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Commercial Electrician: Job Description and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a commercial electrician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

Commercial electricians install, design and maintain electrical systems in commercial buildings. These positions typically require extensive education through apprenticeships, and they need to be licensed as well. Some electricians begin their education by earning an associate's degree.

Essential Information

Commercial electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining the electrical devices in commercial buildings. Electricians receive their training through an associate's degree or apprenticeship degree program. They must also receive their electrician's license in order to do any electrical installation.

Required Education Associate's degree and/or apprenticeship
Other Requirements Electrician's license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for all electricians*
Average Salary (2015) $55,590 for all electricians*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description

Commercial electricians may plan and diagram electrical systems, including the conduits of tubing or pipe often required by local electrical codes. Or, the electrician may work from blueprints provided by the general contractor. Whether designing the system or working from blueprints, the electrician installs the conduits and runs the electrical wiring. These wires are usually terminated at switches, circuit breaker panels and relays. Commercial electricians wire instruments that control the power, lighting and heating units in buildings. They also provide wiring for air conditioning and refrigeration units.

Using electrical test meters and ohmmeters, commercial electricians ensure the continuity of wiring to ascertain compatibility and safety of the components. These tests may be performed during the installation of a new electrical system, to ensure its proper performance. The tests are also used to locate shorts and system breaks. After locating the source of the problem, the electrician repairs or replaces the wiring and conduits as needed.

Commercial electricians work with many standard hand tools including sawzalls, screwdrivers, pliers and knives. Heavier equipment may be provided by the employer. Most electricians are familiar with using power tools, test meters, pipe threaders and conduit benders.

Commercial electrical work is predominantly indoors and not as affected by weather as other jobs in construction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated in 2015 that there were approximately 9,880 people employed as electricians in non-residential building construction, and their mean annual wage was $53,470 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted faster than average job growth of 14% for electricians in general, from 2014-2024.

The position is also a good stepping-stone to becoming an electrical engineer. Some schools allow an electrician's credits to count toward a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Requirements

Commercial electricians should be able to see and discern color, since electrical wiring is often color-coded. They should be able to stand, climb ladders and remain in uncomfortable positions for long periods. They must also be able to regularly lift up to fifty pounds to eye level.

In most states, it is illegal to do any kind of electrical installation, other than in one's own (not rented) residence, without an electrician's license. To prepare for these licenses, one either takes an associate's degree program or an apprenticeship. Some colleges offer very focused apprenticeship associate's degree programs that have few core education requirements and a linear path through a program by an agreement with an electrical contractor. A high school diploma or equivalent is required in order to pursue training. Those interested in becoming commercial electricians are encouraged to study algebra, since electricians should be able to make load calculations for their circuits.

Electrical training programs teach students the principles of hydraulics and pneumatics. The students learn to use programmable logic controllers and magnetic motor controls. During their training, students will install circuits, 1ø and 3ø motors and alarm systems. They also learn about process measurements and the difference between single and 3-phase power systems. Electrical training often includes some instruction in working with natural gas delivery systems.

Curriculum for electrician programs is established by the standards of the Electrician Certification Curriculum Committee. Electrical training standards are handled by the National Electrical Code (NEC), which involves mastering of over 800 sections designed with personal and public safety in mind.

Electricians typically complete an apprenticeship in order to enter the field, though an associate's program can act as an academic starting point. These professionals need the technical aptitude to work with commercial wiring systems and electrical tools, and they need a strong understanding of local and national electrical codes. In general, electricians can look forward to good job prospects, with faster-than-average growth in job openings expected for the 2014-2024 decade.

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