Detailed Guide for Electricians in California
May also be called: Chief Electricians; Electrical Sign Servicers; House Wirers
Specialties within this occupation include: Construction Electricians; Green Electricians; Maintenance Electricians
What Would I Do?
Electricians* perform electrical work in the building and remodeling of structures. They generally specialize in construction or maintenance work. They need good mechanical ability; a thorough knowledge of the principles of electricity, circuitry, and power distribution within a building; and familiarity with the materials and techniques of construction. Electricians must also comply with local electrical building and safety codes.
Electricians specializing in construction install wiring systems into new homes and businesses. When installing electrical systems, they work with blueprints that indicate the locations of circuits, outlets, load centers, and panel boards. On small jobs they may work alone with minimal supervision, and they may supervise an apprentice. On large jobs they may work under the direction of the electrician foreman or superintendent.
Maintenance Electricians typically work in large industrial buildings, commercial establishments, and production or processing plants. Maintenance Electricians perform most of their work in preventive maintenance and repairing electrical systems rather than installing new systems. When a breakdown occurs, they must troubleshoot to locate the cause, correct the problem, and restore service quickly. In hospitals, hotels, and public buildings, Electricians must operate and maintain emergency generators in the event of a power failure.
Tools and Technology
When installing wiring, Electricians use hand tools such as conduit benders, screwdrivers, pliers, knives, hacksaws, and wire strippers, as well as power tools such as drills and saws. Later, they use ammeters, ohmmeters, voltmeters, oscilloscopes, and other equipment to test connections and ensure the compatibility and safety of components.
Electricians employ the use of energy efficient lighting, systems and appliances; motion and occupancy sensors, dimmers, timers, and smart power strips; and PVC free cables. They install wireless switches for remodeling, electrical consumption economizers - devices that reduce energy use of air-conditioning units - and programmable thermostats as well as daylight harvesting system, which uses photosensors to detect light levels in a room. Green Electricians also are knowledgeable about different types of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, and are able to integrate these sources into a comprehensive energy efficiency system.
In addition to working on commercial and residential building retrofits, Green Electricians are extensively involved in the work of electrifying the ports, which eliminates the need for ships at port to run their auxiliary engines (typically run on low quality fuel) and, instead, provides electricity from the shore for unloading and loading activities as well as hotelling. Among the tasks Electricians must undertake in order to electrify the ports are installing a shoreside cold-ironing (power source from land) infrastructure, maintaining and repairing shoreside electrical power facilities and equipment, and connecting and disconnecting cables from ships to shore outlets.
Electricians also work on the installation of electric charging stations within an Electric Vehicle Network (EVN), an infrastructure of public charging stations proposed by stakeholders including government entities and car manufacturers. An Electrician working on installing electric charging stations in homes or communities should be able to conduct site assessments to determine the mounting location, safely install the stations according to the manufacturer’s specifications, and conduct installation and calibration of submeters.
Along with electrifying the ports and installing electric charging stations, Green Electricians are heavily involved in the installation of utility scale (high voltage) smart grid technologies in the substations and distribution system, while being less involved in installing and maintaining smart grid technologies at the residential level (usually done by air conditioning service personnel or the equivalent). The exceptions to this would be electric water controls and swimming pool/spa controls, which are more complicated to install and require the expertise of an Electrician. They can also install energy management systems on commercial and industrial facilities, maintain and repair Smart Meters, connect appliances to the Home Area Network, and troubleshoot installation problems of Residential Smart Meters.
*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
In addition to the tasks and sample skills below for the standard Electrician, there are specialized skills for the tasks of the Green Electrician, especially those working in electrifying the ports, installing electric charging stations, and installing smart grid technology. These skills include the knowledge of shoreside cold-ironing infrastructure and the ability to interpret results from electrical equipment software programs for the port Electrician, the knowledge of site assessments and Time of Use (TOU) metering for the electric charging station Electrician, and the knowledge of wireless communications and signal boosting/routing systems for the smart grid Electrician. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Assemble, install, test, and maintain electrical or electronic wiring, equipment, appliances, apparatus, and fixtures, using hand tools and power tools.||Building and Construction|
|Diagnose malfunctioning systems, apparatus, and components, using test equipment and hand tools, to locate the cause of a breakdown and correct the problem.||Mechanical|
|Connect wires to circuit breakers, transformers, or other components.||Installation|
|Inspect electrical systems, equipment, and components to identify hazards, defects, and the need for adjustment or repair, and to ensure compliance with codes.||Troubleshooting|
|Advise management on whether continued operation of equipment could be hazardous.||Public Safety and Security|
|Test electrical systems and continuity of circuits in electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures, using testing devices such as ohmmeters, voltmeters, and oscilloscopes, to ensure compatibility and safety of system.||Equipment Selection|
|Plan layout and installation of electrical wiring, equipment and fixtures, based on job specifications and local codes.||Information Ordering|
|Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures.||Instructing|
|Prepare sketches or follow blueprints to determine the location of wiring and equipment and to ensure conformance to building and safety codes.||Complex Problem Solving|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Building and Construction||Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.|
|Mechanical||Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.|
|Installation||Installing equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.|
|Troubleshooting||Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.|
|Public Safety and Security||Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.|
|Equipment Selection||Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.|
|Information Ordering||The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).|
|Instructing||Teaching others how to do something.|
|Complex Problem Solving||Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.|
Construction Electricians may be exposed to inclement weather. The work may be strenuous requiring heavy lifting, standing, stooping, and kneeling for long periods of time.
