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What is this job like?

Without†electricians, there would be no lights, no computers, and no TVs plugged into our walls. Electricians bring us electricity by installing the wires that carry electricity through houses, offices, and factories. They also fix electric machines.

Electricians start by reading mapsócalled blueprintsóthat show how electricity flows. Blueprints show where to put wires, electrical equipment, and outlets for plugs. When working on a new building, electricians draw new blueprints.

Then, electricians put tubes or pipes inside the walls. They pull wires through the tubes to connect the boxes and make a path for the electricity to follow. A path for electricity is called a circuit.

Electricians also add circuit breakers, transformers, and other equipment to control how electricity flows. They make sure the right amount of electricity goes to the machines that use it. Electricians follow strict rules about how to wire buildings.

After they finish wiring, electricians use special devices to measure the amount of electricity running through the system.

Electricians also install wires for telephones, computers, and fire alarms. Sometimes, they use fiber optic cable.

Maintenance electricians fix electric machines or broken wiring. Some focus on houses. They might rewire a house, or they could replace an old fuse box with one that can run more appliances.

Some electricians work in factories. They might fix motors, generators, and robots. They also inspect equipment and fix it before it breaks. They tell managers when equipment needs to be replaced. Electricians put in new electrical equipment, too.

Electricians use wire strippers, knives, hacksaws, and power tools. Some electricians stand for a long time and climb ladders. Some work in dusty, dirty, or hot places.

Workers need to be careful to avoid falls, cuts, and electric shock. They need good hand-eye coordination and to be good at seeing the different colors of wire.

Some electricians work nights and weekends. Some travel far to get to jobsites.

How do you get ready?

Most electricians start by becoming apprentices. As apprentices, they learn on the job by watching and listening to experienced workers. They also take classes about electricity. They get paid while they learn. After 3 to 5 years, they are fully trained and can work on their own.

Apprentices start with easy tasks like drilling holes. Later, they learn to connect wires and draw electrical diagrams.

After they finish an apprenticeship, many electricians take more classes. They might learn more about telephone lines, computer lines, and other kinds of special wiring. Most electricians also need a license from the county where they work.

To become an apprentice, most people need a high school diploma or a G.E.D. They also need to pass a skills test about math and science.

To get ready for the test, it helps to take high school classes in science, shop, and technical drawing. Math classes, like algebra, are also very important. After high school, people can get training in technical schools, community colleges, and the U.S. Armed Forces.

How many jobs are there?

There were 694,900 electricians working in 2008. Most worked in construction or maintenance. About 9 percent worked for themselves.What about the future?

Electricians are expected to have good job opportunities. There will be lots of job openings every year.

Jobs are expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2018. As the population grows, more electricians will be needed to bring electricity to more homes, factories, and other places. They also will be needed to install wire for computers and telecommunications. More factories will be using robots that electricians fix.

How much does this job pay?

In May 2008, the average hourly wages for electricians were $23.98.

Apprentices are paid while they learn but do not make as much as fully trained electricians.

Are there other jobs like this?

Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electronic home entertainment equipment installers and repairers

Elevator installers and repairers

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