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What does an Electrical Contractor do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

An electrical contractor is a construction industry professional who wires businesses, factories, plants and homes to provide them with electrical power. She commonly installs electrical systems and wiring in new structures but can also rewire buildings that are being remodeled or have been damaged by fire or other disasters. Some electricians are affiliated with trade unions and others are independent contractors.

Before an electrical contractor bids on a job, she normally reviews the blueprints for the project. This expansive technical schematic of the building’s floor and wall plans reveal all of the site’s electrical needs. The contractor locates on the blueprints all of the electrical panels, circuit breakers, outlets and switches, along with any specially marked areas that may need extra wiring or backup systems. Next, she customarily meets with the owner or general contractor to determine if there are any special electrical needs of which she should be informed before she prepares her bid.

If the bid is accepted, the electrical contractor proceeds to install all the wiring in the walls and connects them to the appropriate components. As this process proceeds, she customarily double-checks each wiring path and connection for safety and compliance with building codes. To efficiently perform this part of the job, she is normally required to be proficient in using a variety of hand tools, including screwdrivers, pliers, wire strippers and hacksaws.

Commonly used power tools used by an electrical contractor include saws, drills and industrial staple guns, the latter generally used to attach large wires to interior walls without penetrating the wire casing. Small power augers are also sometimes used to create spaces in framing to accommodate wires and outlets. After the wiring system is installed, an electrical contractor typically tests the connections with voltmeters, ohmmeters and other electrical measuring tools.

As telecommunication and security systems change and become more integrated with a site’s electrical operating system, many electrical contractors have expanded their services. A significant number offer the installation of fiber optic and coaxial cables to enable easy hookups for computers and other telecommunications equipment. Other expanded services typically offered include the installation of wiring to accommodate fire and security alarms, intercoms and street lights.

To become an electrical contractor normally requires participation in an apprenticeship program. These programs are typically offered through trade unions or large contracting companies. Trade schools generally offer training programs for aspiring electrical contractors. Some contractors become qualified through programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom coursework.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon989095 — On Feb 19, 2015

I suppose being an independent electric contractor is like being independent in any field. There is something freeing about being your own boss, and if you are good and motivated, then you can potentially earn much more money. On the flip side, you can also be left without work and not knowing where your next paycheck will be coming from. At least we will always need electric contractors as long as we are using electricity.

By JaneAir — On Sep 22, 2011

@Azuza - I think for an electrical contractor, it's probably better to be affiliated with a trade union. A friend of mine works as an electrical contractor, and in our area it's hard to get jobs if you aren't affiliated with the union.

The trade union in our area has such a great reputation with business most businesses think of them first if they need an electrical contractor. The only reason they would hire an independent contractor is if they were offering an extremely cheap price.

By Azuza — On Sep 21, 2011

I think it's great the electrical contractors can work as independent contractors. I've work as an independent contractor before, and it definitely has it's perks. Being your own boss is great, but you do have to be able to get yourself motivated.

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