What Hours Do Electricians Work?
If you become an electrician, how many hours per week can you expect to work? What does an electrician work schedule look like? Given that the average American now works 47 hours per week, will you end up working more than that, or less than that?
In this post, we'll go over what the average work week looks like for an electrician, along with some factors that sometimes add or subtract from an electrician's work hours.
Most Electricians Work a 40-Hour Work Week
What hours do electricians work? For the most part, electricians work a normal 8-hour day. That can mean a regular 9am-to-5pm timeframe, but most of the time it skews a little earlier than that, and many electricians start work at 6am or 7am or 8am.
On an annual basis, those hours add up to between about 1,800 hours and 2,080 hours per year (federal employees usually end up at 2,087 hours per year). On many electrician jobs, overtime is available, so that number can increase, but the average numbers of hours per year is between those two estimates.
So, to keep things simple, electrician working hours are similar to the rest of the business world. However, there are a few curveballs that may add or subtract from the workweek, which we'll mention below.
Your Hours Depends on Where You Work
Electricians work in a wide range of locations, under many different types of work agreements. There are electricians who work for a specific company or facility (such as a hospital), who may have a set schedule every day and work exactly 40 hours a week, and there are other electricians who go to many different jobs sites, and whose hours will vary slightly from job to job. Sometimes the jobs will require less than 40 hours per week, and sometimes the job will require more.
Both of the electricians in this example will make a fine living, but the one will work 40 hours exactly, week-in/week-out, whereas the other will have hours that vary depending on the job he or she is doing.
Your Hours Will Also Depend on Where You Live
In some parts of the country, work for electricians is plentiful, and electricians will work more than 2,000 hours a year, no problem. In other areas, work is harder to come by. There are many factors that contribute to the availability of work, including the geographic location, the strength of the local economy, and the strength of the national economy.
That is a reason why many electricians choose to travel (which is partially where the term "journeyman electrician" comes from). Traveling can be a great option, and can lead to many great job prospects. Those jobs usually offer great overtime, and while they're not for everyone, they can be very profitable.
Union Electrician Work Hours vs. Open Shop Electrician Work Hours
One of the perks of being in a union is that the union negotiates the hours that you'll work. You are guaranteed to work a certain number of hours per week, and any overtime you work will be paid at a negotiated rate, usually above the normal hourly rate you're being paid at time-and-a-half. And, because union jobs are usually much larger in scale than non-union jobs, that work can last for a while.
There are, however, perks of non-union ("open shop") work as well. Because open shops are able to negotiate work with more flexibility, there can be much more opportunity for overtime, and because non-union shops often get hired for smaller jobs that are finished more quickly, and it can be easier to find work if there is "down time" between jobs.
Again, in both situations, the base is usually 40 hours per week, and the "generally accepted" idea is that non-union electricians are able to get more hours, but end up earning a little less per hour on the job, and that union electricians have a little bit more downtime, but earn more per-hour on the job.
There are a few other irregularities that can provide for more---or fewer---hours during the workweek. They include:
- Weather Conditions. It's not uncommon for inclement weather to make work opportunities unpredictable. If you work outside, your jobs may be delayed because of rain, snow, sleet, or fog.
- Maintenance Jobs. While most electrician work is done during regular business hours, some maintenance jobs need to be performed and completed when facilities are closed and the regular non-electrician workers are not there.
- Emergencies. As with all the construction trades, there are times when systems crash, and experts are needed to immediately fix the problem. These problems can arise during a shift---or during the middle of the night when you're at home sleeping!
- Self-Employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 9% of electricians in the United States are self-employed. Being self-employed allows you more flexibility to set your own hours, and work the schedule that you choose. It should be noted, however, that running a small business comes with a lot of responsibilities, and most people who own their own shop work more than 40 hours per week. The opportunity to dramatically increase your income comes with a price: self-employed electricians must seek new business, advertise their services, and maintain business relationships. All that takes time, and is in addition to the regular electrician work that needs to be done.
Apprentice Electrician Work Hours
We talked at length in another post about the workweek hours of an apprentice electrician, but it's basically the same 40 hours as qualified electricians---but with some additional hours for classes. As we mentioned, apprentices need to work a specific number of hours per year in order to complete each state of their apprenticeship, but they also need to complete a specific number of classroom hours, as well. For some apprentices, there is one day a week of classes; in other apprentice programs, classroom learning is done at night, after the day shift is completed.
There is occasionally "down time" between jobs, and that can affect the number of hours you work in a given year. It may be that an electrician is waiting on the union to assign him or her to the next job, or work for an open shop has dried up for a little bit. In some areas of the United States "down time" happens rarely; in other parts, it's a little more common. There is an excellent discussion on Electrician Talk board about it here.
We hope that helps give you an idea of the hours you can expect to work! Unlike "office jobs" where the 9-to-5 grind is common, there are a lot of variables and a lot of variety in an electrician's workweek.