Electricians: 3 Career Paths You Need to Know About

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You started the way everyone said you should — with training and an apprenticeship. Maybe you’re on your way to becoming certified.

Down the line, you could see yourself as a journeyman.

But there are also opportunities available today that weren’t so obvious just a few years ago. More electricians are branching out into specialty areas that offer a range of perks, from higher pay to increased job satisfaction.

With the strong demand for electricians showing no signs of easing up, now’s the time to explore all your potential career paths.

We spoke with Aerotek’s Blake Poore, a national recruiter who specializes in the skilled trades, to learn more about what’s new in the field.

Poore identified three areas that can be game-changers for electricians.

1. Automation

As more companies turn to automation to increase efficiencies, they need electricians to literally keep their facilities running.

“These are the same high-voltage electricians and electromechanics that everyone wants,” says Poore. “Residential and commercial electricians can do this work, so everyone is going after the same professionals.”

As a result, companies are open to hiring promising candidates who may not have the exact experience they need, but who are willing to learn.

“More than ever before, we’re seeing companies provide training to get people up to speed,” says Poore. “You can get opportunities to develop programmable logic controller and robotics skills while you’re on the job.”

Automation jobs are concentrated in large population centers where manufacturing and distribution centers are located. But with the tight hiring market, employers are bringing in contractors from across the country to fill these positions. 

2. Shipbuilding

With increased military spending and the Navy fleet expansion, the demand for electricians in shipbuilding is also on the rise. This sector is a natural fit for veterans who’ve gained relevant experience during their service.

In addition to having the necessary technical chops, veterans bring another asset to the table — soft skills.

“Vets are adaptable, which is a must-have,” says Poore. “And they have the other soft skills that come with military experience, like reliability and teamwork.”

That’s why the majority of Poore’s placements in shipbuilding positions come from the military. Whether you’re a veteran or not, he reminds all candidates that soft skills are just as essential as experience.

There are soft skills that are ideal for electricians in shipbuilding. “The market is changing. There will always be a spot for someone with experience. But it’s equally important to find people who can branch out from what they’ve traditionally done. This is a trade where you’re constantly learning.” says Poore.

3. Alternative energy

Increased investment in sustainable energy has opened another career path. If you have wire management and cable installation experience, you can step into roles ranging from solar panel installation to wind turbine assembly and maintenance.

If you’re interested in going green, your transition is likely to be smooth.

“Depending on the location, a solar farm may be looking to bring on up to 100 people,” says Poore, “and the wind industry is booming. Everyone needs the same type of professional.”

The takeaway? If you’re open to it, the doors to a career in sustainable energy are wide open.

Why do electricians choose alternative career paths?

In Poore’s experience, here’s what motivates electricians to explore new opportunities.

  • Money. Salaries don’t always keep up with the marketplace, so you may not be getting paid what you’re worth. And your willingness to learn new skills and move into a niche field could add even more to your paycheck.
  • Stagnation. Every job can feel repetitive once you’ve mastered the basics. Maybe you’ve been doing residential for four years and can’t see doing it for much longer. That makes going down a new path even more attractive.
  • Pride. Job satisfaction is more than just feeling good at work — it’s also about feeling good about the work. As Poore explains, “There’s something about seeing a boat go out in the water that you worked on. You think, ‘I was part of that from start to finish.’ That’s a big driver for people.”
  • Training and experience. Even if your employer doesn’t offer a formal training program, you learn from every job you take, especially when you move into a new role.
  • Adventure. Some people like the road warrior lifestyle. Contract work can provide skilled trade workers with job opportunities across the country.

How to get started

If you’re interested in exploring your options, do some research and consider working with a national staffing agency that specializes in the skilled trades. Contract work allows you to try new positions on for size and adds to your resume.

If you’re ready to make a change, Poore advises that there’s no time like the present.

“Right now, this industry is booming.”