The electrician trade provides a broad array of career opportunities and challenges.
The electrician profession is one of the most widely recognized of all the
construction trades. Whether wiring a home or office, repairing transmission wires or installing the latest in telecommunications infrastructure - electricians are everywhere.
The opportunities in the electrician profession are extensive. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) have identified 59 separate career paths for electricians. These career paths cover a wide array of industries from aeronautics and nuclear energy to residential construction.
Generally, the electrician trade can be broken down into four segments: outside lineman, inside wireman, telecommunications technician and residential
electrician. Following is a brief explanation of each.
These men and women work with specialized high-voltage cabling and equipment for utilities. They build and connect the lines that bring power from power generators to homes, businesses, schools, sports facilities and every other type of structure that requires electricity. They also work with low-voltage cabling and equipment for long-distance communications. (read more)
These men and women work on standard electrical installation and maintenance for office buildings, power generation facilities, retail stores, manufacturing plants, malls and similar structures. (read more)
These technicians install and maintain wires and circuits that connect computer networks, Internet connections, fiber optic systems, life, health and safety equipment, and voice, data and video systems. (read more)
These men and women specialize in installing all of the electrical systems in single-family and multi-family houses, apartments and condominiums. (read more)
One of the primary - if not the primary - factors in choosing a career is the compensation - salary and benefits. Journeymen electricians make a very attractive wage, and the trade provides ample opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions that increase the base wage.
Linemen and wiremen
The hourly wage for electricians and foremen vary between jurisdictions. The following wage ranges are as of 2003 but all electrician wages are scheduled for annual increases through 2006.
Certain jurisdictions also have specialty job descriptions such as cable splicer, layout worker and plan reader that earn a wage between journeyman and foreman level.
|$32.90 to $42.95
$36.10 to $43.81
$41.13 to $46.50
Wages for telecommunications/data technicians are split into two categories: projects working with 16 or more pieces of equipment and projects working with 15 or fewer pieces of equipment.
For projects involving 16 or more pieces of equipment, the wage rate is the same as the standard electrician for the jurisdiction.
For projects involving 15 or fewer pieces of equipment, the journeyman
technician per hour rate ranges from $24.61 to more than $27, depending on the jurisdiction. The foreman depends on the number of workers being supervised and can reach nearly $50 per hour.
||$24.60 - $42.95 (depending on number of pieces of equipment
Union electricians also are guaranteed the following benefits:
||• Health benefits for the worker and his/her family
• Annuity Fund (similar to a 401K)
• Disability Insurance
• Paid Vacation
As one would expect with such a diverse profession, electricians work in a wide range of conditions. They may stand for long periods and frequently work on
ladders and scaffolds. Electricians risk injury from electrical shock, falls, and cuts. To avoid injuries, they must follow strict safety procedures. Most electricians work a standard 40-hour week, although overtime may be required. Those in maintenance work may work nights or weekends, and be on call. Companies that operate 24 hours a day may employ three shifts of electricians.
The U.S. Department of Labor anticipates that the job outlook for electricians is excellent, stating both population growth and the burgeoning reliance on
computers and electronics as the reason.
The Federal Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) anticipates that job opportunities for electricians will increase 10 to 20 percent over the next decade.
According to the OOH, more electricians will be needed to install and maintain electrical devices and wiring in homes, factories, offices, and other structures that are required due to population growth. New technologies also are
expected to continue to stimulate the demand for professionals in this trade. Increasingly, buildings will be pre-wired during construction to accommodate use of computers and telecommunications equipment. More factories will be using robots and automated manufacturing systems. Installation of this
equipment, which is expected to increase, should also stimulate demand for telecommunications specialists.
No matter what specialty area they join, all electrician apprentices in New Jersey receive training that is designed and approved by the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) - a joint effort between the IBEW and the NECA. The training provided by these NJATC apprenticeship programs is free and apprentices earn wages and benefits throughout their training.
The term of apprenticeship lasts from three to five years depending on the
specialty area. All apprenticeship curriculums entail both on-the-job training with experienced journeyman electricians and classroom instruction from highly
qualified instructors, who themselves are trained electricians. As with all trades, apprentices begin with basic tasks and first learn critical safety methods. As they progress, the tasks become more and more sophisticated until they are ready to graduate to journeyman status.
