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Did you know?*
- Industrial Electricians learn in apprenticeship programs, vocational high schools, and community or technical colleges, as well through informal on-the-job training.
- Industrial Electricians work in various manufacturing industries, including paper and wood mills, food processing, breweries, metal fabrication, and more.
- Although overall employment is projected to decline, job opportunities are expected to be good due to retirements occurring in the skilled workforce.
* Information retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Industrial Electricians are highly skilled individuals who safely install, service and troubleshoot equipment, and perform preventative and predictive maintenance functions. They work with plant lighting equipment, distribution circuits and transformers; motors, starters, and motor control centers; programmable logic controllers, computer-based controls, control panel, and electrical control systems. In addition, they may service high voltage electrical systems. Industrial Electricians perform all work in accordance with relevant codes.
While some of the controls and systems may be similar, Industrial Electricians must understand their unique properties, and must constantly learn new systems and relevant codes.
Before they perform a task, Industrial Electricians must carefully plan and prepare for the work. They review electronic or written blueprints or specifications for a job. Next, they determine which tools and material are needed, and plan the sequence of work.
Work typically falls into one or more of the following categories:
- Electrical Construction, including:
- installing conduit and wiring for power distribution and lighting
- panel building
- installing conduit and wiring for machine and equipment controls
- laying out, planning and installing of control systems including programmable controllers, drives, servo systems, etc.
- installing communication and data systems
- Electrical Maintenance, including:
- Maintaining, trouble shooting, repairing and/or replacing the following items: power distribution and lighting systems, including substations; industrial machinery and equipment, such as motors, electronic controls, and material handling equipment; and general plant equipment, such as HVAC, generators, and boilers.
- Effectively using electrician’s tools, including hand and power tools and electrical and electronic test equipment.
- Performing scheduled preventative maintenance tasks, such as checking, cleaning and repairing equipment to detect and prevent problems.
- High Voltage (above 600 volts), including:
- High voltage training, including proper use of personal protective equipment
- Safe use of hand tools, power tools, electrical and electronic test equipment
- Installing and maintaining high voltage equipment
- Circuit design and drafting
- Schematic and/or blueprint reading
- Communicating effectively with equipment operators to troubleshoot equipment problems and determine root causes
- Utilizing work order management systems effectively
After the work is completed, Industrial Electricians use both simple and highly sophisticated tools to check the accuracy of their work against blueprints.
Because technology is changing rapidly, Industrial Electricians must continuously learn a wide range of machines.
Today, most modern industrial facilities are relatively clean, well lit, and ventilated. Industrial Electricians are typically not limited to a specific work area; rather, they are highly mobile and active throughout the facility, going wherever their skills are needed. However, they must be able to stand for long periods of time and work in cramped or uncomfortable positions and on ladders and lifts. They often work with their hands above their heads, in confined spaces and in a variety of conditions and temperatures, both hot and cold.
Working around machines and equipment and with high voltage presents certain dangers. Industrial Electricians must vigilantly follow safety precautions, and wear personal protective equipment, such as high-voltage suits and gloves, safety belts, protective glasses and/or hard hats, to avoid common hazards.
Industrial Electricians typically work a 40-hour week, and overtime is common.
Persons interested in becoming Industrial Electricians should be mechanically inclined, have good problem-solving abilities, be able to work independently, and be able to do highly accurate work that requires concentration and physical effort.
Industrial Electricians train in apprenticeship programs, informally on the job, and in technical colleges. Regardless of the training setting, Industrial Electricians must possess or gain the following knowledge:
- High school diploma, General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or high school equivalency certificate
- Using and maintaining tools
- Applied mathematics, especially algebra and geometry
- Basic computer functions and applications
- High pressure safety policies and procedures
High school or vocational school courses in algebra, geometry and blueprint reading are highly recommended.
Apprenticeship programs consist of on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction lasting up to 4 years. During on-the-job learning, apprentices work almost full time, and are supervised by an experienced Industrial Electrician. Classroom instruction includes AC and DC electricity, safety blueprint reading, motors and generators, and more. Apprenticeship classes are often taught in cooperation with local community or vocational colleges.
A growing number of Industrial Electricians learn the trade through 2-year associate degree programs at community or technical colleges. Graduates of these programs still need significant on-the-job experience before they are fully qualified.
What Does the Apprenticeship Program Require?
- 4-year training program
- 7,600 hours on-the-job learning
- 720 hours of paid related instruction
- Additional hours of unpaid related instruction
- Transition-To-Trainer Course in the final year of the apprenticeship
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Entry requirements vary by employer
- Applicants apply directly to participating employers
- Active Listening: Ability to give full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Arm-Hand Steadiness: Ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position
- Communication: Oral and written with an emphasis on understanding verbal instructions, written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Language Skills: Ability to read and interpret documents such as safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions, and procedure manuals; ability to write routine reports and correspondence; ability to speak effectively to individuals and groups.
- Manual Dexterity: The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
- Mathematical Skills: Ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in all units of measure using whole numbers, common fractions, and decimals; ability to compute basic algebraic, geometric, and trigonometric formulas used in shop mathematics.
- Near Vision: The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Physical Ability: The ability to stand, walk, push, pull, reach overhead, and bend to the floor.
- Problem Sensitivity: The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
- Reasoning: The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense. The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Time Management: Ability to manage one's own time and the time of others
- Troubleshooting: Ability to determine causes of operating errors and decide what to do about it
- Trunk Strength: The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.
- Visual Color Discrimination: The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains information on all occupations. For more information on the Machinist trade in the United States, visit:
Sources: Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards Position Descriptions,
Apprenticeship in Wisconsin Handbook