Is Electrician A Good Career Choice?
Maybe you're just out of high school and you're thinking about your professional career. Maybe you've got a desk job and you're looking for a change. Or, maybe you've always wanted to become an electrician, and you want to make sure it's worth it.
You're wondering: Should I become an electrician? Is electrician a good career choice?
If you're in a rush, we'll give you the tl;dr ("too long; didn't read") version:
Yes, "electrician" is a great career.
But is it a great career for YOU?
We've put together a few questions to ask yourself. If you can answer "yes" to enough of the questions below, then most definitely—you'd love being an electrician!
The first question is an important one:
Can You Work With Others?
Many people are surprised to find out that a job as an electrician is a very social event! It makes sense, if you think about it: from your very first days as a student or apprentice, you will be learning from those around you. During your apprenticeship, you will be working on teams with other electricians—but also other tradespeople of every kind (as well as the client you're working for!). Then, once you get your journeyman license, you may even train a few apprentices of your own over the course of your career. At every turn, you'll be working with and interacting with others.
There will be many occasions where you'll have go off on your own and finish a task without the accompaniment of other people, but by and large, there is a lot of personal interaction as an electrician. If you can work well with others, you'll make a great electrician.
Next up in our discussion of "Should I Become An Electrician?"...
Are You Physically Healthy?
There is a lot of intellectual effort required to be an electrician, but there is also a significant physical aspect to the job. You'll be using shovels to dig trenches, using saws and conduit benders to install conduit, and you'll be climbing stairs / ladders / scaffolding / etc. many times during the day. You'll be shimmying your way into small spaces and figuring out a way to get into hard-to-reach corners. You don't have to be a bodybuilder or an Olympian, but you do need to physically fit in order to be effective.
We mentioned this on the homepage, but it's worth repeating, especially if you're worried you're not fit enough to be an electrician: there are plenty of guys in their late 40s and 50s and even 60s who you wouldn't call "in shape," but they get the job done. If you have a full range of motion and can move around on your feet all day, you'll be good to go.
Are You Good With Your Hands?
Being an electrician requires a LOT of manual dexterity, and a lot of hand-eye coordination (looks like all those video games are finally going to pay off!). It may be a little surprising, but "electrician" is a very tactile job. You'll be using your hands a LOT.
Are You Willing To Do Physical Labor?
If you're looking for a straight-up desk job, this isn't it! You'll be up and down and all over the place for much of the day.
But for most of us, that's one of the best aspects of the job! Moving around, using your muscles, staying fit—it's one of the best parts of the work, and when you're at home at the end of the day, you feel like you've actually done something.
Do You Have Good Vision?
If you wear glasses, and you can see, you'll be fine. The only way that you'd run into problems is if you're colorblind.
Colorblindness is the inability to distinguish certain colors—usually red and green—from one another, and it affects up to 8% of the male population. Because wires are often color-coded, color blindness can lead to wiring mistakes, and wiring mistakes can lead anything from property damage to electrocution and/or death. If you are colorblind, "electrician" may not be the career choice for you.
Do You Have A Good Sense Of Balance?
Also helpful. You may be called to climb to high places, and being able to keep your feet under you is a good thing!
Are You OK At Math?
There's math involved in all the trades, even welding. Electrician work is no different, and electricians need to know one branch of math in particular: algebra.
Most of us remember algebra as something we took in high school, where we were constantly being asked to "solve for x," as in this equation here:
5x = 15.
The answer to this one would be 3.
If you hated math in high school, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a bad electrician. Most of us hated everything about high school, and there are many successful electricians who learned all the math and algebra they need in their apprentice programs or their electrician schools.
Do You Like Electricity?
This is a weird question, but something to consider. Do you think you'd like working with electricity? Because if you become an electrician... you're going to be thinking about electricity. A lot.
For many electricians, the idea of helping create something—an office building, a sports arena, or even a simple residence—is a source of pride. If you can picture yourself being proud to create something real and tangible, being an electrician may be a great career choice.
Do You Want To Make a Good Living?
Electricians earn a really, really good living. As we discussed on our homepage, the income that an electrician makes is higher than the average income of any other kind of worker, in 47 out of the 50 states. That's pretty incredible. It's even more incredible when you consider that most electricians don't have as much student loan debt as those other people making more than the average state income.
Note that we wrote, "Good Living" and not "Great Living." If you want to be filthy rich, go into banking. Or, actually, become a journeyman electrician and then start your own company!
Do You Want Job Security and Career Growth?
In an era when many jobs are disappearing, the job outlook for electricians is pretty bright. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the projected percent change in employment from 2012 to 2022 will be a 20% increase for electricians—and only an 11% increase for all occupations. If you're a gambler, a career as an electrician is a pretty solid bet.
Another way of asking this is, do you want to change jobs five years from now? Some people like having a bunch of different careers. They like the unscripted life, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, more and more Americans are forced to dramatically change their career trajectory at least once during their professional career.
Other people, however, want to know, "Ten years from now I'll have a job, and I'll make more money than I'm making now." That's not true for a lot of people in a lot of jobs, but it's true for electricians.
Do You Want Some Variety In Your Work?
Some people like the daily grind, and having the same routine every day. They like knowing "At 9am, I'll be at my desk, at 12pm I'll be in the breakroom, and at 1pm I'll be back at my desk." Electricians get to experience a lot of "newness" on their jobs—working in new locations, with new people, and new tasks. And that's a good thing, as scientific studies have shown the new experiences can lead to increased life satisfaction, and that can mean increased professional satisfaction, as well.
Should I Become An Electrician?
Maybe we're biased, but we know plenty of well-paid, professionally-satisfied electricians out there! If you'd like to join their ranks, take a stroll around our site, and find out what you need to do in order to become an electrician!
Photo Credit: "Woven Flat Cable" by Scott Wilcoxson via Flickr