What Types of Electricians Are There?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the U.S. will add 62,200 new electrician jobs from 2019-2029, double the average rate for all occupations. The BLS reports that electricians earned a median salary of $56,900 as of 2020. Urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago typically offer more job openings and higher pay for electricians.

Electricians can establish their careers without a college degree. Long-term on-the-job training prepares high school graduates with mechanical aptitude to earn licensure in the field. Although electricians work with other construction professionals, different types of electricians work in various subsectors. For example, commercial and residential builders, aviation companies, automobile manufacturers, and shipbuilders all hire electricians.


Read the Specifics: Specializations | Salary Outlook | FAQs


What Does an Electrician Do?

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems in homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities such as factories and mines. These professionals work in the larger construction industry. Some electricians install wiring in newly constructed buildings under a general contractor's direction while others service and repair existing systems.

Electrician positions fall into two broad categories: electricians who work inside and those who work outside. Technicians who work inside generally install or repair electrical systems in businesses or homes. Outside workers may service streetlights, repair outdoor power lines, or work on shipyard lighting systems.

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems in homes, commercial buildings, and industrial facilities such as factories and mines.

Regardless of their specialization, electricians solve complex problems, understand regulatory requirements, and work well both independently and as part of a team. Aspiring electricians need strong basic math skills and an aptitude for mechanical and engineering jobs.

Becoming an electrician requires extensive on-the-job training. Once accepted into an apprenticeship program, new electricians must work 4-5 years before becoming journey workers, also known as journeymen. After gaining further experience, journey workers can grow into master electricians. As master electricians, professionals may own and manage their own firms.

Earning a certificate or associate degree in the field can reduce apprenticeship time. Experienced electricians may pursue a bachelor's degree. To learn more about these options, visit Vocational Schools and Programs for Electricians or Explore Bachelor's Degrees in Electrical Engineering.

Apprentice Electrician

Electricians begin their careers as apprentices. Acceptance into an apprentice program usually requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, a valid driver's license, a drug test, and an aptitude exam. Apprenticeships usually combine classroom study with on-the-job training.

Some apprentices earn a certificate or associate degree as part of their training. While state requirements vary, an apprentice must typically work 4-5 years and complete about 8,000 hours on the job to progress to a journey worker.

Electrical Journeyman

After completing at least 500-1,000 classroom hours and 8,000 work hours over 4-5 years, an apprentice electrician can qualify to become a journey worker. Some states impose additional requirements such as passing a competency exam.

As journey workers, electricians can perform nearly any electrical task without supervision and may supervise apprentice electricians. They may not, however, work as contractors or own an electrician business. Electrical journeymen need at least two years of work before progressing to the next stage of their careers.

Master Electrician

Master electricians' duties include developing and overseeing wiring systems and designing circuit routes. Unlike a journey worker, a master electrician can obtain permits and supervise other electricians. Master electricians can also train journey workers. Business owners usually hold master electrician certification.

Earning this designation requires 4,000 hours of work in two years as an electrical journeyman. Some states also require these electricians to pass an exam.

Areas of Specialization for Professional Electricians

Professional electricians can specialize in many different subfields. Some types of electricians work in private homes, for instance, while others repair outdoor power lines or install electrical systems in new construction. Electricians can even work on boats, automobiles, and aircraft.

The following roles represent just a few of the different types of electricians:

Commercial Electrician

Commercial electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical services in nonresidential buildings such as offices, warehouses, hospitals, and schools. These professionals may specialize in new construction or commercial redevelopment. They need deep knowledge of local electrical codes and construction compliance.

Commercial electricians can start their own companies, hire employees, and partner with nearby contractors. According to PayScale, commercial electricians took home an average hourly pay of $23.52 as of May 2021, with some earning as much as $80,000 a year.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Industrial Electrician

Industrial electricians install, troubleshoot, and repair electrical equipment in industrial facilities, including power plants, factories, mines, and mills. They may work with high-, medium-, and low-voltage systems. These trade professionals need diagnostic and communication skills as well as physical dexterity.

As of June 2021, PayScale reports the average annual income for industrial electricians as $26.86 an hour or between $40,000-$99,000 annually.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Auto Electrician

Auto electricians work with the electrical systems that power cars and other vehicles. These professionals may help develop and build new cars in auto manufacturing plants. They can also work as repair specialists at transportation companies.

In this industry, electricians need special skills in vehicle diagnostics to identify automotive electrical system malfunctions. As of June 2021, auto electricians earned an average of $18.84 an hour or up to $56,000 a year according to PayScale.

Required Education: Complete an apprenticeship along with an automotive electrical systems program or certification
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Highway Systems Electrician

Highway systems electricians install and maintain equipment such as traffic light poles and street light columns. These professionals may specialize in specific areas like traffic signals, street lights, safety cameras, or highway communication.