Apprentices also earn college credits toward an associate's or master's degree.
Specific program length and curriculum descriptions can be found in the "In-Depth" section.
No matter what specialty the apprentice chooses, the eligibility requirements for the NJATC training programs are:
||• Minimum of 18 years of age (though candidates can apply at age 17)
• Hold a High School Diploma or GED (Transcripts are necessary)
• Show evidence of one full-year of high school or post high school algebra with a passing grade (not a requirement for linemen)
• Valid Drivers License
• Pass a physical examination and drug test
Outside wiremen often work far away from home and should be willing to travel.
Applicants will take a standardized aptitude test, which was developed and
validated by the American Institute for Research. Upon meeting the
requirements and passing the written exam, applicants will receive an interview.
Students who display the following characteristics are ideal electrician apprentice candidates:
||• Proficiency in Mathematics, mechanical drawing and science
• Average Physical Strength
• Good color vision is required because electricians identify wires by color
• Enjoy working outdoors for those interested in training as linemen
The endless stream of power lines running alongside roads and highways and the miles of high tension lines strewn between majestic steel structures are noticeable examples of the work of outside linemen. They also are the people you see repairing power lines and transformers after storms.
Outside linemen, in a nutshell, are the men and women who build and maintain the infrastructure and systems that deliver electricity from the generating source (whether it is a hydroelectric, nuclear or carbon fuel-based facility) to
the end user.
Linemen often assemble and erect metal towers and wood poles along with installing footings, hardware, conductors and other related equipment. They install and maintain conductors, underground cables, and related electrical apparatus possibly energized at voltages up to 500,000 volts.
They also install, maintain and repair traffic and train signals, and outdoor
A vast majority of a lineman's work is performed outdoors. The work of outside linemen can be physically demanding with a great deal of climbing, lifting and hoisting. Though they sometimes work from bucket trucks, linemen must develop climbing skills, as much of their work is done atop wooden utility poles. Lineman will on many occasions throughout their career work in extreme weather conditions in order to repair damaged lines and transformers.
The Apprenticeship for outside wiremen lasts three to four years, depending on the developmental progress of each individual apprentice. The apprenticeship consists of 7,000 hours of on-the-job training and 432 hours of classroom study.
The curriculum begins with the most basic fundamentals of electricity and becomes much more sophisticated as the apprentice progresses. By the end of their training, apprentices know how to work with the large variety of high voltage delivery systems in a safe and effective manner.
While the outside linemen handles the infrastructure that transports electricity and data from the source, the inside wireman has the task of connecting the power at the destination. Inside wiremen install and maintain the infrastructure on-site at commercial and industrial facilities such as office buildings, factories, hospitals and schools.
If you've ever been to a major sports arena like Giants Stadium or Madison Square Garden - the powerful lights that illuminate the action and the powerful sound systems were installed and connected by inside wiremen. As audio and video (A/V) technology becomes more sophisticated, inside wiremen are called on to install and maintain more and more fascinating projects. For instance, union wiremen connected two 2500 square-foot High Definition Televisions (HDTVs) at Philadelphia's new Lincoln Financial Field right across from Camden.
Aside from wiring sophisticated lighting and sound systems, wiremen also
handle fire alarm and security systems.
As the title suggests, inside wiremen work inside facilities; however, many of their duties - such as installing outside conduits, installing outdoor lighting and working in open air facilities -- require work outside in the elements. In addition, much of the work is done at heights. Lifting is moderate to light in most circumstances.
The five-year apprenticeship program consists of at least 8,000 hours of
on-the-job training and 900 hours of classroom study.
On-the-job training might include the mounting of electrical boxes, equipment, lighting fixtures, bending and installing conduit, wiring switches and outlets.
Classroom training includes: safety training, First Aid/CPR, OSHA 10 hour Certification Training, the National Electrical Code, mathematics, electrical theory, conduit bending, motors, blueprint reading, transformers, motor control, programmable controllers and the installation of fire alarms.
