There is a Path to the Corner Office that Leads Right Through the Construction Site.
When we think of low voltage and electrical career paths, often we are thinking of electricians sweating it out on a construction site or alarm technicians crawling through hot attics and drop ceilings to install cable and wire. We wouldn’t be wrong. These are careers in low voltage and electrical construction and lucrative careers at that. Top earners among Journeyman Electricians are averaging 71,000 a year in the US and Top Life Safety Technicians average over 79,000 a year according to Zip Recruiter Salaries. These trades also provide advanced opportunities to craft workers who seek to continue their pursuit of knowledge. Focused individuals can find personal and professional growth opportunities beyond the construction site. A lifelong career in an electrical or low voltage trade doesn’t necessarily mean a career spent pulling wire and wearing a hard hat. It can also mean performing a white collar job in an office environment.
Five Advanced Careers in the Low Voltage and Electrical Fields
The low voltage and electrical fields have long been an integral part of the world. Everything we use, from our computers to our refrigerators, relies on low voltage and electrical systems. While they are important, the people who work within these fields are often overlooked or not talked about enough. When people think of these fields, mental pictures of construction workers and service technicians come to mind. However, there are many different roles involved in making sure electrical and low voltage systems are installed and maintained correctly. Many of the people who occupy some of these less visible roles first worked on the front lines as electricians or technicians. Here are a few examples:
Designers use various types of software to develop 2D and 3D system designs for electrical and low voltage projects. Designers provide quality control for designs they produce. They will interact with internal staff and customers throughout the pre-installation and construction process to ensure project success. Many designers benefit from years of firsthand knowledge due to previous careers working as electricians or technicians. Many designers are self-taught and have achieved industry specific credentials via organizations such as BICSI or ASIS and have taken courses for software such as Revit or AutoCAD. As employers identify aptitude and drive, design candidates are often recruited from the field to the office.
Project Managers are in charge of the scope of work, manpower, materials, logistics, and, in many cases, the financials for a given project. Many Project Managers get their start working in a trade and later transition into project management as they gain experience. While many companies are satisfied with what they can teach Project Managers on their own, many Project Managers also choose to supplement their on the job training with industry specific Project Management certifications such as the Registered Telecommunications Project Manager certification from BICSI or with universally recognized certifications such as the PMP from the Project Management Institute.
Operations Managers oversee the operations of an entire company or division. This typically includes installations and service. In many cases this also includes the sales team. Low voltage and electrical Operations Managers gain initial experience by performing in the positions they now oversee in many cases. It is common to meet professionals who manage companies where they worked as an apprentice electrician or entry level low voltage helper years earlier. In some cases, the path to Operations Manager leads through one of the other “office” roles. As knowledge is gained about how the business operates, they are able to take on more responsibility. While some companies may require a college degree, many companies focus on identifying candidates with real world experience and a demonstrated ability to successfully lead teams.
Service Managers focus on customer satisfaction, service sales, preventative maintenance, system repair, and emergency response. By nature, this is a customer facing role. Trade workers who gravitate toward service roles are typically people who enjoy interacting with customers and solving problems. They will have a better than average understanding and are capable of troubleshooting and correcting malfunctioning systems and components. Service staff aren’t always encountering customers in the best of moods. Because of this, service positions require a high degree of patience, conflict resolution skills, and a strong technical understanding of the product.
Estimators typically work in the sales department of a low voltage or electrical company. Estimators provide a total cost estimate for low voltage or electrical projects. Many Estimators are former trade workers who performed basic estimation on smaller projects and decided they liked it. Others moved into estimation after first trying out design roles. Estimators play one of the most crucial parts in the construction process. The position requires great attention to detail as well as the ability to communicate effectively with others. A prior career working as an electrician or low voltage technician provides a great foundation with regard to subject matter, scope, and the various parties involved with making a project come together.
How Much Money Can You Make?
We’ve already established that there are lucrative opportunities as a low voltage technician or electrician. What about these other career paths? Is there a financial benefit associated with moving from the field to the office? The answer is yes. While you can make a great living either way, there are opportunities within the low voltage and electrical fields to make great money in a less physically demanding environment. According to talent.com here are the 2021 average salaries in the U.S. for the positions we’ve highlighted:
- Designer – 78,750 Annual or 40.38 per hour average for Low Voltage Designers.
- Project Manager – 89,558 Annual or 45.93 per hour average for Telecom Operations Managers.
- Operations Manager – 90,000 Annual or 46.15 per hour average for Security Operations Managers.
- Service Manager – 75,000 Annual or 38.46 per hour average for Fire Alarm Service Managers.
- Estimator – 90,000 Annual or 46.15 per hour average for Electrical Estimators.
Depending on the employer, many of these positions could also have a compensation plan which includes quarterly, annual, or “per project” bonuses in addition to the hourly/salary base compensation. This added compensation can make the total take home pay substantially more than just the hourly or annual compensation you see listed on many job descriptions.
How can you get started?
If you already work for a low voltage technology integrator or an electrical contractor, then take time to read through your employers openings in order to learn about the qualifications for the positions that interest you. Approach key decision makers and ask questions about what milestones you need to reach. Ask to be considered for mentorship or training programs if available. Make it known you desire to grow within the company. Most organizations are on the lookout for individuals who are self-motivated and prefer to promote from within. Taking steps such as these will give you the knowledge needed to begin working to gain the necessary skills required for these opportunities.
If you aren’t currently working in the low voltage or electrical fields or you’d like to leverage your expertise to land one of these kinds of positions with a different employer, then you can search for entry level openings on the major job boards or with specialized search firms. TradeSTAR is such a firm. TradeSTAR focuses exclusively on opportunities in the Electrical and Low Voltage Trades. You can view openings with companies across Texas on the TradeSTAR Job Board or reach out to us directly.
There is a path to the office that leads through the construction site.
In this article we highlighted just a few of the office based roles at low voltage and electrical companies across the US and we also provided the average salaries for these roles. Not listed here are Sales, Sales Manager, Programmer, Project Coordinator, Dispatch, General Manager, Consultant, Program Manager, Superintendent, President, Owner, and many more. Likewise, salaries for the roles we defined here are just industry averages. Many people working in these roles make much more than these average salaries. There is a path to the corner office that leads right through the construction site… one that doesn’t require an expensive college degree.
Which path are you traveling?
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