I am a 34 year old woman with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Said bachelor’s degree has landed me several low-level clerical positions. I don’t think I’ll ever rise above these low-level clerical positions and have no desire to spend $50,000 on a Master’s degree. My dad is an electrician, and for the last two years I’ve begged and pleaded with my mom and dad to let me join the small electrician business my dad owns. Neither one of them will allow it, but I think that

1. I’m probably going to get fired sometime for my bad attitude because I’m stuck in low-level clerical positions.

2. I’d really like to be an electrician and 3. I should have studied a trade instead of liberal arts – I do LOVE anthropology but learning a skilled trade seems like it would have been the wiser investment at this point.

Should I be an electrician? I thought maybe if you said yes I could tell them that you said yes and maybe they’d finally listen to me.

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16 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    if you really want to be an electrician, be an adult and do it without your parents. You are lucky your parents are telling you that you can’t do it with them. they are right. You will never feel like an adult if you can’t navigate the world without their help.

    Your bachelor’s degree subject does not matter. Mine is in political history. A BA is just a ticket to play in the adult world. You have a ticket but you think someone wil hand something to you. They won’t.

    You need to figure out how to be so great in a clerical job that someone wants to promote you. And, if you can’t rise above that level, then you need to figure out how to live on the amount of money someone is willing to pay you.

    i have a feeling that your social skills are not great — just from reading this email. And the way you do well at work is not with a degree. it’s with social skills.

    If you want to be an electrician, go learn from someone who is not your family. But to get someone to train you, you will have to be friendly and fun and have a good attitude. Otherwise they won’t want to spend their time with you.

    Penelope

  2. Jeffersonian
    Jeffersonian says:

    You don’t have to be an electrician. The company I work for is begging for people skilled in PLC and HMI programming, CAD work, project maqnagement, etc, none of which absolutely require a degree. You can learn at a simple trade school.

  3. Bearpaw
    Bearpaw says:

    My wife works for a commercial electrician in the Hartford area. They are at their wits end in trying to find electricians that do not have a criminal record and that are not alcoholics or drug dependent. They are working a state HUD project and if you are a woman electrician – you can write your own ticket. And if you are a minority woman electrician, you can probably demand 50% ownership in the company in your compensation package AND get it!

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      Can you clarify the last part? I am a Hispanic female and I work in roofing but I want to go back to school for electrical work. The only thing that holds me back is that I’m afraid nobody will hire me because I am a woman.

  4. De Officiis
    De Officiis says:

    I agree with Jeffersonian. Learn PLC (programmable logic controller) and HMI (human machine interface) programming. These are skills that are not taught in engineering school, but are integral to engineering in the modern factory environment.

    Even trade school education in these disciplines leaves a great deal to be desired. The best thing to do is buy some PLC gear (Allen Bradley (a big player in the market) hardware is readily availabe used on Ebay), get the application software, and start programming and playing.

    Tool & diemaking is another fine trade that nobody wants to learn anymore. It is a very satisfying field. So much to do, so little time….

  5. egoist
    egoist says:

    “I’d really like to be an electrician” what do you mean? You want the income & semi-flexibility of going to work at loose hours… or, do you like climbing ladders, running wire, bending pipe? There’s a huge diff between the product and the actual work – in all fields. If you’re so in love w/ anthropology, think wide: get out of your folks house, and find some place on this planet where you can do what you love, and do it ASAP – not just when it’s safe. You’ll learn more from the struggle than you’d ever get from a 50K masters.

  6. SC Mike
    SC Mike says:

    You should try to be an electrician only if you understand the mechanical practices, electrical properties, conventions (codes), and theory (physics) on a basic level. Otherwise you will die. I am not exaggerating.

    At the very basic level when looking at a home receptacle with three wires — black, white, and naked (bare copper) — do you know what’s hot and what’s not? What does a red wire mean? Or a white wire with a piece of black electrical tape around it? If the house is not too old and the wiring is aluminum instead of copper, what should you be aware of? Do you know the difference between a 20 Amp circuit and 15 Amp circuit?

