In an increasingly connected world, electrical contractors play an essential role in construction. Keep reading to learn more about what electrical contractors do, how much they make, and how analysts project demand for their services will change in the coming years.
What is an electrical contractor?
Electrical contractors design, install, and maintain electrical systems in facilities (i.e. homes, offices, and industrial buildings). The term is used to describe companies that provide these services as well as the individual workers that actually render them.
There are three general classifications of electrical contractors in the construction industry:
- Inside electrical contractors: As their name implies, these contractors manage electrical systems inside buildings. That would include electrical outlets, light fixtures, and other components that are an integral part of a building’s interior.
- Outside electrical contractors: As you can probably guess, these contractors manage systems located outside. Among them are lineworkers, who service electrical and telecommunications lines.
- Integrated building systems contractors: These contractors manage the electrical components of a building’s integrated systems (i.e. access and climate control, networks, lighting, etc).
ARE ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS DIFFERENT FROM ELECTRICIANS?
Now that you know what an electrical contractor is, you may be wondering whether the role differs from that of an electrician.
Generally speaking, the term “electrician” is used to describe the individuals who conduct electrical contracting work. Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, the term “electrical contractor” is used to describe those individuals and the companies that employ them.
What does an electrical contractor do?
Broadly speaking, an electrical contractor’s responsibilities may include:
- installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting electrical systems
- project management (including planning and resource allocation)
- client relationship management
An electrical contractor’s day-to-day activities can vary depending on their specialty and what stage of the project they’ve been called in to help with.
Electrical contractors brought in prior to the structure’s construction, for example, may be expected to identify and install the ideal system based on the client’s needs. Meanwhile, electrical contractors brought in to service an existing structure may need to upgrade or maintain the already-installed system.
Aside from completing the actual work, electrical contractors must manage their worker scheduling to ensure work is completed on time – much like all other subcontractors. This requires proficiency in operating subcontractor software.
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What is an electrical contractor’s salary and job outlook?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians earn a median wage of $56,900 annually. The agency projects employment opportunities for electricians will grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than its projected growth for all U.S. jobs over the same period (4%).
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical contractors generally learn their trade through apprenticeships and technical schools after graduating from high school (or receiving an equivalent education). They require licensing in most U.S. states.
Once an electrical contractor completes an apprenticeship or technical school program, they may (depending on the state) be able to perform as an independent electrical contractor. They can also apply to become an employee of an electrical contracting company and work alongside other professionals.
You can find electrical contracting regulations by state and municipality on the National Electrical Contractors Association website.
Skills and abilities required for success as an electrical contractor
Next, let’s discuss the skills and abilities electrical contractors need to ensure success in the industry.
Because wires are often color coded, electrical contractors need to be capable of distinguishing between hues for their own safety and to ensure quality work.
That said, color-blind electricians do exist. In some situations, they compensate by using equipment (i.e. filters and lights). In some sectors, mission critical wires are also labeled, allowing color-blind electricians to read alphanumeric values rather than relying on hues alone.
Where color vision is an explicit requirement for an electrical contractor license, however, color blindness can unfortunately be an insurmountable barrier to entry.
Subcontractors of all types need to be effective communicators – and electrical contractors are no exception. From sharing expectations with stakeholders to giving colleagues clear instructions, this skill will be tested in the field every single day.
PHYSICAL STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE
Electrical contractors often spend many hours on their feet every day. Other physically demanding aspects of the job include:
- lifting heavy objects
- maneuvering in hard-to-reach places
- frequently climbing scaffolding and ladders
While electricians don’t have to be Olympians, good physical fitness and stamina is undoubtedly an asset.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
In virtually all types of construction subcontracting, attention to detail ensures not only high-quality work but also safety. This is certainly true of electrical contracting, which involves handling dangerous equipment.
Electrical contractors need to have a keen eye for electrical issues and potential safety hazards on job sites, among other important considerations.
Electrical contractors interested in running their own businesses of course need a variety of administrative skills, including working knowledge of:
While these may seemingly have little to do with actual electrical work, they can mean the difference between operating a successful subcontracting company and going belly-up.
Electrical contracting can be very hands-on work. Consequently, workers should possess dexterity and confidence in managing tools of the trade, such as:
- wire strippers
- power tools
- cable ties
READING COMPREHENSION (INCLUDING SCHEMATICS)
Electrical contractors spend a significant amount of time reading documentation, from blueprints and schematics to regulations. Being able to parse these documents and deliver something up to code and the client’s expectations is imperative.
BASIC TO INTERMEDIATE MATH
Electrical contractors work with numbers often throughout the day, making quick measurement calculations, converting units as needed, and more. While electrical contracting isn’t rocket science, being able to make these basic to intermediate calculations on the fly is an asset.
Electricians do much of their work in the client’s environment, be it a home, office, or industrial facility. They are often the primary point of interaction between clients and the electrical contracting business.
Therefore, it’s important that electrical contractors represent their employers well, which largely boils down to offering good customer service. They should be presentable, professional, and keep their workspace looking the same.
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We hope this article has helped you understand what electrical contractors do along with the skills that make them successful. For more construction industry insights, visit our blog.