricity. Employers need to follow specific standards to keep their workers safe. If you work for yourself, you’ll learn safety protocols during your training and apprenticeship. Staying up-to-date with your knowledge of safety standards and procedures will minimize your risk.

Travel and remote work

This occupation requires you to go to different job sites. Some locations may be a significant distance from your home, giving you the chance to travel. Electrical work is a hands-on job that doesn’t offer much opportunity to work remotely. However, as you gain experience and progress in the profession, you will have opportunities to transfer your knowledge to other roles that do allow you to work from home. Estimators, project managers and engineers don’t always have to be at the job site.

Who are your colleagues as an electrician?

The work is generally completed on a contract basis. You can expect to work alone, with a partner or as part of a crew. Your colleagues include:

Collaborating with others

Although you don’t always work hand-in-hand with others on a project, you will have to take into account others’ roles. For example, you may need to follow the guidelines that an engineer established. The priorities of an HVAC contractor or construction foreman sometimes affect your schedule.

What is the work schedule of an electrician?

If you’re an electrician, you can expect to work about 40 hours a week. Even with a full-time schedule, though, it's possible that you will not work traditional hours. Electricians often need to access properties when they’re not busy. It’s not uncommon for electricians to start their day around 6 or 7 a.m. 

Set schedules vs. emergencies

Electricians who are employees of a facility like a hospital usually have a set, predictable schedule. But some specializations require electricians to be on call. Line crews respond to emergencies within and outside their local area in cases of severe outages. Some outdoor electricians also work 12-hour shifts. Even if you work indoors, it's possible that your schedule will vary depending on the breadth and urgency of each project.



What is the career outlook for an electrician?

Electric work is a trade that is here to stay. The number of available positions is growing about as fast as the national average for all jobs. Alternative energy systems like solar power are creating new opportunities for evolution within the field. 

Gaining experience

Your responsibilities and pay usually increase with experience. When you enter the field after your apprenticeship, you’ll work as a journeyman or journeywoman. This is a licensed electrician who can work without supervision but isn’t permitted to lead job sites or pull permits.

Growth through licensing

After completing a certain number of hours as a journeyperson and fulfilling other requirements, which vary by state, you can take the master electrician licensing exam. As a master electrician, you will often take on complex projects and managerial roles, allowing you to develop your career within the industry and earn a higher salary.

Independent contracting

About 9% of electricians are self-employed. Taking on the role of a small business owner brings some challenges, but it allows you to establish your own schedule and responsibilities. You need to be a master electrician with proper insurance to run your own business in this industry.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as an electrician?

If you’re seeking work as an electrician, you don't need to spend long hours in front of the computer or sending out resumes. You can get to work quickly when you work with a leading staffing company like Spherion. We aim to connect you with the ideal job for your skills and qualifications. What's more, we take the pressure off you, making connections that will set you up for success in your career. 

Benefits of working with Spherion

When you work with Spherion as an electrician, you’ll:

  • Enjoy a quick and seamless interviewing process
  • Receive weekly pay
  • Learn about a wide range of job opportunities in your target location
  • Have ongoing contact with and support from us
  • Have flexible scheduling options

What education do you need as a electrician?

You need a high school diploma or its equivalent to become an electrician. But you don’t need a formal education beyond that to embark on this career. Many electricians learn the trade in person by training with professionals. 

Formal education options

Going to a vocational or trade school can help electricians learn the skills that they need to get a job as an electrician and perform their job well. The foundational principles that you learn in vocational school can help you find an apprenticeship. A formal education replaces some of the hours required to obtain your journeyman license. 


As a new electrician, you will apply for apprenticeships through a vocational program, a union or a non-union organization will place you with independent contractors. Some apprenticeships require you to pass an aptitude test and meet physical requirements. The apprenticeship offers on-the-job training, which you need to complete to pursue a career as a licensed electrician. Different cities and states have distinct requirements for the number of hours that you must spend working under the supervision of a licensed electrician before you can sit for your exam.

Skills and competencies

Although you don’t need formal schooling beyond high school to become an electrician, you will draw on several academic disciplines on the job. You’ll use mathematical skills to measure voltage and physical components. You need to understand many scientific concepts. Learning to read technical documents will also come in handy.

On-the-job training

If math and science aren’t your strongest subjects, you can rest assured knowing that you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of every principle. You’ll receive comprehensive training, which will give you the practical knowledge to work in this field. However, candidates for this role must have a strong willingness to learn and be able to learn new concepts easily. 

Physical and mental strengths

Problem-solving is a priority as an electrician. The position requires you to identify the source of issues and come up with effective solutions. You’ll also need to be in healthy physical condition. Agility, flexibility, strength and endurance are essential for this job. 

Licensing and certification

When it comes to certifications, licensure requirements vary between states. If your state requires you to pass an exam, you’ll need to demonstrate your knowledge of electrical concepts, building codes, the National Electric Code and safety procedures.



If you want to work in a sector that provides a valuable service and allows you to use your mental and physical strengths, consider a position as an electrician. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about becoming an electrician. 

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