Often among the first technicians called out in emergencies, highway systems electricians help keep traffic flowing and pedestrians safe. These electricians can work independently or as members of small teams.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Marine Electrician

Marine electricians install and maintain electrical systems on yachts, boats, freighters, and ships or at shipyard facilities. Since electricity does not mix well with water, this job requires attention to safety and detail. Daily work usually includes diagnosing problems, testing technology, and replacing deteriorating equipment.

According to PayScale, marine electricians make an average hourly income of $23.57 and can earn an annual salary of up to $73,000 as of June 2021.

Required Education: Some jobs may require certification through the National Marine Electronics Association or the American Boat & Yacht Council
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Electrical Installer and Repairer

Electrical installers and repairers install new electrical equipment, discuss and diagnose problems, test equipment, make repairs, and keep detailed records. They use complex software and equipment such as multimeters, oscilloscopes, and signal generators.

These professionals work in many industries, including manufacturing, commercial property, residential property, and utilities. The BLS reports that electrical installers and repairers earned a median annual salary of $62,020 as of 2020.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program; Some jobs may require a certificate from a trade or vocational school
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Aviation Technician

Aviation technicians diagnose and repair mechanical and electrical problems on aircraft. These professionals also maintain electrical equipment to ensure that planes remain in good working order. Aviation technicians handle navigation devices, radar systems, and radio communication equipment.

Due to the specialized nature of their work, aviation technicians may need additional training or certification in their field. According to the BLS, these technicians earn a median salary of $66,800 a year as of 2020.

Required Education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree from an FAA-approved program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Powerhouse and Substation Technician

Powerhouse and substation technicians maintain, repair, and upgrade electrical equipment in powerhouses and substations. These locations store and transmit the electricity people use in homes and businesses.

Also known as relay technicians, powerhouse electricians, or power transformer repairers, powerhouse and substation electricians perform routine tests, diagnose problems, and measure voltage and current. These professionals increasingly need skills in technology, software, and new green energy systems.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Line Installers and Repairers

Also called line workers, line installers and repairers work on power lines and telecommunications cables. These skilled technicians handle high-voltage electricity and sometimes work at great heights.

In this field, professionals generally focus either on power lines or communication cables, working primarily as installers or repairers. Most installers or repairers work for utilities or telecommunications companies. According to the BLS, line installers and repairers earned a median annual income of $68,030 as of 2020.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program; Some jobs may require a certificate from a trade or vocational school
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county


Residential Electrician

Residential electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring systems inside private homes. These skilled technicians must be able to read blueprints and diagrams, identify and install the right equipment for a job, plus test it for the homeowner or contractor.

Residential electricians generally work with power supplies of 120 or 240 volts. A master residential electrician can start and run their own electrical service business.

Required Education: High school diploma plus an apprenticeship program
Licensure and Certification Requirements: Varies by state or county

Electrician Salary and Career Outlook

In the U.S, electricians earned a median annual salary of $56,900 as of 2020 according to the BLS, putting them considerably ahead of the average worker who brings in $41,950. Since this career requires a long-term apprenticeship rather than expensive higher education, it may present an attractive option for people with the necessary mechanical aptitude.

PayScale's data reveals that first-year electricians earned about $15.33 an hour as of July 2021. However, that number ramps up significantly with each year of experience. Seasoned senior electricians can bring in 23% more income than midcareer professionals. Electricians with skills in nuclear energy, instrument control, or programmable logic controllers can maximize their income even more.

The BLS projects that the field will add 62,200 jobs from 2019-2029, double the projected growth rate for all occupations. In metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, electricians enjoy some of the highest salaries and fastest growth opportunities in the field.


Annual Median Salary

$56,900



Learn More About Studying to Become an Electrician

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between electrician levels 1 and 2?

Australia uses numbered levels of electrician to distinguish between general electricians and those with additional qualifications. In the United States, the designations apprentice, journey worker, or master electrician demonstrate levels of experience in the field.

Which electrician positions get paid the most?

Most specialities pay similar wages. Master electricians typically earn more than journey workers who outpace apprentices. Electricians may improve their salaries by moving to top-paying states such as Illinois, New York, and Hawaii.

How many different electrician jobs are there?

Electricians qualify as apprentices, journey workers, or masters in their field. Each level offers more responsibility. Additionally, electricians can specialize in a technical area such as aviation, automotive, highway systems, or powerhouses and substations.

What types of certifications for electricians are most common?

In addition to licensure, some electricians pursue certification through private agencies such as the International Association of Electrical Inspectors and the International Code Council. Popular certification areas for electricians include solar photovoltaic technology and lighting systems.

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