Electrician types vary by certification level and specialization.
Most people will want to hire a residential electrician for home projects.
Wirepeople is another name for inside electricians.
Always double-check an electrician’s certifications before hiring them.
Unless you have serious skills, the electrical systems 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. But there are so many types of electricians, so who do you pick?
Understanding more about the levels of certifications and specialties will help you get the right person for any electrical work you need completed. That’s exactly where we come in. Explore each type of electrician and the common certification levels below to help you confidently make a decision for your next electrical project.
Types of Electricians Based on Certification Level
For any home electrical repairs or projects, it’s essential to look for a fully licensed electrician near you. You probably 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. These programs usually take about four years to complete. During that time, an individual will receive many hours of on-the-job and in-class experience and instruction overseen by a more experienced electrician.
Journeypeople (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 sufficient experience for any job in their specialty.
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 vary, but typically this certification involves completing around 4,000 hours of work as a journeyperson 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 vs. Linespeople
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 buildings and other structures. Their job is incredibly important, but they’re not who you should call to hang a chandelier in your dining room.
Types of Electricians by Specialty
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 system upgrades, repairs, or installations. From circuit breaker upgrades to air conditioning repairs to yard security lighting installation, they cover a wide range of around-the-home work. You can hire an independent residential electrician or one that works for an electrical contractor.
If you’ve owned, managed, or worked in an office setting, you will have undoubtedly come across a commercial electrician. Performing similar work to a residential electrician but in a commercial setting, these individuals often work with larger-scale businesses.
Commercial electricians can work on installations, maintenance, repairs, and more. 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 need 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’s a need for timely repairs or upgrades for specific electric issues.
If you just found an outdated wiring system in your home, like knob and tube wiring, and need a new electrical system stat, an installation electrician can help. They often work on new build projects and set up the wiring and systems required for lighting, security, and heating and cooling systems, among other things.
Are you finally building your dream home from the ground up? You’ll want to call a construction electrician for that job. As you might guess by the name, construction electricians specialize in electrical systems in both residential and commercial construction sites. This unique type of electrician is responsible for all things electrical in a new construction: creating plans, making prototypes, and working with all of the wiring systems on a site.
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 vehicle 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.
What Type of Electrician Is the Best?
Most people living in a home and needing regular service will want to call a residential electrician, but that might not be the case for everyone. The best type of electrician for you will highly depend on the situation you're in and your unique project goals. Here are some of the more common examples of what the best electrician would be in different scenarios:
Residential electrician: You need to upgrade, repair, or replace any electrical system in your home.
Maintenance electrician: You’re a landlord or building owner working in the industrial or commercial space and need consistent upkeep.
Installation electrician: You just moved into a new home and need something installed, like a security system or lighting.
Construction electrician: You’re building a new home or doing an extensive renovation.
Finding a Licensed Electrician
If you’re currently on the hunt to find the best electrician for your job, we have some tips that will help. You always want to ask the right questions to an electrician before making a final hiring decision, including requesting references. Select a licensed, reputable electrician so that you have the assurance that they have the required qualifications and experience.
They’re also required to have appropriate insurance and bonds, so make sure this is the case when you’re talking to pros. There are several ways to verify an electrician’s license, including contacting your state’s Department of Labor.
If you don’t do these checks and simply opt for the most budget-friendly quote, it could leave you open to the risk of faulty electrical work that can be a fire hazard. Plus, your insurance may not cover any damages caused, so make sure you put a lot of time and effort into your search for an electrician.