If you do not feel like going to college is the right choice for your life, then pursuing an electrician career is a good-paying option to consider. It is also a possibility for anyone who must go through a vocational change because of layoffs, industry transformations, or other reasons that keep someone out of the workplace.
Working as an electrician can provide you with stable employment options, but it does take several years of training to reach the highest income levels. The assignments you complete are sometimes physically demanding, and you may find yourself completing tasks in situations that are potentially dangerous.
Anyone can become an electrician at almost any stage in life. Even if you’ve already had a fulfilling career and put in 20 years to get a pension, you can start a second life by taking advantage of the opportunities available in this industry.
If you’re thinking about pursuing this option, then these are the pros and cons of a career as an electrician to review.
List of the Pros of Having an Electrician Career
1. The work you are doing remains challenging and varied.
Your work as an electrician means that no two days will usually be the same. Your career is going to be in a highly-skilled trade where a variety of jobs are available each day. You aren’t completing boring, routine-based work that someone could do with their eyes closed. There are problems to solve, situations to troubleshoot, and challenges to conquer with every assignment. If you love the idea of being able to do something new every day, then this career choice might be perfect for you.
2. An apprenticeship program pays you as you start learning.
Even though it will take several years to complete an apprenticeship program, you can still earn a competitive entry-level wage while you learn. That means there are plenty of opportunities for you to get some hands-on experience without paying someone to have that chance. You don’t earn as much as a fully licensed electrician, but the wages are better than what you’d get at McDonald’s or delivering pizzas. Once you get through the program, then you have a skill that lets you have marketable business opportunities almost anywhere.
The median pay for an electrician in the United States is about $50,000 per year. If you find yourself in the top 10%, then you can earn about $100,000 per year. Apprenticeship programs typically pay in the $10 to $15 per hour range.
3. There are opportunities for self-employment as an electrician.
If you like the idea of being your own boss, then working as an electrician is an excellent option to consider. You have a skill that is instantly marketable as an independent contractor. You could also start a business where you can hire other electricians to work jobs in your community. This advantage makes it possible for you to have more freedom to select the jobs you want and the hours you’re willing to work.
Although this means you must have high levels of self-discipline to continue working, there is no cap on your income if you’re working for yourself.
4. You can receive the benefits of being in a union workplace.
When you become an electrician, then there is usually an option to join the local union. Some apprenticeships require membership before you can begin to start working in the first place. You have sovereign or company-based representation from organizations like the IBEW – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. This advantage gives you higher levels of employment security, salary protection, and better access to benefits.
All electricians can earn a competitive wage. If you have union representation, then your take-home pay averages about $200 more per check. That can become a significant income improvement over an entire year.
5. There are different career paths for you to follow.
Apprenticeships are the most attractive advantage of becoming an electrician. Most programs, including college-based ones, are separated into two types from which to choose. You can become an industrial electrician or one that focuses on construction. The former selection lets you work in technical, support, and administrative services, while the latter focuses on service and installation needs. Most programs will take you down both paths to see what you prefer, but there are also early opportunities to start specializing right away.
6. Electricians receive a lot of respect from their community.
Working as an electrician is never an easy job. Even if you’re repairing a light fixture or installing a ceiling fan, there are potential dangers that you must manage to keep yourself and those around you safe. That’s why you will receive a lot of respect in this career, even as an apprentice. People look up to you because their future is literally in your hands when the power goes out for some reason.
This advantage receives reinforcement because most apprenticeship programs are under the supervision of experienced electricians. These mentors will guide you through the development process while teaching you what you must know to have a successful career in the future.
7. Some learning programs allow you to earn college credits.
Some colleges and universities offer electrician apprenticeships as part of their curriculum. You would receive an assignment in this circumstance that lets you get some hands-on experiences at a local employer As you complete the program and get through the required classes, some institutions will award credits that can be used toward a 2-year or 4-year degree in a related field. Even if you want to earn a certificate or go straight into the workplace as an electrician, those credits remain so that you can pursue other opportunities if the bottom should fall out of this market for some reason.
8. It creates the opportunity to do so cash jobs.
Your skills as an electrician will be very useful for your neighbors. They might want to put in a hot tub or upgrade their hot water heater and need your skills to finish the work. Those circumstances create an opportunity to do cash jobs that can boost your income. You would still need to report those funds on your taxes, of course, but it is a useful way to help out your family or friends.
List of the Cons of Having an Electrician Career
1. It can take several years for you to complete your apprenticeship.
You don’t need to have an undergraduate degree to begin working as an electrician. You’ll be spending that time in an apprenticeship program instead. Most people need between four to five years to graduate from this learning process. There are union and non-union choices in most communities, but both of them require up to 10,000 hours of on-site training and experience before you’ll receive clearance to work independently. There can also be up to 1,000 hours of classroom work to complete.
2. The work you do as an electrician is often dangerous.
Electricians have a higher rate of workplace-related injuries than the average rate of incidents in the United States. They also suffer more illnesses during the year. The job responsibilities are not usually so dangerous that fatal accidents are common, but it is possible when working on transmission lines or high-voltage projects. You have risks of burns, shocks, and falls to manage with your duties in most environments.
