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What Does a Master Electrician Do?

A master electrician working.
Some master electricians find work supervising industrial electrical work.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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A master electrician typically oversees a staff of laborers, electrician apprentices and journeymen electricians on commercial, industrial and residential jobs. He normally schedules each phase of the job to meet predetermined deadlines and orders all necessary parts, components and materials. At each stage of completion, the master electrician often checks the crew’s work for quality and compliance with industry codes and standards.

If the project is new construction, the master electrician normally reviews the blueprints either with his crew or the general contractor before starting work. He generally examines each sketch and wiring diagram to ensure the correct specifications are in place. The next step he typically takes is to confirm all the electrical symbols and terms on the plans are clear and correct. This scrutiny prior to commencing the job can greatly reduce incidents of error once the project is underway.

The master electrician may approach remodels a bit differently than new projects. He still carefully reviews the plans, but his focus often includes reviewing the currently existing wiring and electrical systems as well. Once he determines what can be salvaged and what cannot, the master electrician can accurately compile his list of necessary materials. He is also normally expected to clearly communicate to his crew what is to be left intact to prevent mix-ups as the project proceeds.

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In addition to supervising his staff, a master electrician is commonly required to be educated on the installation, maintenance, repair and safe removal of anything electrical. This generally includes controls, switches, outlets, circuits, systems and appliances. If peripheral non-electrical obstacles are involved, such as plumbing or underground public utility systems, he is typically expected to know how to work around them or whom to contact for assistance or approval.

Managerial skills are commonly required to achieve success as a master electrician. He is generally expected to negotiate the best pricing for materials, effectively project manpower requirements and communicate with other contractors to identify and resolve problems. Progress reports may be required on some commercial or industrial projects. His job frequently requires interactions with project managers or business owners if a job falls behind schedule or non-compliance issues arise that he cannot independently resolve.

To qualify to be a master electrician requires a high school diploma or equivalent along with training on local and regional codes and standards that apply to electrical construction and installation. Most jobs require at least journeyman level experience. In lieu of journeyman certification, some employers may accept a minimum of seven years successful experience in electrical maintenance or construction.

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jcraig
Post 4

@titans62 - I think there would be plenty of reasons for someone not to want to become a master electrician, especially under the conditions you described.

If you have the master electrician license, it may be wise to start your own company. The fact that there are only two companies probably means that there is not enough demand for a third. I'm guessing it would be hard for anyone else to get started, and that's only if they wanted to start a business. Maybe they don't want the extra responsibility. Having the master's license would also make you worth more, and a company might not be willing to keep you if you started demanding more money.

For a larger business, though, having a lot of master electricians could be very valuable. Even though only one or two people may be in charge of the company itself, they could have many master electricians working under them on different projects.

titans62
Post 3

@TreeMan - I think the test probably is pretty difficult. I live in a fairly small town where there are really only two competing electrical companies. I have used both of them in the past. It just depends on who I think will do the work the best for the right price. Each of the companies, though, have had some people working for them for several years. At least 20. I know by that time these people would have been eligible to take the master electrician test.

I would say that maybe they just didn't pass or didn't think that they could pass in the first place. I don't know why you wouldn't want to become a master electrician if you thought you met all the master electrician requirements and thought you had the knowledge to pass the test.

Either way, it is good for the companies, because they are able to have journeymen that have a lot of experience. Since they've been around a while, a lot of people also are familiar with all the people and feel comfortable with them in their homes.

TreeMan
Post 2

@Emilski - I think the main benefit of getting master electrician certification is that you can run your own business like you mentioned. Besides that, master electricians are able to apply for permits to install wiring and can legally design the electrical layout for commercial and industrial buildings.

As far as the timeframe goes, I'm not too sure about that. If I had to guess, I'd say it takes at least about 10 years from start to finish. I have a friend in the plumbing business, and he says that the states are very stringent about contractors knowing all the ins and outs of their craft. My friend may disagree with me, but I am guessing electrical work is taken even more seriously considering that a mistake could cause a lot of damage or even death to people living in a house that has been poorly wired. All I know is that he said the test for becoming a master plumber is extremely difficult.

Emilski
Post 1

Typically, how long does it take for someone to advance to the role of a master electrician? What additional functions would a master have above a journeyman electrician?

My son has just started a program at the local community college studying electrics. They basically have arrangements where the students work alongside local electricians and get experience. By the time they graduate they should be prepared to take the test to be a journeyman. After that point, though, I am just wondering how long it is before he will be able to take the master electrician exam.

I know that one of the benefits of being a master electrician is that you can start your own business, but are there any additional privileges?

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