What Does an Electrician Do? Definition and Salaries

Updated 19 November 2023

Electricians are vital to the maintenance of our electrical systems. Electricians use a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills to install, maintain and resolve any issues with electricity in homes and businesses. Understanding what an electrician does can help you make more informed career choices and better prepare you for your career as an electrician. In this article, we discuss what an electrician does, how to become an electrician, their average salary and their skills and certifications.

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What does an electrician do?

If you're interested in this career, you may wonder, 'What does an electrician do each day?' Electricians secure unsafe electrical systems and fix any faulty equipment for their clients. Electricians can work in a variety of settings, including industrial, residential, business and clinical settings. They're practical tradespeople who ensure the continuous and safe flow of power to homes and businesses.

Electricians may specialise in particular duties such as performing internet installation, installing heavy machinery, performing emergency electrical repairs or working with architects to help design and allocate areas for new electrical systems. Below is a list of daily electricians' tasks:

  • taking calls from clients

  • supervising other electricians

  • analysing technical diagrams

  • producing safety reports

  • preparing invoices

  • delegating work across their team

  • travelling to client locations

  • troubleshooting issues based on electrical symptoms

  • measuring locations for power lines and wiring

  • reviewing construction blueprints

  • advising clients on the best course of action

  • liaising with equipment suppliers

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How to become an electrician

Electricians require extensive theoretical and practical knowledge to successfully maintain systems and resolve issues for their clients. This requires a combination of qualifications and practical experience. Below is a step-by-step guide you may use to become an electrician:

1. Gain a certification

Certification is an excellent way to equip yourself with the theoretical knowledge to start practical work. A Certificate II or III in electro-technology provides students with a solid background in electrical systems, vital for beginning work experience. Holding a professional certification from an authorised body also shows expertise to an employer and may instil more confidence in your abilities.

2. Complete an apprenticeship

Once you have completed your studies, you may undertake a paid apprenticeship. An apprenticeship usually comprises working under the supervision of a fully qualified and experienced electrician, who allows you to observe their working day and perform minor tasks to build your experience. This is an excellent opportunity to apply any teaching from your qualifications and determine whether you wish to continue training as an electrician. Apprenticeships also expand your professional network and may provide you with more job opportunities once you have completed the course.


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3. Obtain a licence

Electricians require a licence to practise legally. A government-issued licence validates that an electrician has the necessary skills to work in the industry safely and effectively. Registration bodies analyse an electrician's skills, experience and any professional qualifications to determine whether they can do the job. Authorised electricians also instil more confidence in clients, potentially increasing their job opportunities.

4. Apply for a job or start your business

Once fully qualified and authorised, you can find a job as an electrician or start your own business. Many electricians are self-employed to set their own rates and work as many hours as they deem fit. Consider starting at an agency or business to build your portfolio and practise working with clients before working autonomously.

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The average salary of an electrician

The average national salary of an electrician is $46.78 per hour. An electrician's salary can vary depending on their employment status, as self-employed electricians may set their own rates, increasing or decreasing their annual salary. The type of electrician also determines the amount of money electricians make, with industrial or master electricians potentially earning more than residential or commercial electricians.

Related: 18 Highest Paying Trades in Australia (Plus Primary Duties)

Electrician skills

Electricians require a combination of industry-specific, hard skills that enable them to do their job accurately and safely. They can also build general employment skills that allow them to interact with their colleagues and work with their customers whilst providing excellent service. Below is a list of hard and soft skills that an electrician uses every day:

Hard skills

Here are some hard or technical skills they may use:

  • Knowledge of electrical systems: This refers to the in-depth knowledge about electrical elements, like circuit breakers, rewiring procedures, installation and troubleshooting techniques. Intricate knowledge of all electrical functions allows electricians to resolve any problems quickly and make necessary adjustments to avoid future problems.

  • Safety knowledge: Working with electrics can be dangerous, so electricians require extensive knowledge of safety protocols and understand how to secure live wires to reduce the risk of injuries or fire. Safety knowledge helps keep clients and electricians safe, so they require rigorous training and certifications to ensure they have up-to-date knowledge.

  • Physical stamina: Electricians may install heavy machinery or fit into hard to reach areas to access wiring. This requires physical stamina to stay in fixed positions for a long time and to install machinery using power tools and specialist equipment.

  • Maths skills: Basic maths skills are useful for determining the length of wiring when installing circuit breakers. Maths skills help electricians accurately diagnose any issues and accurately install mechanisms safely.

  • Accuracy: Accuracy is essential for working safely as an electrician. Mistakes during wire placement or material use could pose a fire hazard or cause mass disruption with power surges, so electricians know how and where to work for the best potential outcomes.

Soft skills

Here are some soft skills electricians may use:

  • Analytical: Analytical skills are crucial to determine client requirements correctly and troubleshoot any issues. Analytical skills help an electrician look at an electrical system and quickly identify the problem.

  • Teamwork: Electricians may work as part of a team, so good teamwork is essential for job satisfaction. This means they evenly distribute workloads, effectively work together to solve any issues with a client and collaboratively work to deliver excellent customer service.

  • Flexibility: An electrician may be self-employed and have unregulated working hours. This means they may have little notice before an urgent job or may work around their client's schedule, so flexibility is important.

  • Technical skills: Electricians may require technical skills to handle client information. This includes using computers to prepare invoices, data entry and use of client management platforms.

  • Communication skills: Communication skills are important for determining client requirements. This is especially important for electricians working to diagnose electrical problems or those working with a client to determine appropriate electrical placement in a new build house or office.

  • Time-management: Electricians may see multiple clients in one day, requiring them to organise their day evenly to cater to everyone's needs. This means they work to keep overrunning on jobs to a minimum and keep track of how long individual jobs take to give their client accurate information on time of arrival and time to work.

  • Customer service: Electricians meet a wide range of clients, so good customer service skills are essential. This helps them build a good rapport and foster a loyal customer base.

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Types of electricians

Below is a list of the electricians you may choose from:

1. Master electrician

Average national salary: $76,773 per year

Primary duties: Master electricians are the most advanced electricians in the industry and work on more demanding cases in almost any facility. They may take on complex cases where safety is a primary concern, or consult on any cases where issues are undiagnosed. They typically lead a team of electricians and supervise when necessary.

2. Residential electrician

Average national salary: $69,808 per year

Primary duties: Residential electricians primarily work to install or maintain electrical systems in homes. This may include rewiring existing circuits, repairing fuse boxes or securing any unsafe electrics like exposed live wires. They may also install and fix home essentials like ovens, fridges, internet and televisions. They may help plan or design homes with owners and architects to plan the best places of electrical systems and install elements like underfloor heating or internet.

3. Commercial electrician

Average national salary: $62,603 per year

Primary duties: Commercial electricians work in commercial settings like businesses that require continuous power to trade. Many commercial buildings have multiple residents, so electricians familiarise themselves with all their electrical needs, including installing internet connections, rewiring and securing safety protocols. Commercial electricians can work in businesses, educational and leisure settings.

4. Industrial electrician

Average national salary: $88,108 per year

Primary duties: Industrial electricians work in industrial facilities such as warehouses or factories and primarily work on equipment like manufacturing tools, forklifts, conveyor belts and other industrial mechanisms. They conduct regular maintenance and repair any faulty equipment. They may also carry out regular safety audits to ensure that all equipment is safe to use by other staff.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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