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Electricians know the ins and outs of designing lighting systems, installing street lights and intercom systems, ensuring electrical work is up to code and repairing electrical wiring. Electricians must go through at least four years of training as an apprentice, followed by the licensing their state requires. Most in the profession specialize in either designing, installing, maintaining and repairing the motors, equipment and electrical systems of businesses and factories or installing, maintaining and repairing the electrical systems of residences. “I like to work on projects that have complex systems, such as water and wastewater treatment facilities,” says Ryan Lee, a journeyman electrician and crew leader with the Ohio-based company Claypool Electric. “I am kind of a perfectionist, and these types of facilities require a great deal of accuracy to ensure that tasks are done accurately.”
There are other subsets, like electricians who specialize in iron and steel mills, or electricians who coordinate the lighting for a motion picture or television program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most stable employment is for electricians who work for businesses and factories. And this is a profession where employment is expected to blossom. Installing alternative energy sources in homes and businesses requires coordination with electricians, and these professionals are still needed to maintain older electrical systems. The BLS predicts this occupation will grow by 19.7 percent by 2022, which translates to 224,600 new positions.
This can be a lucrative career. In 2013, the median wage for an electrician was $50,510. The highest-paid earned north of $80,000, while the lowest-paid electricians earned around $30,000 that year. An apprentice usually makes between 30 percent and 50 percent less than someone who is fully trained. The best-paying industries include motion pictures (where electricians are known as gaffers) and natural gas distribution. The best-paying cities include San Francisco; Oakland, California; and New York City.