Electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining electrical system for all different types of buildings. In contrast with linemen, electricians are “inside wiremen” who work on the electrical systems of homes, factories and businesses. Linemen are responsible for higher voltage jobs such as for electric utility companies and usually have more dangerous tasks. Theater electricians are also a little bit different as they focus less on the electrical trade and have more skills with managing electrical work on stage lighting and other equipment. The work of an electrician generally revolves around reading blueprints such as technical diagrams that depict where wires will go and where different components are and then moving on to connecting wires to their respective systems. Tools for installing the wires can include: knives, wire strippers, screwdrivers, conduit benders and pliers while testing connection and ensuring safety requires the usage of voltmeters, ammeters, harmonics testers and ohmmeters. Repairs generally involve circuit breakers, fuses, wires, electrical components and switches and must be done at a fairly rapid pace so that the equipment may be brought back online as soon as possible to reduce the impact on people who depend on it. Maintenance encompasses the duty of periodically checking equipment to make sure everything is working as it should and fixing problems before they appear or become too serious. Additional appliances in a home or building may require the electrician to install a new circuit breaker box, replacing an old fuse box.
It is very common for people to learn to become electricians through apprenticeship programs, which are paid on-the-job training and also include classroom instruction that allows the apprentice to gain valuable on-hand experience. These programs can last for around four years and each year comprises of 144 hours of instruction and 2000 hours of training. Instruction can include blueprint reading, electrical code requirements, electrical theory, safety, mathematics, and first aid. Training can include cranes and elevators, soldering, fire alarm systems and communications.
Since the National Electrical Code constantly changes, it is important for electricians to continue to learn as they progress through their career and even take more classes to learn about the new changes in place. These classes can teach electricians how to become contractors, low-voltage voice and data systems, alternative energy systems, safety programs, and management training. To become an electrician, a license is usually required by most States and is acquired through a test of electric and building codes, electrical theory and the National Electrical Code. All aspiring electricians must have at least a high school education, good eye-hand coordination, good sense of balance, dexterity, good color vision and be 18 years old to apply for an apprenticeship and to ensure that they can be successful in the field.
Electricians in North America are represented by different unions which include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has around 725,000 members and runs apprenticeship programs for linemen, electricians and VDV installers in conjunction with several other associations.