Electrician Job Description - Tasks, Duties and Skills
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Electrician Job Description
An electrician is a professional who works with residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems. Electricians are responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of electrical systems and components for homes, factories, offices, commercial centres and public buildings such as schools and hospitals. They connect electrical systems to outside power sources and thus play a key role in ensuring the functioning of the electrical appliances and devices we use every day.
Let’s take a detailed look at what the job of an electrician involves.
Electricians build and install high and low voltage electrical systems, control and power distribution panels and electrical equipment, in accordance with client specifications. They also carry out electrical system design work, e.g. determining the most suitable layouts for specific electrical systems, ensuring wiring and connections are correctly routed, arranging switchboards, control units and circuit boards and estimating construction costs.
To produce the electrical schematics and wiring diagrams needed for the design of residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems, electricians increasingly employ 2D and 3D CAD design software.
Electricians may design simple electrical switchboard installations (such as those used in homes to connect lighting systems, electrical appliances, smart home automation systems, intercoms, air conditioning systems, heating and hot water systems, burglar alarms, surveillance cameras, gate automation systems, aerials and photovoltaic systems to the mains power), but also more complex systems, such as industrial control panels.
Industrial electricians, for example, are responsible for carrying out the field wiring of automated machinery and systems in industrial settings.
Electricians also work with power distribution, too, e.g. connecting equipment and systems to the mains power supply. Common tasks include installing cable ducts and components, wiring up electrical sockets, terminals and switches as per the wiring diagrams and conducting functional tests on installations to check they work correctly.
Electricians also perform routine maintenance on control and power distribution panels and electrical systems and carry out repairs and reactive maintenance in the event of breakdowns, faults and malfunctions. In the event of a circuit failure, they perform diagnostic tests to identify the location of the fault and replace any damaged components. The key to successfully troubleshooting electrical circuits is the ability to carry out a rapid analysis of the problem, identifying and eliminating its root cause so that full operational capacity can be restored in as short a time as possible.
In order to work efficiently, reliable and safely and to build and install electrical systems that meet all the required standards, electricians need a range of skills and expertise. These include a knowledge of electrical and electronic theory, manual dexterity and precision, and the ability to use a variety of tools and materials, including wire cutters, wire strippers, test lights, multimeters and multi-testers, timers, sensors, soldering tools and insulation tape.
Electricians also need a comprehensive understanding of the electrical safety risks associated with their work and a familiarity with the relevant safety standards and regulations.
Electricians are typically employed by electrical installation and maintenance companies, alongside other electrical staff, such as wiring technicians, installation engineers and panel builders, but they may also be employed directly by industrial or manufacturing companies, as part of an in-house team of electricians responsible for performing both routine and unplanned maintenance work.
Electricians are also employed on building sites: construction site electricians assemble, install and wire residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems in new buildings and constructions, where their tasks include laying down electrical cables and building and wiring up electrical panels, in coordination with with other workers and technicians, such as builders, plumbers, and surveyors.
Finally, some electricians work on a self-employed basis or start their own electrical contracting business.
Electrician Responsibilities and Tasks
An electrician’s main duties include:
- Designing electrical systems
- Reading and interpreting electrical schematics and wiring diagrams
- Installing residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems
- Performing routine maintenance on electrical systems and equipment
- Identifying and repairing breakdowns, faults and malfunctions
- Testing and inspecting electrical systems
- Certifying the compliance of electrical installations
How to Become an Electrician - Education and Training
Aspiring electricians usually require a high school leaving certificate or equivalent, followed by a college training course or professional diploma in electrical installation. Courses for electricians typically deal with a range of topics, including electrotechnics, electrical diagrams, electrical systems design, wiring, electrical materials and components, and codes of practice for managing electrical risk in the workplace.
In addition to theoretical knowledge, electricians also require the manual and practical skills necessary to operate the tools and equipment used for electrical installation and maintenance work.
Finally, electricians need a range of IT skills - in particular the ability to use electrical design software and remote diagnostics applications.
Electrician Skills and Qualifications
Electricians typically require the following skills:
- Knowledge of electrotechnics
- Ability to read electrical schematics and wiring diagrams
- Ability to build, install and maintain electrical systems
- Ability to assemble and wire electrical control and power distribution panels in residential, commercial and industrial settings
- Knowledge of electrician’s tools and instruments
- Precision and good manual dexterity
- Organizational and time management skills
- Ability to work without supervision
- Flexibility and willingness to travel locally and nationally
The career of an electrician usually begins with an apprenticeship. This is an opportunity to learn the skills of the trade while earning a wage (for example as a junior electrician or electrician’s assistant). Experience and knowledge of the job may eventually lead to a supervisory role, coordinating the work of other electricians (e.g. as a shift supervisor or foreman).
An alternative career path is to to specialize in a specific area. For example, an electrician may focus on the maintenance of industrial electrical systems and progress to a role such as electrical maintenance manager in a factory or plant, or else specialize in installing a specific type of system or equipment (e.g. a lift engineer or aerial fitter).
Other possibilities include moving into the maritime industry as a marine electrician (responsible for installing and programming electronic equipment for navigation and satellite radio communications on board ships) or designing electrical panels and systems as an electrical/electronic designer.
Electricians with an entrepreneurial mindset may wish to consider opening their own electrical contracting business (focusing on either private or business clients), while those with sales skills may prefer to go into the retail or wholesale of electrical and electronic materials and components.
Top Reasons to Work as an Electrician
A job as an electrician is suitable for anybody interested in a practical, manual position. Thanks to the strong demand for qualified electricians, employed work is relatively easy to find, although many choose to open their own business so they can be free to decide when and how to work.
The skills and expertise of an electrician can be used in a wide variety of settings (e.g. construction sites, companies and businesses, industrial enterprises, private homes) and on a broad range of electrical systems, including automatic gate and door systems, card or fingerprint-based access control systems, radio, television, communication and antenna systems, photovoltaic systems and industrial automation systems.