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What Is an Electrical Contractor and How Does It Differ from an Electrician?


Did you know electrical contractors and electricians aren’t the same things? The differences between electrical contractor vs electrician roles aren’t always obvious to the average person, but when looking for the right person for your projects, knowing what is an electrical contractor as opposed to an electrician is essential.

While an electrician will come to your home to do electrical work, an electrical contractor serves as either a business person or a firm specializing in construction with knowledge about the design, installation, and maintenance of electrical systems.

Still not quite sure about what an electrician vs electrical contractor is? Let’s break it down.

what do electricians do

What Is an Electrical Contractor?

So, what is an electrical contractor? It might not be what you thought.

Unlike an electrician, electrical contractors are better thought of as business people or a firm that’s specialty is in electrical construction work. Typically, this work is related to the design, installation, and maintenance of the electrical system.

Electrical contractors are the people responsible for ensuring that electrical systems are working properly, effectively, and safely, and will typically analyze if it’s operating in the most environmentally-friendly way. With safety and the environment in mind, there are very few projects that don’t involve electrical contractors. With their help, it can be ensured that all safety requirements are met on a project, keeping the electrical system intact for years to come.

What Do Electrical Contractors Do?

We now know what an electrical contractor is, but what do electrical contractors do?

Electrical contractors do a number of different tasks depending on their specialty. In general, an electrical contractor’s tasks include:

  • Installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting electrical systems.
  • Project managing, including handling resource allocation and planning.
  • Input into the constructability of a design.
  • Client relationship management.

While these are some of the general responsibilities of an electrical contractor, this can vary greatly based on when they are brought in and their area of expertise. For instance, if an electrical contractor is involved before construction, they may be expected to identify and install the ideal system based on the client’s requirements. On the other hand, if they are brought in when a structure is already built, the focus is more on upgrading or maintaining the system that is already in place.

Beyond completing their work, electrical contractors are expected to manage their staff’s schedules to ensure that the job is completed, which is similar to many subcontractors.

Can a General Contractor Do Electrical Work?

When looking to hire a team to ensure your structure is equipped with the right electrical system, you may begin to wonder, can a general contractor do electrical work?

While a general contractor can do simple electrical projects, restricted to those that don’t need a permit, they are not permitted to do much else. This is because licensed electricians have a higher level of expertise that’s required for their role. This is much more suitable for large electrician projects and will ensure everything is properly hooked up.

For this reason, general contractors are not typically permitted to do work that is within walls or above a certain voltage.

What Is an Electrician?

electrical subcontractor

Now that we know what an electrical contractor is, what is an electrician?

Unlike an electrical contractor, an electrician is someone licensed and trained to work with electrical equipment and systems. Their licensing requirements are typically different from that of an electrical contractor, giving them more expertise in the area.

Electricians can either be employed by an electrical contractor or be self-employed as electrical contractors. However, in more states, there are typically different licensing requirements for each role.

Additionally, electricians can be further classified as apprentices if enrolled in an apprenticeship training program, journeymen if they completed the program, or master electricians if they do additional training and testing.

What Do Electricians Do?

Our world relies on electrical sources, and without electricians, the way we live wouldn’t be possible.

Electricians can solve an array of power issues, from solving power outages to rewiring equipment, installing wiring and lighting, troubleshooting electrical issues, and inspecting components for safety.

Specifically, electricians do many tasks, including:

  • Reading technical and wiring diagrams and blueprints.
  • Installing systems for lighting systems and controls.
  • Inspecting electrical systems.
  • Troubleshooting and repairing any electrical malfunctions.
  • Keeping up with and adhering to all state and local regulations based on the national electrical code.
  • Training and managing other electrical workers.

Master Electrician vs Journeyman

electrical contractors

We’ve defined some different roles and levels an electrician can achieve, and it’s time to explain them further, starting with master electrician vs journeyman.

As stated before, an apprentice can train and study to reach journeyman level, and then can further reach a master status, making an electrician vs master electrician the two ends of the spectrum. And while it may just seem like a few extra hours of studying for a certification, there is a significant difference between a journeyman vs master electrician.

To move from journeyman to master electrician, it takes an additional 4,000 hours of work experience over two years, as well as passing an exam. This leads to a significant difference in skills. Let’s break it down.

Journeymen are knowledgeable on:

  • How to interpret blueprints and mechanical drawings.
  • Installing and maintaining electrical equipment and power supplies.
  • Following all electrical codes and regulations.
  • Understanding fire alarm systems.
  • How to ground, bond, and use protective devices.

On the other hand, a master electrician is capable of:

  • Creating electrical blueprints and building plans.
  • Solving intricate electrical system failures.
  • Monitoring, evaluating, and coaching fellow electricians
  • Serving as the point of contact between owners and vendors.
  • Planning and executing projects in partnership with architects, engineers, general contractors, and more.

While journeymen are highly skilled electricians, they cannot create electrical drawings or blueprints and are not as knowledgeable about building permits and project management. This is something to consider in advance, especially when it comes to more intricate projects.

Electrical Contractor vs Electrician

While there are many different roles involved in a construction project, ensuring you understand the difference between an electrical contractor vs electrician is crucial to ensure your process runs without a hitch. Whether you’re looking for a business person to employ electricians, like an electrical contractor, or a tradesman to work with the electrical system, like an electrician, each plays a significant role in your development.

No matter if you’re looking for a master electrician vs electrical contractor, or still trying to figure out what you need, High Voltage Electric is here to help. Offering reliable electrical services and contractors in Palm Beach County, we have experience providing our services for residential, commercial, and industrial properties.

To explore our electrical services and electrical contractors, contact us today and get a free estimate online now.

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