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Electrical Technology Is Advancing. Are You?

From new urban destinations like Dallas Midtown to the latest electric sedan from Tesla Motors, wherever you find development, you’ll find electricians. To put it simply, they are the men and women who make things happen. Electricians find employment in a variety of industries, using their full body – hands, heart and a technical mind – to advance our city, state and nation.

Louis DeVault, a union electrician with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, says he is excited to see all the new technology entering the electrical field.

“We are just scratching the surface of this technology and what it can do,” says Louis, who was first interested in studying electricity after realizing the power of magnets and electricity, as demonstrated by static cling. “Fifty years from now … even 10 years from now … electrical technology will be a whole new ball game.”

Sounds Cool, But What Do Electricians Do?

Long story short, electricians install, maintain and repair electrical wiring, electrical equipment and electrical fixtures. This can range from street lights and charging stations for electric cars to office intercom systems. 

Whatever the assignment, electricians make sure their work is done in accordance with important codes. After all, safety is key when you are working with electricity (as is good training)! 

Electricians rely on applied mathematics and technology to accomplish their daily tasks. Teamwork is also part of the job, and it is not unusual for electricians to work with architects, building engineers, elevator installers, HVAC workers or homeowners. Because of their knowledge, some electricians also find work as construction or building inspectors.  

Less Talking. More Doing.

Do you find yourself fascinated by home improvement and remodeling shows? Do you like to visit Lowe's or Michaels to take on a weekend DIY project? Was the science fair or an afternoon art class your favorite part of high school?

You may enjoy a hands-on career.

“Hands-on means minds-on,” says DeVault. “As humans we are naturally more engaged and focused when we are working on a hands-on project, and electrical work requires plenty of hands-on projects. You truly use all of your senses and skills — moving materials around, analyzing blueprints, listening to a peer or explaining a new system. It is hard work but also a lot of fun.”

Hands-on careers are great pathways for all types of learners. Obviously hands-on work resonates with the tactile learners, who need movement to absorb information, but hands-on is also engaging for auditory learners, who like to discuss what they are doing, as well as visual learners who have the opportunity to see the results of their work.

Training Begins in the Classroom 

North Lake College student Robert Rodriguez began studying electrical technology after working as a human resources manager for McCormick and Co., an international spice company. Upon retirement, he traded his mouse for wire cutters and hasn’t stopped learning since.

“The best thing is that I’m getting a very good understanding of the theoretical concepts of electricity so that I’ll know what I’m doing in the field,” explained Robert. “I’m not just learning how to wire and connect A to B, but I’m getting an understanding of how electricity works. I’m not fooling around with it at home — I’m just at the dangerous part, where I know a little but I also know not to try anything stupid.”

Robert credits electrical technology professor Tom Hoops for his success in the classroom. In fact, Hoops seems to be a popular professor when listening to students' success stories. “There’s the academic side of electrical knowledge and theory, and then there’s the practical side of application in the field, and he knows both,” says Rodriguez of Hoops. 

Fellow electrical student Jared Mercantel agrees that Hoops is a standout professor. “The electrical theory class with Tom Hoops has a lot of math too — you have to be able to figure out how many amps and how much voltage you’ll need to do the job,” says Jared.  “It really teaches you how to be a project manager and figure out what you need for every job.”

Learn the Business, Then Start Your Own

Many electrical technology students are interested in starting their own business. The idea of being their own boss is attractive as well as the flexibility of balancing work and home. However, competition can be fierce. Starting your own electric company requires business sense.

Our advice? Learn as much as you can from industry professionals, like your instructors, and seize opportunities for work apprenticeships (i.e., paid internships). Some concepts you will discover in the classroom, while others you will learn on the job.

“You should take as many courses as you can and learn as much information as you can,” advises Omar Serrano, a student at North Lake and an estimator for Able Electric Service. “The more you get exposed to and learn, the more you’ll succeed.” 

Watts and Watts of Job Opportunities

Over the next seven years, employment for electricians in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (DFW) area will grow. How much? An annual average rate of 2.4%. This rate increases when you examine national employment, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics​ projecting 14% job growth from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The industry currently employing the most electricians in this occupation is building equipment contractors. Commercial office building is especially hot. In fact, DFW is a national leader for commercial office building construction, second only to the city of New York. Commercial office building construction in DFW grew 35% in 2015 alone.

The future of electrical technology is advancing with the growth of alternative power sources like wind, wave or solar energy. It is not unusual for electricians to find work building a new power plant or hydroelectric dam. Electricians working in factories tend to have the most stable employment.

Overall, the average annual wage for electricians in DFW is $41,700. Those with Spanish speaking skills are in high demand.

Plug Into a New Career

Considering a career in electrical technology? Or maybe you are a homeowner who wants to know the basics? North Lake College will give you the training you need to reach your personal goals. 

Credit and continuing education (CE) classes are housed at the college’s West Campus, near DFW Airport. If you choose to earn a certificate or degree, these can be completed in as little as two to four semesters.  Interested? Get plugged in today!

* Note: The state of Texas regulates electrical licenses. Electricians can be licensed by the state after four years and 8,000 hours of field training as a paid apprentice. Increased skills lead to increased pay.