Considered working as an Electrician? This interview will take you down the career path of an Electrician including the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to EngineeringJobs.org and is one of many interviews with professionals engineers, which among others include Process Engineer and Electrical Engineer.
I am a full-time laborer working under a licensed Master Electrician. My actual job title is Electrician’s Helper. Some people assume I am an Electrical Apprentice but this is not correct. I need to pass an exam and enroll in an authorized training center before I can become an official apprentice. I have been with this electrician for approximately 18 months and I must say he is easy to work for. His easy-going personality gives me the motivation to be hard-working, reliable, and honest with him at all times.
In case you are wondering, I am an African-American male. I only mention this because some people may want to know if discrimination exists in the industry. As far as I can tell in my short time at this job, your ethnic background does not matter at all. Your knowledge of the trade comes first and everything else comes second. Electricians and helpers come in all colors, sizes, and shapes. This job can be dangerous at times and discrimination can cause an employee to become disgruntled and possibly wire a component wrong or hurt themselves on the job.
I’m sure there are isolated cases of discrimination, but the guy I work for does not concern himself with that madness. With us, it is all about meeting deadlines, connecting the components properly, and getting home safe.
Since I am a helper, my main job duties include keeping the tools organized and the work areas clean. If I do not do this, my boss will not be able to perform his duties well. My other tasks include hauling materials, drilling holes for wires, pulling wires, disconnecting old and faulty components, testing wires with the voltage meter, cutting holes for outlets and switches, more cleaning, and more wire pulling. If we need to lay conduit underground, I am responsible for digging the trench with a shovel.
Some people may have this romantic idea about working in the electrical field. I laugh because I know there is more prep work involved in the job than anything else. As a laborer, I do more pulling, cleaning, cutting, and digging than anything else. Even my boss has it rough at times, especially when he needs to crawl into attics and dirty basements to wire components. The romantic part, which is making things light up, doesn’t happen until the very end.
I have a pretty satisfying job because I feel like I learn something new every day. Having a good boss makes it easy for me also. Not only do I learn things about the electrical field, I learn about tools, I learn about safety precautions, and I learn how to work in chaotic environments. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my job a 7.5 or 8. If I was a certified electrician, I would rate my job a 9.5 or 10.
The way I got started in this line of work was through a friend. He was an electricians helper as well and he told me his company had a couple of job openings for laborer positions. When I met with the boss, he liked me and gave me a chance by allowing me to work with him on a small residential job. When he saw how well I worked, he brought me on full time. It was just that simple for me — no formal interview, no long application process and no long waiting period.
The one thing I learned about the working world is you are responsible for your actions. No one is around to blame if you make a mistake or do not perform your duties. There are also times where you will have to learn how to do something on the spot. Your boss will not always be around to tell you what to do and you will not have a guidebook sitting next to you. I had to make what they call executive decisions plenty of times. In the beginning, it was scary but now I see how it is developing my leadership skills.
I also learned the importance of checking things out for myself and not relying on anyone’s word. I learned this the hard way as I was stripping wires on a job site. The foreman assured me the electricity was not on in the building and he told me it was safe to strip the wires. When I cut into the first wire, I saw a big blue flash accompanied by a loud firecracker sound. I dropped the wire and wire-cutters immediately. Luckily, I was wearing safety goggles and gloves so I did not get hurt but it could have been serious. I could have lost an eye or worse.
From then on, I told myself I would either check with my boss or check the other end of the wire before cutting into it. I would not thoughtlessly take the word of any foreman or any person who was not a licensed electrician.
Despite the risk involved, I must say I really enjoy what I do. If I had the opportunity to talk to someone who is thinking about getting into this field, I would tell them to go for it. They would just need to understand that the starting salary could be pretty low for helpers — $9 per hour on the low end. However, an experienced apprentice can receive up to $14 per hour and a licensed electrician will receive twice as much. If they start their own company, they can make as much as six figures per year.
I would also tell them to think beyond the money and explore the industry. Electricians have a lot of responsibilities and they deal with a lot of risk. They also work a lot, putting in 10 to 12 hours on some day. If the person loves the job enough to deal with these issues, then I would definitely tell them to make a career out of this profession.
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