Electrician Salary, Demographics, and the Future of the Industry
A vast range of industries need electrical work. While it is not a white-collar trade, an electrician's salary can ascend the upper five figures. Upon completion of a training program from an electrician trade school, you could earn an electrician apprenticeship and work your way up from there. Electrician jobs are abundant throughout the country, with a median annual wage that varies by rank and state. Any job you land will require knowledge of electrical equipment and an ability to take devices apart and put them back together, whether you work for a local business or a national electrical company.
Career Outlook for the General Electrician Industry for 2019 and Beyond
One field that is bound for infinite expansion is the industry of electricians, who are in demand for a vast range of tasks across the global electrical grid. While automation threatens many industries, electricity will be the driving force behind automation, which will, in turn, require electricians to make these innovations possible. A range of sectors, both new and old, need electricians. At power plants and along grid lines, the call for electricians will increase in the years ahead as developments require vast overhauls in infrastructure.
The prospects of an electrician career are numerous, but you should consider various aspects of the trade before you decide on this line of work. The pay scale for electricians ranges from moderate to high, and you could realistically expect to move up the ladder if you dedicate yourself to advancing from an apprenticeship to a master’s position. You should also consider whether the technical requirements and physical tasks of the trade would be well-suited to your natural abilities.
Salary by Electrician Type
Various industries, some of which offer higher pay than others, need electrician skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paying field for electricians is natural gas distribution, where an electrician can earn as much as $96,920 per year. In close second is the repair and maintenance industry, where electricians can earn as much as $89,020 per year. In third place, electricians in the general merchandise industry can earn as much as $81,160. Electricians in the real estate and motion picture industries can make at least $77,000 per year.
For apprentices, the pay is lower, yet still relatively high. The highest-paid field for an apprentice electrician is local government, where you could earn at least $51,700 as an apprentice. The second-highest-paying apprentice jobs for technicians are in the medical and surgical fields, where you could earn as much as $42,600. Other jobs that are relatively high-paying for electrician apprentices include electric power generation and utility system construction, which respectively earn an average of $38.3k and $36.5k annually.
Foreman Electrician Salary
As an electrical foreman, you would be the one to oversee large projects and be responsible for delegating tasks and monitoring the performances of all of your subordinates on an electrical work team. To achieve the rank of foreman, you would first need to complete an apprenticeship of several years to gain hands-on experience with various aspects of the trade. Most facilities would also require you to hold a current license as either a journeyman electrician or master’s electrician. Other tasks of a foreman electrician may include the following:
- Train new staff members
- Resolve disputes between team members
- Attend and conduct meetings
At construction sites and other applicable working environments, the foreman is responsible for organizing projects, assigning tasks, inspecting work quality, and evaluating finished work for code compliance. As of 2019, the average hourly pay rate for an electrical foreman is $20.50.
Journeyman Electrician Salary
A journeyman electrician is what you ultimately become once you have completed an apprenticeship and earned all the credentials of the trade. As a journeyman electrician, you would be responsible for the various aspects of running a facility, from hands-on technical work to computer data entry. The role also requires strong communication skills to articulate problems and formulate solutions. Each day, you would be inputting data into computer systems for record keeping and incident reporting. Other tasks of the journeyman role may include the following:
- Maintenance and repair of HVAC systems
- Repair and swap out switches on electrical generators
- Maintenance and repair of AC and DC systems
In the electrical workplace environment, it would be your responsibility as a journeyman electrician to report incidents and work out solutions the moment issues arise. As of 2019, the average hourly pay for a journeyman electrician is $24.75.
Union Electrician Salary
After you enroll at an electrician trade school and complete a training program, you can apply for an apprenticeship with a union and reap numerous benefits. As a union electrician, you could earn a secure hourly pay rate, have representation from a union sponsor, and be eligible for health benefits and retirement packages. In contrast, you would lack these benefits as a non-union electrician because you would be working as an independent contractor. Union electricians work for companies, whereas non-union workers are effectively self-employed.
When you are part of a union, a company assigns you a steady workflow. Depending on the type of company, you will either get assigned onsite work or dispatched to a worksite. If you work as a non-union electrician, you would need to hustle for work opportunities and find clients on your own. Otherwise, the responsibilities of union and non-union electricians are largely the same, with work that consists of hands-on and data-entry tasks. In 2017, the average pay for union electricians was $51,110 per year or $26 per hour.
Master Electrician Salary
The role of a master electrician is the highest designation in the field. As a master technician, you would oversee a company’s electrician workforce and be responsible for the scheduling and supplies of each successive project. To become a master technician, you would need to undergo the requisite training programs and complete the sequence of a three-year apprenticeship, followed by several years as a journeyman electrician. Some of the chief responsibilities of a master electrician include the following:
- Oversee apprentice and journeymen electricians on inbound and outbound assignments
- Review project blueprints with contractors
- Schedule jobs and order parts and materials
To be a master electrician, you would need to have the technical know-how to assemble and repair electrical components. You would also need to input data into computer systems and have a full understanding of database programs. Master electricians generally earn between $25 and $30 per hour.
