Society’s dependence on technology and comfort appliances means that electricians are always in high demand. If you are considering a career as an electrician, it is worth exploring the specialties within the field, one of which is construction electrical.
A construction electrician is a highly skilled and knowledgeable professional who works primarily on new construction. This may include residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. They work to design, plan, and install the electrical systems necessary for these buildings to function correctly.
Performing electrical work on new construction is very different from what most people envision an electrician doing. Here we provide more information about this specialty career to help you see if it is a good fit.
What Is Construction Electrical?
Construction electrical encompasses all of the electrical components necessary to get a new building connected to the electric grid and operating. Among other things, it includes elements such as:
- Conduit and wiring
- Switches and power receptacles
- Fixtures such as lights and fans
- Electric panels and breakers
While this list is far from comprehensive, it gives you an idea of the broad scope of knowledge required of electricians who choose to work on new construction. That scope can expand further when commercial and industrial applications are included.
Besides knowing how to install and maintain these components, construction electricians must also have in-depth knowledge of applicable building codes and safety procedures. Since these are updated often, maintaining this knowledge usually requires attending continuing education classes.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration established and maintains safety standards for job sites, including new construction. They also approve state plans for the same. For this reason, anyone wishing to pursue an electrical career in new construction must keep up with OSHA standards.
Responsibilities of a Construction Electrician
Construction electricians are responsible for many features of a construction project. First, they must develop the initial plan to ensure that all electrical systems meet local and state building codes. Then, they secure the required supplies and install them according to regulations. Supplies often include conduit, wiring, and fixtures.
CEs are also responsible for ensuring there is sufficient electrical support for major systems in a building. This may include HVAC, water heaters, and major appliances for homes. In addition, electricians may need to plan for more complex systems in commercial and industrial buildings, such as specialty ventilation and large equipment.
Difference Between a CE and CW
Wiremen have less responsibility and authority than electricians on a job site. They usually handle tasks such as following building and safety codes and completing basic wiring work. It is generally considered part of the training to become a construction electrician.
A construction wireman often runs wires under the supervision of a licensed electrician or foreman. As such, this is an excellent entry-level position if you are considering advancing to a licensed electrician. In addition, some schools, unions, or training centers offer programs that provide official training as you progress through the CW stages and gain the hours of experience necessary to apply for a CE license.
Considering these factors, it appears that a construction wireman is only a path to becoming a licensed electrician. However, some workers may choose to stay in this position.
Main Differences Between Construction Electrical and Service Electrical Work
Suppose you have always pictured electrical work as involving service calls to homes or businesses. In that case, you may be surprised to learn some of the differences between construction and service electrical work. Let’s look at some of the main differences.
Scheduling and Work-Life Balance
Service electricians tend to work a varied schedule depending on the needs of customers and clients. This is particularly the case for those who are self-employed. However, electricians who specialize in new construction tend to have more regular schedules.
Salaries between new construction and service electricians are comparable. Glassdoor reports that construction electricians earn a national average of $70,500 per year compared to around $78,215 for service electricians. Both figures are above the BLS-reported average of $63,310 for electricians.
Training is similar for construction and other types of electricians. It generally includes formal training at a trade or technical school and working as an electrical apprentice or electrician’s helper. One exception is the step of working as a construction wireman, which provides necessary experience working with related electrical components.
FAQ About Becoming a Construction Electrician
Whether you choose to focus on new construction or service work, becoming an electrician is involved. The following answers to common questions about what is a construction electrician and how to get started in the field can help guide your next steps.
What Type of License Does a Construction Electrician Need?
The requirements for electrician licenses vary from state to state; however, most places will require you to obtain a master electrician license to be a construction electrician. Therefore, you will usually need a combination of formal training and significant experience working in the electrical field to apply for a license.
Are There Additional Career Opportunities Outside of Construction Electrical Work?
Experienced electricians have several opportunities to advance their careers. In addition to branching into other, non-construction related areas, they may choose to pursue supervisory positions such as:
- Construction supervisors
- Jobsite foremen
- Project estimators
What Is the Career Outlook for CEs?
Becoming an electrician is usually a safe career choice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians can expect a job growth rate of about 9% between 2020 and 2030, which is slightly higher than average for construction trades.
If you are considering a career as an electrician, you may be interested in learning more about construction electrical and what it entails. Construction electricians plan, design, and install the electrical components of new construction projects. These may be residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. The career outlook for electricians is strong, and working on new construction can help you progress into other supervisory positions.
Training usually includes classroom instruction and an apprenticeship followed by several years of lower-level work experience as a construction wireman. Once you accumulate enough hours of experience, you can apply for a license. This process varies slightly between states but generally follows a similar path.