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What Electricians Do

Cap wires before installing an outlet.

Install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.
Duties

Electricians typically do the following:

Read blueprints or technical diagrams
Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices
Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools
Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

Almost every building has an electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power the lights, appliances, and equipment that make people’s lives and jobs easier and more comfortable.

Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is often less complicated than maintaining equipment in existing buildings because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. Maintaining equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.

Electricians read blueprints, which are technical diagrams of electrical systems that show the location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment. They use different types of hand and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used hand and power tools include screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills, and saws. While troubleshooting, electricians also may use ammeters, voltmeters, thermal scanners, and cable testers to find problems and ensure that components are working properly.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. For example, experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other construction specialists, such as elevator installers and heating and air conditioning workers, to help install or maintain electrical or power systems. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

The following are examples of types of electricians:

Inside electricians maintain and repair large motors, equipment, and control systems in businesses and factories. They use their knowledge of electrical systems to help these facilities run safely and efficiently. Some also install the wiring for businesses and factories that are being built. To minimize equipment failure, inside electricians often perform scheduled maintenance.

Residential electricians install wiring and troubleshoot electrical problems in peoples’ homes, which can be either single-family or multi-family dwellings. Those who work in new-home construction install outlets and provide access to power where needed. Those who work in maintenance and remodeling typically repair and replace faulty equipment. For example, if a circuit breaker repeatedly trips after being reset, electricians determine the cause and fix it.

Although lineman electricians install distribution and transmission lines to deliver electricity from its source to customers, they are covered in the line installers and repairers profile.

Work Environment

Electricians held about 628,800 jobs in 2014, of which 63 percent were in the electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors industry. About 1 in 10 electricians were self-employed in 2014.

Work indoors and outdoors, at homes, businesses, factories, and construction sites. Because electricians must travel to different worksites, local or long-distance commuting is often required.

On the jobsite, they occasionally work in cramped spaces. The long periods of standing and kneeling can be tiring. Those who work in factories are often subject to noisy machinery. As a result, hearing protection must be worn to protect workers from excess noise.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. At larger companies, electricians are more likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.
Injuries and Illnesses

Electricians have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Although a few accidents are potentially fatal, common injuries include electrical shocks, falls, burns, and other minor injuries. Workers must therefore wear protective clothing and safety glasses to reduce these risks.
Work Schedules

Almost all electricians work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. However, work schedules may vary during times of inclement weather. During scheduled maintenance, or on construction sites, electricians can expect to work overtime.