3. Electrician

The Modern World Would Not Exist Without Electricity

We use electricity constantly.  Most people are afraid to touch it.  For the most part, it is not the hardest thing to do.  It does take some basic training to get up and started.  It takes a few years of training to do the more complex things like installing a service to a home or laying out how to wire an entire house.  Electricity can and does kill, so this is not a job where you can be a total screw-up.  But when you see some things done, get trained on them, you will wonder why it is such a big secret.

This is a  Classic Skilled Trade

Electrical work follows a fairly formal training.  You could get on an independent crew or go through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training program.  The former gets you working faster but you will not learn as much and may end up a glorified laborer.  The IBEW will be more formal and channel you to one or another classification such as residential, industrial, commercial, lineman, etc.

A word to the wise.  The IBEW does not take just anyone who shows up.  There is a test for starters, do not take it lightly.  From what I have heard, if you study, you should pass.  If you do not study, you will for sure not pass.  They have a math requirement of Algebra or above, so even though your Algebra teacher could not tell you what you needed Algebra for (I have never met one who could!) now you know.  They will interview you same as any other job, so knowing why you prefer the electrical trades is something you need to do.

Like many trades, there may be a shortage of qualified people, but that does not mean a shortage of people trying to break-in to the trade.  Take it serious, or they will not take you serious.

Fitting the BPB Lifestyle

There are two types of workers, install and maintenance.  Install is what it says, all new work.  Maintenance is fixing what is already there.  Install means you will be working in more open areas, with new things.  Maintenance you might be working in an old place, with old things that do or do not all fit together nicely.  No matter what, you are working in anything but cubicleland.  This means it will be cold, hot. humid, or any other kind of environment

Install is less predictable, which is good and bad.  You may work 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week part of the year and laid off in winter.  Some people cannot handle this, others thrive on it.  Social life is more difficult, but it might let you lie on the beach in Belize with an “open return” ticket, leaving when you are ready not on the next Saturday.

IBEW is all over the USA.  It is what is called a “hiring hall” union.  You show up, show your card, and declare your availability.  Contractors who need skilled guys call and say, “Hey, send me 50 journeymen and 10 masters” to get the job done.  Union tells you to show up somewhere and who to report to.  Then you are on the job.  Of course, it is a little more complex, but you can go place to place and have a place to get employment.  Tired of Harrisburg and want to move to Raleigh?  Just check out the Local at the city you want to move to.  If you are lucky, maybe they say, “Hell yeah we need people!  Get your tail down here!”

Thoughts on Going For It

Going down this road is a big decision.  Some people hate some trades and love others.  Try and take a basic class at a community college or get on a crew doing basic wiring.  If you do not like it, and nothing is for everyone, better to find out you hate pulling wire soon rather than after a longer process.  Pay is about $30,000-90,000 with $55,000 being the median.  This does appear to be a job where you can goose earnings with OT and maybe squeeze that $55,000 into 9-10 months.