    When must you have, or should you use, a ground-fault-interrupt (GFI) receptacle? What about wiring a three-way switch?

    I am not an electrician, but as a young lad my grandpa taught me the basics and I refined them as the assistant to the engineer at a local hotel as a part-time job while in college. For reasons too complex to go into here, I leaned to replace hot wall outlets, i.e. while the circuit was still live, by using insulated pliers and screwdrivers and keeping my wits about me. I’ve continued the practice, installing dimmer switches and the like without killing the circuit. While the practice is not recommended and may be considered stooopid by some, it does speed the task up a bit.

    I should note that I am 61 and have more than a few jolts my way, but most of the watts directed my way have not been the result of my action or carelessness.

  7. Dave Hardy
    Dave Hardy says:

    By all means, become an electrician! You can dabble in Anthro after you get off work. There is often a difference between a person’s pleasure and how they earn a living. I love history. I suppose I could have gotten a doctorate in that, and faced the fact that there is little market for PhDs in history other than in teaching, and they are probably generating ten times as many Phds as there are job openings. So I became an attorney, and research and write history in my spare time. The fates have no obligation to ensure that what a person likes is what they can earn a living at. (PS — in my spare time I also do *simple* electrical and plumbing work around the house

  8. Jeff Weimer
    Jeff Weimer says:

    “1. I’m probably going to get fired sometime for my bad attitude because I’m stuck in low-level clerical positions.”

    Here’s a bit of advice, hard earned from 22 years in the US Navy – any job or task is worth doing as well as you can do it. No matter how demeaning it seems – and I’ve cleaned toilets, often – it needs to be done, and done well. If you work hard, recognition will come, and with it new opportunity. No one is “too good” to do what they’re doing.

    Don’t burn bridges – they’re on your resume. And you’ve agreed to give them your best effort.

  9. John Cooper
    John Cooper says:

    I have a BSEE and when I couldn’t find an engineering work where I now live, I got hired as a residential electrician. In retrospect, I think the only reason I was hired was because my drivers license hadn’t been suspended due to a DUI conviction and they needed someone to drive the van. I discovered that even though I knew the theory, there were a LOT of tricks to wiring houses. You need to learn how to snake wiring up through a wall, and install a floor outlet in the hardwood floor in the middle of someone’s living room and get it in the right place without drilling through a water or gas pipe. So if you want to work as a helper for a year at $10 per hour and learn all that stuff, that’s the way to go. Of course you have to love working with heavy tools, climbing tall ladders, spending hours in sweltering, insulation-filled attics, and mucking around in muddy crawlspaces. You’ll be paid about $15 per hour with no benefits for all that fun, but after working at it for seven years or so, you can get your electrical contractor’s license and start charging $60 per hour.

  10. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Your parents own an electrician business? You probably have at least a basic understanding of what the work entails and you still want to do that work. You’re miles ahead of most people, who may have trouble deciding what they want to do.
    Go for it. Go to school or whatever, but if you know what you WANT to do; go do it! I left a good paying mill job nearly 30 years ago and became a Registered Nurse, because I hated the mill. If a guy can do that, you can become an electrician.

  11. electrician norwest
    electrician norwest says:

    Indeed a nice post! I have been working in the electrical equipments since long and enjoy the posts on electrician, test tag, data cabling, thermal imaging etc. I have subscribed to your blog and do hope you will be posting informative posts like this over the coming days. Thanks You

  12. SW
    SW says:

    Hi guys, well i need help, I am so lost in this life, coming up to 31 years of breathing this air. Its about time that I decide my future, my career….but I CANT ….
    I have ,mixed desires, should I tell myself to be an electrician or should I try to step up over my limitations and become my own B O S S ..well I am like this wild cricket that goes on and on in the middle of night when you’re trying i let go of something on your mind, I don’t give up but I am scared to fail….i feel like i have to prove myself to someone…love the family but I have to go, to fly higher and higher…I used to and still always dream about flying, jumping heights in my dreams, and some nightmares too….
    My the God of my underrated understanding be my guide my comforter and Power

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