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The Real Poop

Even before people knew how electricity worked, they understood that shocks could follow along or through conducting objects, such as fish. Hope you like your halibut fried.

No, there weren’t a bunch of Ancient Romans standing around a lab completing a circuit with a poor, innocent sturgeon. Rather, our ancestors have been observing and studying for millennia the sources and effects of electricity, in everything from a bolt of lightning to the intense shock created by touching an electric catfish. Those suckers will make your whiskers stand on end.


Once mankind learned that we could harness that energy and use it for our own varied purposes, the role of the modern electrician was born.

Electricians maintain and install power systems. They typically work for themselves or for a construction company. Those who work in construction must be able to read blueprints to figure out the locations of panel boards, circuits, outlets, and load centers before they maintain or update systems. Regardless of whether you work on a house or a large factory, you must adhere to the National Electrical code, state codes, and local building codes. You should also try to commit your own zip code to memory, if you have any room left over in the "code" section of your brain.

People who are interested in science and math may find a career as an electrician interesting. An electrician does much of his learning on the job or in an apprenticeship program, most of which takes four to five years to complete. Each year of the program consists of 144 hours in the classroom and 2,000 hours training on jobs. Even after you've obtained a license, your days in the classroom don't end. Many electricians take additional classes to understand various changes to the National Electrical Code. The National Electrical Code is basically the bible for electrical installers working on buildings, yards, parking lots, recreational vehicles, and office warehouses. The book is revamped every three years, so you have to continually keep up on additions to the text. You can't just have read it once back in 1997 and say you've checked it off your to-do list. Ignoring or being unaware of changes to this code may result in hazards like overloading a circuit. What happens then? Fires or electrocutions, mainly. Not looking good for you if it's someone else being electrocuted; even worse if it's you being fried to a crisp.

Speaking of electrocutions, electricians have one of the top ten most dangerous occupations in the United States. Any type of electrical device in the home such as an air conditioner can transmit enough current to electrocute someone. For this reason, electricians must always follow proper safety procedures. Including never scraping their feet quickly across a carpet while rubbing a balloon against the top of their head. What do they want to do, spontaneously combust?

Because of the danger involved when dealing with any type of power system, people always need trained, professional electricians. Employment for electricians has, in fact, grown 12 percent in the last ten years. As more structures are built and more technologically advanced and complex power systems are installed, it becomes crucial to have them maintained by people who know what they are doing. Shocker.

There is also room for advancement for those employed by construction companies. Working hard and following safety procedures can land an electrician the position of supervisor, construction superintendent, electrical inspector, or project manager. And because power systems aren't installed until the rest of a building is put together, you won't ever have to be one of those lunatics marching along a one-foot wide steel girder at 300 feet.

To advance in their career, electricians must be able to incorporate other types of skills. Employers are looking for those who can speak Spanish, work under pressure, and oversee a large project. Furthermore, a special contractor's license is needed to perform contracting work.

The upside to this career is the ability to travel, work outdoors, meet new people and problem solve. While much of the technical work is the same, locations change almost daily for most self-employed maintenance electricians. Also, people regard electricians with a sense of wonder. Who are these daredevils who willingly stick their hands into a mess of wires that conduct high voltage electricity? Can we be sure their brains haven't short-circuited?