Not all electricians are created equal—understanding more about the different types of electricians and their qualifications can help you get the right support for electrical work in your home
Unless you have serious skills, the electrics in your home are not something you want to mess with. For any major electrical repairs or projects, you will likely need to employ an electrician. They are skilled and licensed tradespeople responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems and devices.
There are many different types of electricians with varying degrees of expertise. Understanding more about the levels of certifications and specialties will help you get the right person for any electrical work you need completed.
Types of Electrician Based on Certification Level
For any home electrical repairs or projects, it’s essential to look for a fully licensed electrician. You wouldn’t let someone without a license cut your hair, so the same should go for your wiring. To gain a license, individuals need to have a particular level of technical training.
Requirements vary from state to state, but electricians usually earn certifications through specific classroom and on-the-job experience. However, depending on the company you hire and the complexity of the work, you could have individuals with varying levels of certification involved in the job.
“Electrician expertise can vary,” says Don Adams, general manager of Regional Foundation Repair in Wilmington, DE. “For example, large-scale projects like construction sites and outdoor rigging require different skills than general home maintenance. Asking an electrician about their area of expertise will give you an idea of how long it will take for the job to be done and how well.”
If you have an apprentice electrician working in your home, they should never be working unsupervised. Apprenticeship programs are typically the first step toward becoming a licensed electrician. They usually take about four years to complete, and, during that time, an individual will receive many hours of on-the-job and in-class experience and instruction.
Journeymen (also referred to as licensed electricians) regularly work on home electrical jobs. These individuals have completed the entire apprenticeship program and passed an exam to apply for their license. Gaining this level of certification enables them to work without supervision and offers the assurance that they have a sufficient level of experience.
Unless you have an exceptionally complex job in your home, it’s unlikely you will need a Master Electrician. This is the highest level of electrical certification achievable. The requirements to attain this level vary but typically involve completing around 4,000 hours of work as a Journeyman and passing an in-depth exam.
Master Electricians often have licensed contracting businesses and supervise a staff of electricians on complex commercial, industrial, or large-scale residential projects.
Wirepeople, Not Linespeople, Handle Home Electrics
Licensed electricians can move into many specialist fields. Most of these fall into two broad categories: Wirepeople and linespeople. For electrical jobs in your home, a wireperson will complete the work for you.
Wirepeople (or inside electricians) work with the electrical components required in residential, industrial, and commercial buildings. Linespeople, also referred to as outside electricians, work with high-voltage power lines sent to the buildings and structures.
Specialist Types of Electricians
Although you will likely need an electrician that specializes in residential electrics, there are many niche fields in which qualified individuals can work. Some may also work in a combination of fields. Understanding some common types of electricians could help you if you ever need to hire one in a non-residential or specific residential setting.
This is the most common type of electrician and the one you are most likely to employ for any home electrical systems upgrades, repairs, or installations. From circuit breaker upgrades to air conditioning repairs to yard security lighting installation, they cover a wide range of in-home work. You may hire an independent residential electrician or one that works for an electrical contractor.
If you have owned, managed, or worked in an office setting, you will undoubtedly have come across a commercial engineer. Performing similar work to a residential electrician, but in a commercial setting, these individuals often work in larger-scale businesses. They could work on installation processes, maintenance, repairs, or a combination of elements. Jobs could range from introducing or upgrading security systems to office air conditioning repairs. An understanding of public safety regulations is essential in this field.
As the name implies, you aren’t likely to come across an industrial electrician in your search for someone to do a home appliance repair. These individuals work on a variety of electrical jobs, but all in an industrial setting. Their work could include anything from power or processing plants to factories, manufacturing facilities, or mines. They usually have an in-depth knowledge of large-scale manufacturing and computer systems, as well as complex machinery.
If you own a set of condos or apartments that you rent out, you may require a maintenance electrician. They work across commercial, industrial, and residential settings and inspect, monitor, and maintain electrical equipment. They need diagnostic and troubleshooting skills to understand if there is a need for timely repairs or upgrades for specific electric issues.
If you need a new type of electrical system introduced in your home, an installation electrician could be just what you need. They often work on new build projects and set up the wiring and systems required for lighting, security, heating and cooling systems, among other things.
If the electrics in your car are wonky, you may need to look for an auto electrician. With extensive knowledge of vehicle diagnostics and computer-based repair tools, the work they do ensures you can operate your car safely.
Boat owners may need to employ this less common specialist. They often hone their trade at seamanship school and have in-depth knowledge of the marine equipment used on water-faring vessels.
Finding a Licensed Electrician
By selecting a licensed, reputable electrician, not only do you have the assurance that they have the required qualifications and experience, but they are also required to have appropriate insurance and bonds. Failure to do these checks and simply opting for the cheapest quote leaves you open to the risk of faulty electrical work that can be a fire hazard. Plus, your insurance may not cover any damages caused.