Ways to Increase Your Salary
There are many ways to increase your salary as an electrician. One of the most obvious ways is to work your way up in the field from apprentice to journeyman to master, which many people can accomplish within five or six years. To make such progress, you would need to dedicate yourself to the work and constantly be willing to take on new and challenging tasks. You will also need to undergo continuing education for your line of work to stay current on the latest technological changes, even years after you complete your formal training.
Another way to increase your salary is to select the markets with the highest median annual wages. In general, the highest-paying work for an electrician is in New York and Massachusetts, where the average technician makes more than $24 per hour and $51,000 per year. Of course, you could vastly exceed those figures by pursuing work in the top-paying fields for electricians, such as gas distribution and the parks and recreation industries.
StateCE's Classes for Electricians
StateCE offers courses that provide continuing education for journeyman and master electricians across the United States. Due to changes in the National Electrical Code, many states now require electricians to stay current and show an understanding of these developments. Enrollees in the electrician programs at StateCE receive continuing education in all areas of the trade, with our up-to-date curriculum. Students who complete our courses re-enter the field with a newfound grasp on the challenges of today’s electrical industry.
At StateCE, courses are online, allowing you to study during your free time and continue with your current job. If you work during the day, you can take the classes and complete your homework during evening hours, or vice versa. You can view and complete courses in most browsers. Continuing education for the electrician field could give you an advantage in the market and prepare you for some of the major technological changes that are likely to restructure the industry in the years to come.
The Future of the Electrical Industry
Changes in technology bode well for the electrical industry, which might see up to 20 percent growth by 2022. The basis of this growth projection is several impending changes on the electrical grid, including the rise of solar power. For starters, many of the current structures across the U.S. electrical grid are reaching the end of their natural lifespan. In the upcoming years, these structures will need replacing, and the workers required for such tasks will likely number in the tens of thousands. Overall, the job will amount to a nationwide overhaul of the electrical grid.
The spread of solar power will also necessitate new electricians. As more and more businesses, homeowners, and rental properties have solar panels installed on their rooftops, electricians will need to handle everything from panel installation to system integration. New electricians will also be in demand to update large systems and link solar panels with traditional power sources at supermarkets throughout the country.
Prospects for Female Electricians
Like all modern industries, the electrician field embraces diversity in hiring. While the industry has traditionally been more than 98 percent male, this has largely been because society has historically steered women toward caretaker industries like teaching or nursing. Electricians must perform hands-on work that requires quick thinking, hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, and an ability to follow complex instructions, which makes the electrical industry an excellent career choice for women who want to carve a different path while earning a competitive income.
There is no difference in the tasks female electricians and their male counterparts perform, including mechanical assembly and maintenance, inputting data into computer systems, and explaining any issues you discover on the job.
Upcoming Advances in Technology
Over the next decade, changes in technology are likely to impact electricians. Scientists currently have their eyes on numerous developments, including microscale heat pumps, pulp energy, optical rectenna, and flexible generators. There are various developments in the pipeline that could eventually restructure certain facets of the work demanded of electricians. While the job market will likely remain as lucrative as ever, the skills required could change over time. Therefore, if you work in the field, you will need to retrain periodically to stay on top of the latest technological developments.
One of the most significant changes to affect the field in recent years has been the spread of solar power, which increasing numbers of businesses are now using as an alternative to conventional sources of energy. As the demand for solar panels increases, buildings and factories will need to have electricians who can install such panels and regulate the processes to control the flow and storage of solar power.
Automation in the Electrical Industry
With the rise of robot technology and artificial intelligence, many of today’s job seekers are understandably concerned about the future of specific trades. If you are studying to become an electrician, automation should not affect the prospects of electrician jobs near you in the foreseeable future. Experts predict developing technology will not impact electricians because their work requires high degrees of mental acuity and hand-eye coordination, both of which are qualities today's robots cannot replicate.
What might change are the types of industries that will need human workers. The production and manufacturing sector is one field where automation is already taking over. This shift is due to the uniform, repetitive requirements of production lines, where products consisting of heavy parts get mounted by robotic arms and fastened together by air-powered tools and machinery. As factories require fewer human workers, it could reduce the role of electricians at these facilities in the coming years.
Continuing Education Courses for Electricians at StateCE
A job in the electrical field is one of the best ways to make a living in today’s marketplace. As automation gradually overtakes vast corners of the private sector, the need for electricians will increase. If you hope to rise as an electrician, you will need to retrain periodically to stay current with the changes in electrical technology. Explore the courses StateCE offers for continued education as a journeyman or master electrician. Read our blogs for more information.