Electricians keep modern life running smoothly in all types of conditions. They are the go-to professional whether you are worried about air conditioning on a sweltering summer day, heat in the depths of a frigid winter, or your ability to stream the latest shows on your new home theater system. However, there are different specialties within the field. If you are considering entering the field, you should learn the difference between a service vs construction electrical career.
Service electricians work on completed buildings, while new construction electricians and wiremen perform work during the construction process. As a result, service electrical often involves troubleshooting while construction electrical focuses on installing wiring and fixtures.
This comparison will give you additional insight into the two career paths — pros and cons, where they overlap and diverge, etc. — so you can decide which is a better fit.
What Is Construction Electrical?
As the name implies, construction electrical involves working in new construction settings. These might be new homes, apartment buildings, commercial buildings, or industrial complexes. A new construction electrician usually performs work before power is connected to the building, and he may find himself doing any of the following tasks on a given day:
- Running wires
- Installing receptacles and switches
- Wiring service panels before power connection
- Connecting new appliances or mechanical systems
What is Service Electrical?
Service electricians, sometimes called maintenance electricians, work in existing structures. The types of work will vary depending on whether your focus is residential, commercial, or industrial electrical. The common denominator in the field is that the job often requires troubleshooting problems, and most days are unique with little repetition.
Some common examples of tasks that a service electrician performs include:
- Diagnosing wiring or electrical system problems
- Repairing or replacing motors
- Installing electrical receptacles, switches, and fixtures
- Upgrading electrical service panels
- Running and connecting new wiring
Key Differences Between Construction and Service Electrical
The most fundamental difference between service and new construction electrical work is the completion stage of the buildings in question. For example, construction electrical tends to be more about installation, while service electricians spend a lot of time diagnosing and fixing problems. Additionally, it is easier to start working as a new construction electrician with limited training than in the service field.
A Head-To-Head Comparison
Let’s start by stressing that there are a lot of similarities when comparing service electrical vs new construction installation. However, some differences could sway you toward one type over the other. Here is a head-to-head comparison of some of those differences.
According to Indeed, there is little difference in the salaries of service electrician vs construction electrician careers. Both have an average annual base salary of almost $58,000 per year. However, maintenance electricians report slightly higher overtime wages, giving them a slight edge.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is quite common for electricians to work overtime. New construction workers tend to have set schedules because work is planned ahead of time. However, service electricians may need to respond to emergency calls outside regular business hours. That is why new construction has the edge when comparing the work-life balance offered by service vs construction electrical.
The skills needed for new construction electrical work are typically best learned through on-the-job experience, so many new construction electricians begin their careers with apprenticeships. They may also start as a wireman, running lengths of wires through partially completed structures. Eventually, they can progress to making connections, installing fixtures, and panel installation.
On the other hand, service electricians often must troubleshoot problems and find solutions, which requires more in-depth knowledge of electrical systems. Formal training programs are a great way to ensure you are prepared for the tasks.
Opportunity for Steady Work
There will always be a demand for electricians, whether you choose to focus on maintenance or new construction. Robust housing markets ensure plenty of new houses that need wiring and connections. However, a downturn in the market that stalls construction can make finding steady work difficult. However, people need homes with operational electricity, even when new homes are not being built. For that reason, a career as a service electrician wins out in the ability to find consistent work.
When you look at the physical risks of service vs construction electrical, new construction wins out. Since in-progress homes do not have a power connection, you will never be working with live wires, drastically reducing risks. On the other hand, there is always a chance that something is wired incorrectly, resulting in injury during service work. Regardless of which type of electrical career you pursue, using safety equipment reduces your exposure to known risks.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Each?
After comparing service electrician vs new construction electrician careers, let’s look at the pros and cons of each. When you do, remember that what one person thinks of as a positive may be a considerable drawback for another. So, feel free to move these between columns when deciding which career path best fits your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
New Construction Electrical Pros
- Predictable work duties
- Stable schedule
- Lower risks
- Paid on-the-job training opportunities
New Construction Electrical Cons
- Dependent on the demand for new construction
- Unskilled roles may pay less than service electrician jobs
Service Electrical Pros
- Need for creative problem solving
- Changing work environment — there is always something new to do and learn
- Consistent demand for services
Service Electrical Cons
- Emergencies can result in odd working hours
- Greater risks to health and safety
- Lots of downtime
- Requires knowledge usually gained through formal training
Recap: Service vs Construction Electrical
There are similarities and differences between service and new construction electrical careers. For example, where service electricians tend to focus more on diagnostics and may see something new each day, they also have less predictable schedules than their construction counterparts.
On the other hand, new construction electricians may be able to secure entry-level work with less formal training and experience a better work-life balance. You must identify the most important aspects of a career to decide which path is the right one for you.