The telecommunications, audio/visual and computer field is growing fast. Telecommunications technicians install and maintain the network of low voltage cabling that is used for video, voice and data.
Because of the importance of data and voice transmission, the technical training and expertise is crucial to ensure that critical activities aren't interrupted once the facility is running. Backbone voice and data cables are routed between the entrance facility --where communications signals come into the building -- and equipment and telephone rooms. These rooms contain high-tech telephone switches, file servers, Internet hubs and other communications equipment. Individual workstations, offices and conference rooms throughout the building are then connected via horizontal cables that carry the audio, video and data transmissions.
In the newest facilities, data and voice wires and cables are installed even before lighting, ventilation, or heat and air conditioning conduits. However, for the most part, telecommunications technicians must retrofit existing buildings, bringing them into the 21st Century.
Installer Technicians primarily work indoors, installing systems and wiring throughout commercial and industrial buildings. Often work is performed in tight space. Moving and lifting high-tech equipment - such as file servers and telecommunications hub equipment - is often required, though the weight of this equipment is not prohibitive.
The apprenticeship program lasts for three years, through which apprentices will receive 4,800 hours of on the job training and 480 hours of classroom instruction.
On-the-job training, in which apprentices are matched with qualified contractors and work under the supervision of experienced journeymen, includes mounting of electrical boxes, equipment, wiring switches, outlets, phones, panels, installing systems like voice and data, fiber optic, security, and sound.
Classroom training includes: safety training, First Aid/CPR, OSHA 10 hour Certification Training, the National Electrical Code, mathematics, electrical
theory, blueprint reading, cable preparation, fiber optics, voice and data, sound systems and security.
Residential Wiremen perform the same duties and tasks as inside wiremen - essentially, installing the systems that distribute power from the point of entry in a structure to the equipment within the structure that uses the power. The difference is that residential wiremen do their work in dwellings rather than commercial and industrial buildings.
Residential Wiremen work in homes, apartments and condominiums. As
technology increases the types of equipment used in dwellings, these
professionals have expanded their expertise. Rather than simply wiring light switches and appliances, wiremen must now install the systems and wiring for home computer networks, energy management systems, security and fire alarm systems.
Residential Wireman with additional training have the opportunity to upgrade their classification to inside wireman.
Most of the work of residential electricians is performed indoors and requires very little heavy lifting. Occasionally, they work outside, installing or repairing the systems at the point of entry into the house, and work with outside
spotlights and satellite equipment. Of course, there always is some level of danger associated with working with electricity but basic safety training addresses this hazard.
The three-year apprentice program entails 4,800 hours of on the job training and 480 hours of classroom work.
Apprentices begin with basics like safety training and how to use the basic tools of the trade. As they progress, the tasks they perform become increasingly advanced.
On-the-job training, in which apprentices are matched with qualified contractors and work under the supervision of experienced journeymen, includes the mounting of electrical boxes, equipment, lighting fixtures, bending and installing conduit, and wiring switches, outlets and fire alarm, security and home
Classroom training includes: safety training, First Aid/CPR, OSHA 10 hour Certification Training, the National Electrical Code, mathematics, electrical
theory, conduit bending, blueprint reading and the basics of residential fire and security systems.
For more information on apprenticeships in the electrician trade, please contact the training coordinator at one of the following locations:
Bergen, Essex and Hudson:
IBEW Local 164 Training Academy
65 West Century Road
Paramus, New Jersey 07652
Warren, Hunterdon, Sussex, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Union Counties:
Local 102 IBEW JATC
3695 Hill Road
Parsippany, NJ 07054
Mercer and northern Burlington Counties:
IBEW Local 269 Trade School
Rupert Jahn Trade School
676 Whitehead Road
Trenton, NJ 08648
Local 456 Headquarters
1295 Livingston Avenue
North Brunswick, NJ 08902
Monmouth and Ocean Counties:
IBEW Local 400 JATC
3301 Highway 138E
Wall, NJ 07731
Atlantic, southern Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cape May, Gloucester
and Salem Counties:
JATC Local Union 351
1837 N. East Blvd.
Vineland, NJ 08037