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Levels of the electrical trade

There are four levels of skilled workers in the electrical trade. Each worker has an important position in getting jobs completed. You have multiple phases of the electrical trade with low voltage, medium voltage, high voltage, and other certifications that are required to do certain work. Most of the the residential and commercial electricians fall into one of these four categories no matter what other certifications they may receive.

  1. Electrical Helper: Nearly all electricians start out as a helper. The only people who skip this level are people who are already attending an electrical apprenticeship before they are hired by an electrical contractor. A helper can come in different skill sets. Most helpers are workers that are just starting out in the electrical trade. They may only have basic hand tools. They are learning how to do the must basic tasks on a job site. Electrical knowledge would be very limited to none. They are used to gather materials and be just a helping hand on jobs. They do a lot of the grunt work. The other skill level of a helper would be a worker that's been in the electrical trade for multiple years, but have no licenses or apprenticeship card. Before apprenticeships, this was most the electricians that you would come across. They may not have the book knowledge, but they can complete jobs. I've met many electricians like this over the years. The downside for some of these skilled workers is that they can't make the full journeyman wage rate on jobs because they lack the licensing.

2. Electrical Apprentice: An apprentice is a very valuable worker on bigger job sites for companies that are focused on the bottom line and not the total quality of the completed job. An apprentice could have multiple skill levels. You may have one that is in their first few years. They are learning the code book. This adds knowledge when they get out in the field for the different installs. In my second year of schooling, the code book really started to make sense when I would go to jobs and do an install. By the time an apprentice is in their fourth year of learning and working, they are given the responsibilities of the journeyman electrician. When companies realize that they have apprentices that get to this skill level, they put more responsibilities on the apprentice, and start to cut the higher waged journeymen from jobs. You have a minimum amount of journeymen that are required on jobs. You can have an uneven number of apprentices on that job that the journeyman is responsible for overseeing their work. This allows for cheaper labor on jobs. I learned that apprentices can make multiple mistakes on jobs, because their mistakes appear to cost less than having another skilled journeyman on the job directing them.

3. Journeyman Electrician: A journeyman has done all of the work in class and in the field to test for their license. They have passed their county or state exam to get to this level in most cases. This is a proud moment in their career. The earning potential is much higher. The responsibilities are added to their day to day work. They will be leading jobs, crews, going to jobs solo to complete work, and handling other leadership tasks. As soon as I received my journeyman license, I started driving the company van. I got to take it home. Some apprentices get to do this also. Most of the work completed on jobs is ran by a journeyman electrician. There are lots of electricians that get to this level of skill and stay there. There are no real differences in the field work between a journeyman and the next level.

4. Master Electrician: A master electrician is the highest level of skill in the trade. They have studied longer than a journeyman. They have worked just as hard in the field. They took an even harder exam to gain the licensing. They have more responsibilities than a journeyman. A master electrician must carry insurance in order to keep their license level. A master electrician has the ability to pull permits for jobs. A company that does not have a master electrician cannot function a full service contractor without having the ability to pull permits. The master electrician is ultimately responsible for teaching the workers under them. A master electrician may not always be out in the field when they gain this licensing. They may be required to complete more office tasks when they get to this level. They may have to deal with hiring the next workers under them. They deal with scheduling future work, making sure the customers are taken care of, permits are being pulled, and working with other potential clients to gain more work. These are the reasons why lots of electricians don't aspire to go past journeyman level. You have to have a different drive in life to make it to the top level. Someone being master of their profession is a person that didn't want to settle until they reached their goal.

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