Electrician as a career


  #1  
Old 12-24-03, 01:02 AM
HomeownerJ
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Question Electrician as a career

I was wondering if any of the pros could give their thoughts on choosing Electrician as a career.
Is it satisfying?
How are the job prospects?
Is it too late to start at age 40+?
How does one start? Apprenticeship? If so, how do you find one?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Merry Christmas to all!
 
  #2  
Old 12-24-03, 03:46 AM
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Hello HJ,

I can't go into much detail this morning. I'll give you my quick opinion.
Being an electrician, to me, is very rewarding and satisfying. Not to sound to corny. It can be fun many times but can also make you want to scream.
It can be very lucrative but only after many years and usually with your own business. Someone who goes into their own business after 5 years is only fooling themselves, and their customers.
Right now most trades are swamped! In NY, at least from Albany south, it is almost impossible to find adequate & QUALIFIED help.

The only drawback for you will be your age. I'm not saying your old, I'm 38, just this can, no is, a very physically demanding job. Most every day. Unless you get some cushy setup somewhere, which do exist but are not the norm, IMO.
I say on a regular basis, "I need to take my tools off". After 15-20 years it catches up with you. Unless you are in real good shape, in a few years you may question your decision. This is why mot guys look for 18-20 year old kids for helpers. Most of their work is the bull work and they know it.

Please don't let this discourage you from pursuing a new career. This is only an opinion and I may be in the total minority.
Like I said, I am one of the few people I know who is actually happy in their career.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 06:54 AM
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In my opinion, the job is rewarding in that you are constantly challenged with problems that need to be solved (i.e. how to get from point A to point B, why something isn't working, etc.). That said, there are so many different types of electrical careers and each one has it's ups and downs. Without experience, you will have to start at the bottom and work your way up. If you get on with a bigger company, this could mean simply being a gopher which will make it take much longer to learn the trade. Also, in big companies, the workers are more specialized - they tend to do the same thing every day (i.e. run conduit). I would suggest starting out with a small Contractor. You will have to start out a low pay rate and the benefits will suck, but you will learn much faster. I started out with a small contractor and would be running a circuit in conduit in a restaurant one day, wiring a new house the next, and doing service calls the next. It was something new and different every day. For the first six months I was so overwhelmed I almost quit. Around the six month mark, it started to click and I began to feel comfortable (of course, every day still presented new and unexperienced challenges). I was given my own truck at that point - which would only happen working for a small contractor.

You have to be willing to work in a myriad of conditions. Outdoors in the middle of summer & dead of winter, during ice storms repairing services, crawling around under houses and in attics and dealing with the dust, spiders, and insulation. Once you've paid your dues, you may be able to choose your conditions. For instance, you could specialize in service work which would keep you away from (most) of the nasty conditions. Of course, in order to become a service technician, you have to be an installer so you will know how to service electrical installations.

I guess the bottom line is that you will have to spend many years in the trade before it will pay off with a service or supervisory position. The job could be very boring if all you do is bend conduit all day / every day. I don't know what you're used to making, but chances are you will be making no more than a 20 year old who is just starting out in the field.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 07:56 AM
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I guess I would first ask this:
What type electrician? Commercial, industrial (these two fit well together). Residential. I've been a electrician for over 20 years now. Mostly in a industrial setting. Although I'm licensed for residential as well because it's a great way to make extra money.
Residential shouldn't be a problem getting into even at 40. You'll probably have to take some formal trianing on your own before anyone would be interested in taking you on. I doubt you'll find any person or company willing to flip the bill on your schooling at 40. Sorry, nasty ol world we live in.
When I started out I was making 12.00 a hour under a apprenticeship. After 7 years of schooling and formal on the job trianing I got my card (union card) Making me a journeyman electrician. Intill I got layed off two years ago. I was making roughly 60,000.00 a year. I did contracting after I got layed off for about a year. Thats a dog eat dog affair! Great money though! I'm lucky that I have been trained in panel building and conduit installations. I am now back in another industrial setting making less then what I did before, but climbing back up the ladder. Even then the starting wage was enough to support my family. Hope this helped somewhat.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 09:44 AM
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Weebee,

Where are you located? I am in the Hudson Valley.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 11:21 AM
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Originally posted by Speedy Petey
Weebee,

Where are you located? I am in the Hudson Valley.
I'm a touch further up. I'm between Rochester and Syracuse. About 12 miles from lake Ontario.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 02:50 PM
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Beautiful country up there. I love the Finger Lakes region.
 