As you get older, it may become more challenging to continue in this career path. It’s a young man’s game to run power lines up on poles along the side of the road at 2 am. You might be climbing 100-foot ladders, pushing through a crawlspace, and managing other crowded spaces. There comes a time when your body refuses to keep going.
3. Most electricians find themselves working at odd hours of the day.
If you decide to get into the construction industry as an electrician, then you can have a fairly regular schedule. Most workers in this industry find themselves working some strange hours and long days to help their community. If you work for the local power utility, then you might get a call to work on the lines in the middle of the night to restore power. You might get a call that has you traveling to a different state to help with a significant outage. There are times when you may be away from home for significant periods. You must be ready to go to work at a moment’s notice.
4. It is a recession-proof career option.
When you are fully trained as an electrician, then it is rare to have a shortage of jobs in your community. This career option is considered recession-proof since you’re providing a service that everyone needs. Even when the economy isn’t performing well, homes and businesses still need to have power. That means they need to hire someone with your skills to get the work done. Most people prefer to avoid the DIY approach in this industry because of the potential dangers involved.
If you’re willing to “pound the pavement” to find some work, there will be something available in almost any situation.
5. You must follow specific building codes.
Most electricians operate a business (including independent contractors) with liability insurance and a surety bond because of the risk for errors. You must follow specific building codes when installing or repairing items. Failing to do so could mean that you need to go do the work a second time. There can be times when the regulations you’re asked to follow don’t make any sense. If your work is found to be negligent in some way, then there are some areas where you might be held personally responsible for whatever outcome occurs. That’s why it is almost always a good idea to operate as an LLC instead of as a sole proprietor in this career option.
6. Continuing education requirements are almost always necessary.
Once you start the path toward a career as an electrician, the learning lessons never really end. You must often meet specific continuing education requirements to maintain your licensure in this profession. Depending on how you are employed, the time that you spend at seminars or in the classroom might not be paid. You’ll encounter that option as a self-employed electrician when you need to take a sick day or you want to plan a vacation. When you add in the required overtime, overnight hours, and on-call needs, it is easy to see why many people stop their apprenticeship within the first year.
Are there opportunities to be self-employed and set your own schedule? Yes – but only 9% of electricians in the United States fit this description.
7. You may be unable to get into an apprenticeship program.
It may not be possible to enroll in an apprenticeship program in your area. The openings that happen each year for specific unions or employers are often few. That’s why there is an extensive screening process that all applicants go through whenever there is some availability present. The competition levels are high, so anything that you can do to set yourself apart from everyone else will be beneficial.
Some people have even decided to obtain their undergraduate degree before applying to become an apprentice because their education can be a deciding factor. Most programs want to see commitment before anything else, so think about the ways that you can promote yourself in this area to get a foot in the door.
8. It might be up to you to supply your own tools.
When you work in a trade, a majority of employers will require you to bring your own tools to the workplace. They’ll provide you with transportation options and training, but you are responsible for the rest. If you’re working with a shoestring budget, then having $5,000 or more available to spend on needed supplies for an apprenticeship might not be feasible. You will want to speak with your union or the provider of the training program about this disadvantage to see how it might apply in your specific situation.
9. The working conditions can go beyond terrible some days.
There are times when working as an electrician can let you enjoy a beautiful day outside. You will also receive full exposure to the elements while you’re working. If you need to dig a trench and there’s a downpour happening outside, then you’re going to get drenched. If it’s hot, cold, wet, muggy, or a large infestation of mosquitoes, there is an expectation that you must continue working. That means you will be coming home exhausted every night. When you are in the apprenticeship program, the supervisor who trains you will often assign the worst jobs to you since they don’t want to do them.
10. There is still a routine that can get boring when working as an electrician.
Your work as an electrician can involve a lot of work that you may not like. You’re going to be pulling and clipping wire constantly. You will find some awkward positions awaiting your arrival at almost any job site. Running conduit, wall chasing, and digging are common tasks that a project requires you to complete. You’ll be doing all of these tasks while up a ladder or in a basket. It’s a routine that some people love, but others can grow to despise.
11. You must prove your experience before you can work for yourself.
If you want to legally work for yourself as an electrician, then you must prove that you have the knowledge and skill to do so. Most jurisdictions require that you take a test that indicates you can safely perform jobs in this industry. The minimum amount of time it takes to open a business of your own is five years, but a more realistic expectation of the circumstances puts that timeframe more in a 10-year window.
Because you are often self-employed as an electrician, trying to find lending options to get things off of the ground can be challenging. You may need to establish a set of clients and evidence of consistent income before receiving investments or access to a lending product.
As long as there is a need for electricity, then there will be excellent employment opportunities for electricians. This career option might not pay as much as a doctor or lawyer, but you can potentially reach six figures with only a high school diploma or GED. Those opportunities at that level of education are few and far between.
Most maintenance electricians work unusual hours. Many jobs will require you to have on-call hours while spending time with your family. That can limit the number of activities you get to enjoy with each other during those times.
The pros and cons of an electrician career present some physical challenges, but there are also some incredible rewards. For more information about the opportunities available in your community, speak with your local electrician’s union or a non-union provider of these services.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.