Electrician Salary

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An electrician’s salary can range anywhere from $50k-200k+ a year depending on location, experience, training, and hours worked. Their salary also depends on how you calculate it and if you include fringe benefits like pension and 401k contributions.

Hourly Rate

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians earn an average of $27 an hour. However, this number is undoubtedly underestimated, as they take into account anyone who works under the classification “electrician”. Meaning the average wage of apprentices (unlicensed) and journeyman (licensed) electricians combined generates that number.

Generally speaking when looking into a career, we want to find out the potential earnings once we obtain the degree, license, or certification. If you want to find out the average salary of a lawyer, you wouldn’t take into account paralegals salary, even though for many that’s a stepping stone.

So if we don’t want to take into account apprentices wages, we have to find a data set of Journeymen wages, and average that. Lucky for you, I have a list of 266 union locals pay scales from across the United States, and even some in Canada. If you average out their base wages, it comes out to $38.20/hour.

Location, Location, Location

Calculating a national average wage for electricians is great and all, but it still doesn’t tell the full story. If you live in Kingsport Tennessee, it doesn’t matter if the national average wage is $38 an hour if the maximum you can find is $22 an hour, which is the base wage of Local 934. Nor does it matter if you live in San Francisco, whose base wage is $80 an hour.

I highly suggest taking a look at the Inside Wireman pay scale chart if you haven’t already, and see what your nearest local pays. Not everyone will join the union however, so if you want to estimate the non-union wage equivalent, you generally take 20-30% off the IBEW base wage.

Hours Worked

Electricians are hourly workers, so to determine their true annual salary amount you have to take in their annual hours worked. It’s very common to have overtime offered in construction, so the opportunity to work 50, 60, or sometimes even 70+ hour weeks is available. (If you’re wondering, most companies don’t require you work overtime. It’s usually optional for those who want it.)

Lets look at a chart breakdown of different cities, their base pay, and how much you would earn a year if you worked a certain amount of hours. Anything over 40 hours a week will be calculated at time and a half, but keep in mind many state labor laws and union agreements will also factor in double time for certain time frames. Having 70 hours weeks for the full year is also unrealistic as man power demand varies day to day, but I’m keeping it so you can get an idea of potential earnings.

Electrician Salary

Retirement

Base wages are only one part of an electrician’s earnings. The other major aspect are earnings that get put into a retirement account. While each union local has a defined hourly amount that goes into these accounts, the accounts themselves can differ. They are either defined contribution pensions, defined benefit pensions, or a 401K retirement account. If you’re interested in learning more about how these retirement accounts work, you can read my IBEW Pension article.

Regardless of what account they go into, this hourly benefit should not be discounted. No non-union electrical contractor offers a pension, and almost none offer a 401k. As far as employer contributions, you can forget about it. You would have to put in your own money from your own paycheck to save, effectively making your weekly checks smaller. The opposite is true for the IBEW. These are employer paid contributions to your retirement accounts that have actual realized payouts upon retiring, and hence should be calculated in with your yearly salary.

Let’s look at that chart again, but add in the locals pension hourly rates. Keep in mind every IBEW local has a minimum of 2 separate pension funds, sometime three, and often an employer 401k contribution on top of that. For simplicity, I will simply add all the totals up to get the “retirement” number for that local. Unfortunately at this time any retirement benefit is not subject to overtime calculations so the rate per hour will always remain the same, unlike base wages.

Electrician Salary with retirement

Advancements

Being a licensed electrician isn’t the end of the road either. Many electricians will move on to a foreman position, which usually nets around a 10% higher hourly rate. After foreman you can become an electrical superintendent, netting you 20% or more than the base journeyman rate. The opportunity for more money is always around the corner in the electrical field. Most union contracts are 3-5 year contracts with guaranteed raises every year. By time the time you go through an apprenticeship program and graduate, journeyman in you area can easily be making another $5-$10 an hour on their check.

Become An Electrician

If you are interested in becoming an electrician, check out the Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Electrician.

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