What Are Some Common Careers in the Electricity Industry?

Electricity can be applied to a boundless range of applications, and so this industry employs people in a wide variety of professions. Read on to learn about some of the most common careers in the electricity industry. Schools offering Electrician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Options

There are a wide variety of careers available in this industry. Common professions include electrician, line worker, electrical installer and power plant operator. Each career path carries its own requirements regarding education and training. For example, some require a high school diploma, while others entail technical training or college coursework.

Important Facts About Electricity Industry Careers

Electrician Line Worker Electrical Installer Power Plant Operator
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in most states Voluntary certification available Voluntary certification available N/A
Key Skills Critical-thinking, troubleshooting skills Teamwork, physical stamina Technical, troubleshooting skills Problem-solving skills, attention to detail
Work Environment Construction sites, homes, businesses Outdoors, sometimes during inclement weather Factories and repair shops Power plant control rooms and stations
Similar Occupations HVAC mechanic, construction laborer Electrical engineer, telecommunications equipment repairer Aircraft equipment technician, broadcast engineering technician Boiler operator, wastewater treatment plant operator

Electrician

Electricians install and repair the wiring and electrical components of residential, industrial and corporate buildings. They typically work for electrical contracting or construction firms. Some specialize in installation during construction, while others specialize in maintenance; however, electricians commonly perform both functions.

As an electrician, you'll analyze blueprints and attach wires to their components, like circuit breakers and transformers. You'll also test electrical connections to ensure they're working safely. This career requires knowledge of local and national building and safety codes, as well as physical fitness to perform the heavy lifting, climbing and kneeling involved with the job.

Education and Training

You may train to become an electrician by completing an apprenticeship program offered by a local electrical union or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Electrician apprenticeships are typically paid, 4-year programs that combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training. You can expect to learn about and practice code and safety regulations, electrical system mapping and wire testing.

Career Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), faster-than-average employment growth of 20% is expected for electricians over the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that employment in this industry rises and falls with the economy and demand for construction and maintenance. The average salary of an electrician as of May 2014 was $54,520, according to the BLS. Most electricians made between $31,170 and $85,590 a year.

Line Worker

Electrical line workers work for utility and construction companies, installing and maintaining the overhead and underground lines and cables that carry electricity to homes and businesses. These professionals typically specialize in either power or telecommunication lines and often specialize in one job function, like cable installation or equipment repair. Line workers also work on the stationary power grids that connect local lines to a main power source. Since these lines carry thousands of volts of power, these professionals wear protective gear and must follow stringent safety procedures.

Education and Training

To become a line worker, you may gain training through an apprenticeship, postsecondary training or a combination of both. Some community and technical colleges offer 1-year line worker certificate programs that provide a basic overview of electrical systems, equipment and safety procedures. After earning a certificate, you may then continue training by earning up to five years of experience through an apprenticeship or similar on-the-job training.

Another way to become a line worker is through the military. In exchange for your military service, you may receive training in installing and repairing power lines. You might gain experience maintaining power grids at a base or facility and qualify for employment on an electrical distribution team.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS reports that telecommunications line installers and repairers will experience slower-than-average employment growth of 6% over the 2012-2022 decade. Electrical power line installers and repairers will experience an employment growth of 9% during that time. Job opportunities should be best for applicants with a degree or training from an apprenticeship.

As of May 2014, electrical power line installers and repairers made $64,990 on average, according to the BLS. Most annual salaries were between $36,090 and $94,030.

Electrical Installer

Electrical installers work in a variety of businesses, setting up electrical motors and appliances. You might resolve general maintenance issues and perform large repairs, such as replacing faulty switchboards, soldering components and replacing blown fuses. You may also install and maintain main switchboards and power grids for electrical companies. Manufacturing companies that produce automobiles, airplanes and other modes of transportation often hire electrical installers to combine the wiring and electronics necessary to run advanced-technology vehicles.

Education and Training

Employers prefer to hire electrical installers who've completed postsecondary coursework. Relevant course topics could cover electrical basics, safety codes, current theory, AC and DC circuitry, electrical drafting and motor control. Employers may also prefer to hire applicants who are certified through a professional organization, like the Electronics Technicians Association or the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS expects only 1% job growth for electrical and electronics installers and repairers over the 2012-2022 decade. Job growth is expected to be better for those who install and repair commercial and industrial equipment. Prospects will be best for certified professionals who possess an associate's degree.

Average wages for electrical and electronic installers and repairs depends on the type of equipment being worked on. For example, those working on motor vehicles earned an average wage of $32,920 as of 2014, while those working on electric motors and power tools earned a slightly higher average salary of $41,850.

Power Plant Operator

Energy companies typically produce electricity from their own power plants, which are maintained by power plant operators. In this capacity, you would be responsible for controlling the components that generate electricity and direct it to various buildings and facilities. This may involve operating and monitoring generators that provide emergency power. When working for a power company, you may also work with large turbine engines that output power from a main source.

Education and Training

While some power plant operators enter the career with high school diplomas, those with postsecondary training may benefit from greater employment opportunities. Power plant technology associate's degree programs are available through community colleges and technical schools. These programs tend to include coursework in turbines, energy conversion, boiler control, thermodynamics and environmental technology. Most plants will also require you to complete extensive on-the-job training.

Job Outlook and Salary

Power plant operators are expected to experience an 11% decline in employment over the 2012-2022 decade, reported the BLS. There will be fewer opportunities for jobs, although trained professionals with strong mechanical and technical skills should have better prospects. The BLS reported that power plant operators earned an average wage of $69,220 as of May 2014, and that most made between $44,130 and $94,060 per year.

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