Electrical Contractor Job Description
Being a competent electrician is just the start if you aspire to become an electrical contractor. Besides having plenty of experience as a journeyman, you’ll need to look at the larger picture of what needs to be done and how to do it. That’s because electrical contractors take responsibility for designing, installing, and maintaining electrical systems. They evaluate the specifics of every project taken on and use this information to create an action plan, assign manpower, and evaluate results for quality and safety.
While some are employed by companies specializing in electrical work, many electrical contractors operate their own business. Electrical contractors may maintain an office as a base, but much of their time is spent on worksites. Depending on the type of job being performed, these locations can be indoors or outside. Emergency situations and looming deadlines can extend an electrical contractor’s workweek beyond normal hours. Safety needs to be a primary concern for electrical contractors and those they employ because injury rates for electrical workers are higher than the national average.
Electrical Contractor Duties and Responsibilities
Whether setting up a new building’s electrical system or ensuring reliable delivery from a power plant’s high-voltage lines, some tasks are essential to all electrical contractors. Some of the most common include:
Knowledge of Code
Safety first! Electrical contractors must be well-versed in the National Electrical Code (NEC) and prepared to implement its standards in all situations.
Electrical contractors maintain ties with people in the construction industry and others in need of electrical work. Networking, attending industry meetings, and scouting out opportunities are vital to securing work.
When electrical contractors have a good understanding of what a job involves, they can then make plans on how to proceed. The difficulty of the job, the cost of materials, and the labor required for timely completion all play a role in the bid offered.
At the core is physically performing what needs to be done. Electrical contractors may do much of the labor themselves or oversee a team of electricians they’ve hired. At stages along the way, electrical contractors may perform tests to ensure quality. If problems arise, they troubleshoot to solve issues and keep projects on track. Electrical contractors also do the “behind the scenes” activities that enable the work to be done, such as securing permits and purchasing materials.
Electrical Contractor Skills and Qualifications
Successful electrical contractors are both excellent electricians and good businessmen. Thus, possessing the following are important to getting the job done:
- Physical abilities – adequate hand-eye coordination, sufficient physical fitness to bend and lift, and stamina to move around/be on your feet regularly are vital to an electrician’s performance
- Industry-specific knowledge – besides thoroughly knowing the codes, electrical contractors should be able to read blueprints and understand electrical theory
- Safety – competency on proper techniques in order to prevent accidents, first-aid training to handle emergencies if they occur, and wearing appropriate gear such as protective glasses
- Critical thinking – to diagnose problems that arise and come up with an effective solution
- Attention to detail – to ensure everything is working properly, meets specifications, and is up to code
- Leadership – workers under your charge will look to you for instruction, and your ability to manage a team can make or break productivity and results
- Salesmanship – finding opportunities and convincing those responsible for extending contracts that you (or the employer for whom you work) are the best for the job keeps the business running
Electrical Contractor Education and Training
Plan on obtaining a variety of licenses if you want to be an electrical contractor. First, you’ll need to graduate from high school and become a licensed journeyman electrician. This post-secondary training involves a mixture of classroom instruction, a paid apprenticeship of four to five years, and passing a test on electrical codes and safety.
After two years or more of being a licensed journeyman electrician, you can qualify to earn a master electrician license. This professional license expands the range of tasks you can perform, such as pulling permits and supervising job sites.
With a master electrician license in hand, the next step is securing an electrical contractor’s license. Exact procedures vary by state but often include passing an exam, meeting specific experience requirements, obtaining a business permit, and carrying appropriate liability insurance. To renew their license and keep up with the field’s evolving standards, electrical contractors should plan on being lifelong learners.
Electrical Contractor Salary and Outlook
Payscale.com lists the national median annual salary for electrical contractors as $70,240, with a median hourly wage of $34.26. The lowest paid earn around $41,600 a year (or $14.93 an hour), while the highest paid make upward of $132,000 a year ($76.24 hourly).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the demand for electricians will grow nine percent between 2016 and 2026. Projections are rather hard to make, however, because the need for electricians is often closely tied to rises and falls in the construction industry.
Electrical Contractor Helpful Resources
As you further consider a career as an electrical contractor, the following places can be good places for you to turn:
National Electrical Contractors Association – The website of this well-established organization offers everything from career information and educational opportunities to industry best practices and emerging developments.
Electrical Contractor – This monthly magazine keeps its 80,000+ readers up-to-date on the latest trends in National Electric Code and other relevant issues.
National Fire Protection Association: Codes and Standards – Get an idea of what National Electrical Code involves on this website.
Construction Project Management: A Practical Guide for Building and Electrical Contractors – This book discusses safety, productivity, quality assurance, and other topics critical to the profession.
Electronics for Dummies – This entry in the popular series explores topics such as circuits and safety plus provides simple projects that help readers put theory into action.
Independent Electrical Contractors – If you have questions about becoming an electrical contractor, this group may be able to help.
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