Median Salary: $72,800
Change in salary (2007–2013): +13%
Total employees: 20,500
For most contractors, success relies on the strength of the construction industry, and observers point to recent drops in housing-starts and building permits to suggest that Canada’s house-building spree may be cooling off. If true, that could slow demand for building trades like electrical contractors—but a looming wave of retirements also promise future opportunity.
How to qualify: Contractors start by becoming certified electricians (a four-year apprenticeship that combines on-the-job training with classroom work). Strong math skills are a must. After that, you can start your own company or work your way up through an existing one.
Money: A typical journeyman electrician’s wage ranges from $30 to $38 an hour. Contractors are business owners, so their salaries vary. The owner of a successful one- or two-man operation can pull in around $70,000 to $80,000 a year.
Opportunity: Canada is expected to face a shortage of skilled trades workers as many approach retirement. The average electrician is close to 50 years old, says Bill Strain, president of Surrey, B.C.-based Villa Electric. “A huge amount of people will be leaving the industry.” That translates to high demand for workers, especially in provinces seeing lots of new construction, like Alberta.
What it’s like: “As an owner, I don’t do a lot of electrical work anymore. I’m a business manager and an entrepreneur,” says Strain, who has 25 employees.” Once his company gets a contract, it’s Strain’s job to keep customers happy. “If you’re running your own company, you’re on call 24 hours a day. If your customers have a problem in the middle of the night, you take the call and either you go or you send somebody.”