Maintenance Electricians usually work in finished buildings varying from clean, air-conditioned offices to noisy, dirty factories. Electricians are at risk of injury from electrical shock, cuts, and falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs. However, the risk of injury is minimized by following strict safety procedures.
Typically, Electricians work a 40-hour workweek, but they may be required to work overtime or on weekends in cases of emergency or other circumstances. Companies that operate 24 hours a day may employ three shifts of Electricians.
Some Electricians are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of an Electrician may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. Electrician occupations usually involve technical or mechanical activities.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Electricians in California was $63,758 annually, or $30.65 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Benefit packages vary widely from company to company. Electricians may expect to receive paid holidays, vacation, and health insurance. The type of benefit package is determined by company policy or union contract. Self-employed Electricians need to provide their own benefits.
What is the Job Outlook?
Skilled Electricians will be needed to install and maintain electrical devices and wiring in homes, factories, offices, and other structures. With the increased focus on environmentally sustainable building and remodeling practices, it is expected that there may be increased opportunities for Electricians. However, during economic downturns, the number of job openings for Electricians declines. Apprenticeship opportunities also are less plentiful during these periods. Activity for Electricians depends on many factors that vary with the economy, such as interest rates, government spending, and business investment.
In addition to jobs created by the increased demand for electrical work, many openings are expected to occur over the next decade as a large number of Electricians are expected to retire. This will create good job opportunities for the most qualified jobseekers. Job openings for Electricians, though, will vary by area and will be greatest in the fastest growing regions of the country.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Electricians is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Electricians are expected to increase by 32.5 percent, or 19,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 1,900 new job openings per year is expected for Electricians, plus an additional 890 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 2,790 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Many employers prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent. Completion of a formal union-sponsored apprenticeship or electrical construction vocational or trade college program is the typical entrance path into this occupation.
Electricians will also need to be knowledgeable of the California Green Building Standards Code (or CALGreen). CALGreen will affect most of the new construction projects, including residential and commercial (non-residential) buildings. In addition, Green Electricians working on the smart grid should have the most current knowledge and skills by completing professional, short-term certificate programs covering topics such as rate schedules, demand response contracts, pricing strategies, and smart grid markets.
The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. However, the Commercial Electrician’s (General Electrician’s) apprenticeship program requires 8,000 hours of combined on-the-job and a minimum of 720 hours classroom training, and the Residential Apprenticeship Program requires 4,800 hours of on-the job and 480 hours of classroom training.
Early Career Planning
High school preparation courses in algebra I and II, geometry, physics, drafting and shop are helpful for students interested in Electrician occupations.
Apprenticeship and Work-Study Programs
Generally, the entrance requirements for formal apprenticeship programs are: applicants must be 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or equivalent, provide confirmation of completing one year of high school algebra with a minimum of a grade "C", possess a California driver license, and applicants must be physically able to complete all stages of the work including the capability to detect the differences between colors. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.
Training Programs for Electricians are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Certified Electricians must complete 32 hours of continuing education prior to the three year expiration date of their certification. Refer to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations Web site for further information. They will also need to keep current on updates and changes to CALGreen.
Licensing and Certification
A license is required for Electricians who advance to become general contractors. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
The State of California requires that all Electricians who have not passed the State certification exam register as an electrician trainee with a State approved training facility and take 150 hours of electrical continuing education classes per year through that school. Refer to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations Web site for further information. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Electrical, Electrician, Electrical/Electronics Drafting & Electrical/Electronics CAD, and Electrical/Electronics Equipment Installation & Repair.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Electricians are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Building Equipment Contractors ||68.5%|
|Local Government ||4.5%|
|Residential Building Construction ||2.0%|
|Motion Picture and Video Industries ||1.6%|
|Utility System Construction ||1.4%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers is one of the most effective job search methods. Many vocational schools and community colleges operate placement centers for their students. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers and trade publications. Union members search for work by registering with their local hiring hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Electricians.
- Electric Contractors
- Electric Contractors-Commercial & Industrial
- Electric Equipment Service and Repair
- Electric Service and Utility Providers
- Electrical Power Systems-Testing
- Electronics Consulting & Research Development
- Home Repair and Maintenance
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Journey-level Electricians can advance to the positions of lead person, supervisor, chief Electrician, or superintendent. Others work as trade or vocational school instructors, building supply sales representatives, electrical inspectors, or estimators.
Electricians may go into business as electrical contractors. Businesses involved in electrical contracting need to be licensed by the Contractors State License Board of the California State Department of Consumer Affairs. Refer to 'Other Sources.'
Also, Green Electricians may advance their careers whether they specialize in commercial facilities, residential buildings, or both. Commercial Electricians that understand energy management system operation, programming to maximize time of use savings, and demand management and response may progress to high-level support or supervision positions. Residential Electricians that are dispatched for 2nd tier trouble response for smart grid systems may progress to supervisory positions.
Below is a list of occupations related to Electricians with links to more information.
|Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians||Guide|
|Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers||Profile|
|Electrical and Electronics Drafters||Profile|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineers||Profile|
|Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment||Profile|
|Electronic Home Entertainment Equipment Installers and Repairers||Profile|
|Elevator Installers and Repairers||Profile|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||Guide|
- California Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State Licensing Board
- California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards
- Associated Builders and Contractors
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- Western Electrical Contractors Association
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.