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Old 12-24-03, 02:52 PM
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Yes it is. Been up this way before? I really like further up, the Thousand Islands. I get up there from time to time.
 
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Old 12-26-03, 06:52 AM
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Industrial work is usually harder than residential. New construction work is the best, but it rare to find such work, at least in the beginning. Having an electrical engineering degree will also always allow you to take the test without any "work experience", but in this field experience is as important as the knowledge.
It can be pretty demanding, and it helps to be fit (i.e. skinny ). I've seen some locations where you needed to be 100 lb to slide in

Although I can work in both residential and industrial settings, I almost always work residential only. I'm not a big fan of 1000V power distribution centers.
 
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Old 12-26-03, 07:05 AM
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Originally posted by trinitro
Having an electrical engineering degree will also always allow you to take the test without any "work experience", but in this field experience is as important as the knowledge.
You are so correct. We had a big IBM facility in my area which closed in the mid 90's. The market was flooded with electrical engineers who chose to stay in the area and leave IBM or it's subs. I heard several times, "I'm an electrical engineer, I can alway do electrical work". HA! Most of the electrical engineers could hardly wire a basic circuit in their house correctly.
My brother in-law was with IBM for +/- 20 years since just out of college. He has a masters in electrical engineering. I do all his wiring and he can't even wire a 3-way switch.
Now, I'm not saying all electrical engineers are this way but there is a world of difference between engineering and wiring a house/factory/plant/restaurant/etc.. One who has experience in the field and has a clue about the electrical contracting world is a valuable commodity.
 
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Old 12-26-03, 07:19 AM
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Well said, knowing the principal and applying it is two different things.
 
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Old 12-26-03, 07:27 AM
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Originally posted by trinitro
Industrial work is usually harder than residential. New construction work is the best, but it rare to find such work, at least in the beginning. Having an electrical engineering degree will also always allow you to take the test without any "work experience", but in this field experience is as important as the knowledge.
It can be pretty demanding, and it helps to be fit (i.e. skinny ). I've seen some locations where you needed to be 100 lb to slide in

Although I can work in both residential and industrial settings, I almost always work residential only. I'm not a big fan of 1000V power distribution centers.

Very true, in industrial settings you tend be a "jack-of-all-trades" as far as different applications of electricity is concerned. You get involved with residential, commercial, controls/inst. calabrations. Plus, you need to be somewhat up to speed on pnuematics, hydraulics, mechanics. Plus you have to have a real good understanding of the operation of the equipment you are either installing, mantaining, or repairing. Nothing is more frustrating then spending a hour on a machine to realize the problem was operator error. Knowing how to install equipment and bend conduit is a big plus nowadays because more and more companys want a well rounded electrician. I was lucky to get hooked up with the right people when I started chasing sparks. Got to dabble in just about everything up to 3200 volts.
 
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Old 12-26-03, 01:02 PM
HomeownerJ
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Thanks to all for the valuable feedback. There's a lot to consider.

HomeownerJ
 
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Old 12-26-03, 02:03 PM
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I just noticed you're from Chicago. That's where I'm from.

Without a bachelor degree in electrical engineering you'll need 5 years of experience to take the test. The test is not easy.... not easy at all. There are 3 levels of electricians, with the top being supervising electrician. That test I believe has 160 questions (3 hours), with about half being theory and half being code.
 
 

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