Career to Consider
Inspecting, installing, maintaining and repairing electrical systems
When machines and equipment fail, most people fret, but not Griff Slatten — these are the situations he is most fond of. He just puts on his gloves, gathers his tools and enjoys the troubleshooting process.
“First, I talk with the machine operator to determine the scope of the problem,” Slatten explains. “Then, I trace out the wiring and equipment to find out the cause. Then, I make the necessary repairs.”
Slatten, an electrician and business owner for over 28 years, owns Griff’s Electric, Inc., based in Signal Hill, Calif. He has four employees and provides electrician services to cities all over Los Angeles County. “I decided to become an electrician through influence by my cousin,” Slatten says. “I always enjoyed fixing things, problem-solving and figuring out puzzles.”
As a business owner, Slatten starts his work day early. First, he checks in with his employees, conducts an office meeting and confirms the work schedule with his foreman. Next, he checks messages and emails and catches up on bids, invoices and other office paperwork. Slatten will usually have several electrical jobs to do throughout the day, as well as customer and account meetings.
As an electrician, Slatten has the pleasure of working in different work environments. “I get to go behind the scenes in various public and private settings, including police departments, theme parks, jail cells, hospital surgery rooms, radio stations and museums,” Slatten says. “Yes, even Disneyland.” Slatten says his biggest on-the-job challenges include, keeping up effective communication with customers and employees and staying current with the rapidly changing industry.
Does This Sound Like You?
Electricians inspect, install, maintain and repair electrical systems in businesses and homes. Electricians know how to read blueprints and work with circuit boxes, breakers, transformers and wiring to do jobs like installing fixtures or replacing outlets. They must accomplish all of this while adhering to the National Electric Code and other state and local regulations.
Most electricians work in the construction industry, either independently or with a crew of different technicians. Electricians use various tools, such as ohmmeters, ammeters, oscilloscopes and voltmeters to measure electrical resistance and activity.
The ideal electrician candidate is good with math and enjoys problem-solving, critical thinking, figuring out how things work and getting his or her hands dirty. Being in good shape helps, too: electricians frequently need to climb ladders or work in small spaces.
What about getting electrical shocks? “It is not common to get shocked. However, it does happen from time to time,” Slatten explains. To prevent this from occurring, electricians: de-energize (turn off the power); wear protective gloves, clothes and eye-wear; and use insulated tools.
It is important for electricians to have good color vision so that they can identify different colored wires.
Electricians need a combination of formal technical training (which covers electrical theory) and hands-on field experience. “Both types of training are necessary,” Slatten says. “So much information is available online. Use the Internet as a starting point and then go get hands-on training.” He says that mechanical/machine shops are a good place to start. Studying for state certification is definitely a must.
The California Department of Industrial Relations issues five different types of electrician certifications:
1. Non-Residential Lighting
2. Residential Lighting
The requirements for each type vary. For example, Non-Residential Lighting Electrician certification requires at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience, while General Electrician certification requires at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience. Candidates who do not have any experience can apply for an apprenticeship or attend technical school.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for an electrician in the Los Angeles area is $52,910.
Electricians can teach or choose to start their own business, like Slatten did. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics [www.bls.com], 10 percent of electricians were self-employed in 2010. They can also increase their knowledge base and expand their skillset by pursuing additional electrical certifications or by learning about soldering, communications, fire alarm systems or elevators.
"The moments that stand out the most are the ones where I am out in the field, tools in hand, figuring out the electrical challenge,” Slatten says. “Even the toughest day in the field beats any day in the office doing paperwork.”