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Despite the level of the economy or general job market state, residential electricians have a great level of stability in their field.
With the boom in the residential construction that burst in major cities and suburbs, the employment opportunities, overtime hours, and payment only increase.
The summer construction season is the busiest time for residential electricians, so that they may even have to turn down work.
Even when it’s not the peak season, the residential wiring has to be maintained, upgraded, or repaired as housing codes change.
Residential electricians receive strongly organized labor support from their unions and earn competitive salaries that are usually higher than in other trades.
Role and Job Duties
With the licensing regulations varying by state and even by jurisdiction, there’s no universal residential electrician job description.
However, there is a general understanding of the duties and skills for residential electricians.
California is one of the states specifically licensing residential electricians that established a well-defined scope of skills and knowledge required.
According to the Contractors State Licensing Board of California, the duties of residential electricians include:
- Working with a maximum of 240 volts.
- Installing, constructing, or maintaining electrical systems in residential settings.
- Installing electrical apparatuses and equipment in a residence.
Residential settings generally include:
- Single-family homes.
- Apartments and condos.
- Multi-family units.
- Hotels, motels, and vacation homes.
- Anywhere else where the primary occupancy of the building is considered to be residential.
Education and training of the residential electricians usually include:
- Maintenance and troubleshooting.
- Residential wiring.
- Fire and life safety.
- Underground conduit installation.
- Low voltage installations (in some jurisdictions, this falls under a separate licensing classification).
- Finishing work and fixtures.
- Reading blueprints and schematics.
- Installing and wiring transformers.
- Residential electrician tools: multimeters, voltmeters, and ammeters.
- National Electrical Code (NEC).
More specific responsibilities of residential electricians are the following:
- Installing power outlets and sockets according to local code, which may specify safety features such as tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs).
- Installing lighting fixtures, outside lighting, and closet lighting according to local code.
- Installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI or GFI) on breakers or outlets where water contact is common.
- Installing residential safety features and ground connections.
- Low voltage systems can also include security surveillance systems (CCTV), security alarm systems, and fire alarm systems.
- Installing special circuits for appliances like water heaters, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioning units, heating units, and pilot lights for gas appliances.
- Installing low voltage voice, data, and video (VDV) cables and other electronic components to support internet connections, landline phone connections, fax machine connections, entertainment system connections, and other VDV systems.
Becoming a Residential Electrician
The requirements and rules for residential electricians are set by every jurisdiction.
Some jurisdictions don’t even license residential electricians as a separate professional class, instead, they hold a general electrician’s license.
To fully understand the licensing laws of your area, it’s a good idea to check with your local licensing authority or union.
Residential electricians are usually licensed by a state or municipal government agency, a.k.a. electrical trade licensing board.
Some jurisdictions refer to licensing as certification.
Although examination and hour requirements for education and field experience can differ, the licensing process is usually similar in various jurisdictions.
Typically, it involves an apprentice-journeyman-master electrician progressing model:
In some jurisdictions, apprentices should be registered or licensed.
Typically, an apprenticeship includes from 500 to 1000 hours of the classroom work.
It covers the electrical license and general safety protocols.
Most of the apprenticeship program (from 4,000 to 6,000 hours within 4-6 years) involves field experience on the job under the supervision of a licensed electrician, journeyman or master.
After completing the apprenticeship program, you can take the exam to become a Journeyman in your jurisdiction.
After successfully passing the examination, you will obtain a journeyman license.
As a journeyman, you won’t have to work under supervision anymore.
Some jurisdictions allow journeymen to work independently in a team with a master electrician.
Other jurisdictions will consider you fully licensed, so there will be no need for even general oversight of a master electrician.
With two to four years of experience as a journeyman, you can sit for the Master Electrician Examination.
After passing it successfully, you can obtain a master electrician license.
Master electricians can work as team leaders or foremen supervising apprentice and journeyman electricians.
You can work independently on the tasks within the residential scope.
Most jurisdictions allow master electricians to bid jobs and offer their services to the public.
To bid jobs, you will usually need a contractor’s license as well.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor collects and tracks the salary statistics for all occupations.
In 2015, the BLS reported the electrician’s average salary to stand at $55,590.
The average salary of the most experienced electricians that comprise the top 10% was $88,130.
The highest salaries for electricians, including the top 10%, were offered in the following states:
- Alaska – $79,420 – $107,830.
- New York – $72,540 – $118,280.
- Hawaii – $70,610 – $98,080.
- Illinois – $69,830 – $97,580.
- New Jersey – $68,930 – $115,780.
The following information represents the salary data from the job ads of July 2016 and is meant only for illustrative purposes to give a general idea:
- Journeyman Electrician with Randy’s Electric in Maple Grove, Minnesota: $62,400 – $104,400.
- Apprentice Electrician with Resource Management Inc in Murray, Utah: $27,040 – $35,360.
- Service Electrician with Ace in Orlando: $70,000 – $150,000.
- Electrician with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland: $54,537 – $63,690.
Employers of Residential Electricians
According to the Department of Labor, the top major employers of the residential electricians are the following:
- Local government agencies.
- Building equipment contractors.
- Employment services agencies
The following list includes the top employers in the major job markets in the US:
Los Angeles Area
- Los Angeles County.
- LU Electric.
- The Help Company.
- ReGreen Corporation.
- Mr. Electric of Northwest Houston.
- Powers Energy Solutions.
- IES Residential.
- John Moore Svc.
- Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning, and Electrical.
New York City Area
- 1st Light Energy.
- Stacey Electric Service.
- Resource Options Inc.
- OneButton Careers.
- MasTec Advanced Technologies.
- Skilled Trades Services.
- Aire Serv.
- MasTec Advanced Technologies.
- TITE Construction.
- AAA Electric.
- MasTec Advanced Technologies.
- Mr. Electric.
- Direct Energy.
- Raynor Services.
- Education Corporation of America.