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Everything You Need To Know About Becoming An Electrician


An electrician is a tradesman specialized in the electrical wiring of equipment, buildings, and stationary machines. Electricians have the education and ability to maintain and repair the existing electrical infrastructure. You'll also be able to install new and complicated electrical components pretty much everywhere on the earth there is a need for electricity, from the sky to the sea.

Becoming an electrician requires a combination of book learning and hands-on training. Hands-on training takes place in the classroom as well as during an apprenticeship. It will take several years to complete all of the necessary electrical training. But once you complete the program and your apprenticeship, you will move on to work as an electrician journeyman. In this article, we will give you all the information you need to know about becoming an electrician.

Facts To Know About Becoming An Electrician

Electrical science has revealed to us the true nature of light, has provided us with innumerable appliances and instruments of precision, and has thereby vastly added to the exactness of our knowledge.Nikola Tesla

Electricians go through rigorous training. They have to know every aspect of their job, from safety to completion. Because electricity is such a vital part of modern-day society, it is taken for granted. But when something happens and the power goes out, a professional is called in to repair it. Here are some interesting and lesser-known facts about electricians and why they are such respected professionals.

  1. Electricians train almost as long and intensely as doctors. Master electricians spend eight years learning and mastering the trade, just the same as doctors in medical school.
  2. There are four main areas of expertise for electricians: residential, commercial, industrial, and outside lineman. This means, electricians specialize, much like doctors do.
  3. Electricians need to be in good shape, both physically and mentally. They need to have physical stamina in order to complete jobs that are in less-than opportune conditions. And, they need thinking skills to face tasks in the best and most efficient ways possible, while remaining safe.
  4. Since technology is constantly one step ahead and moving at a rapid pace, electricians are perpetual students. To stay in touch with the growth and understand how all the new processes work, electricians have to take a lot of continuing education courses.

Electricians have great careers, and if becoming an electrician is on your radar, then there’s no time like now to look into it!

How To Become An Electrician

"I knew a kid who stuck a knife in the toaster on a few occasions. He learned it hurt. He grew up to be a great electrician."Travis J. Dahnke

There are a few things to know before entering the electrical field. High school can prepare you for the beginnings by taking courses in math, shop, mechanical drawing, and other technical science classes.

After high school, you will need to attend trade school or a community college that offers diplomas or degrees for electricians.

Because it’s a hands-on job, electricians have to do an apprenticeship, where they will learn even more than they did in school. And, the electrician apprenticeship is a paid position so learning while earning is not a bad gig at all. Students will complete 144 hours of classroom education and 2,000 hours of on-the-job apprenticeship training.

Each state has different licensing requirements, so it’s important to find out what is expected of you from your state. In most instances, a comprehensive exam is given, which tests the knowledge and skills of the budding electrician.

Coding and technology change rapidly, meaning electricians need to keep up with the times. So, continuing education is a must for electricians.

What Is An Electrical Apprentice?

An electrician apprentice is someone who is learning to become an electrician through on-the-job training. They experience firsthand all that is involved with the daily doings of electricians. They’ll learn how to repair, install, and maintain the electrical of residential, manufacturing, and commercial buildings, depending on which aspect of the trade they are entering.

To apply for an apprenticeship program, you must be 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED. You must have had one year of high school algebra and maintained a "C." And you must have a valid driver’s license. It’s important to find apprenticeship programs that are sponsored by national organizations, because they are the most trusted to provide quality training.

Apprenticeship Programs:

A joint training program between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association is one of the most popular and well-known. It is called the Electrical Training Alliance. It’s one of the largest, with over 75,000 active and retired members and sponsors over 300 programs.

The Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) is not affiliated with a union. It has over 50 chapters and provides training to over 10,000 members nationwide, yearly. This is the national trade association for merit shop electrical and systems contractors.

The Associated Builders and Constructors, Inc. (ABC) is non-union and promotes free enterprise within the construction industry.

Becoming A Journeyman And Master Electrician

After you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you can apply for your journeyman electrician license. Every state in the United States requires electricians to be certified and licensed. Many states expect proof of hours spent working as a both an apprentice and journeyman, so it’s important to save all your pay stubs, tax info, and/or school transcripts.

A master electrician is an electrician who is highly knowledgeable and has vast experience working as an electrician and has been formally tested to prove it! To be eligible to become a master electrician, you must work for a minimum of four years as a journeyman electrician. Once you’ve met your state’s experience requirements, you can apply to sit for the exam. You can also take additional exams which will certify you as a master electrician in specialty areas such as signs, alarms, and telecommunications.

Most master electricians continue their education through community colleges to keep up to date with all the latest and greatest technology has to offer. It’s also a necessary evil to keep the license active.

Different Electrician Degrees

Diplomas/Certificates

The diploma route is perfect for those who want to get on the fast-track by learning the trade and quickly hitting the field as an apprentice. It only takes a year to earn a diploma, and then you are ready for an apprenticeship. Courses typically taught in a diploma or certificate program are Intro to Electricity, Residential Wiring, Commercial Wiring, and Code. Many seasoned electricians choose to go back for certifications and diplomas, as well. It’s a great alternative for brushing up on their skills or learn new ones. Be sure that the program you choose allows you to apply your academic credits to your apprenticeship.

Associate Degree

Going for the associate degree not only teaches the students about everything to do with electrical work, but the student also must take general education courses. Associate degree programs are a well-rounded educational path that takes 2-4 years, depending on whether you go to school full or part-time. Associate degree programs will teach students Alternating Current Methods, Accident Prevention, Electrical Drawing and Blueprint Reading, Electrical Systems Analysis, along with other fundamental courses. The benefit to the associate degree is that you are prepared to transition directly to apprentice, right after graduation. It also can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree, if that is the direction you plan on going. Many apprenticeships accept associate degree credits, but students still has to do the full 4-5 years of the apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships

Before you can even become an apprentice, you must pass an algebra and functions test, as well as a reading comprehension exam. If at first you don’t succeed, you must wait six months before you can try again. Most of the training the apprentice will experience is through hands-on with an experienced electrician. There still will be some classroom training, as well.

There are also four different types of specialty apprenticeships: inside wireman; outside lineman; telecommunications technician; and residential wireman. Each programs varies between 3-5 years in length.

The apprentice will have all his or her previous education reinforced, along with more in-depth training in blueprints, electrical theory, electrical coding, and best safety practices. The duration of an apprenticeship program is 4-5 years, but you will come out having real-world experience that you can apply to your own career as an electrician once you pass the licensing exam. Apprenticeship programs are highly focused on the fundamentals of the business. If you decide to go on to a four-year degree, there are no credits you can transfer. But the knowledge and experience will stay with you forever.

Certificates and associate degrees can cost between $1,000 and $11,000 including tuition and fees. It all depends on what school you attend. Apprenticeships can cost between $240-$1,420 per year. Additional costs will include books, tools of the trade, and, in some cases, room and board. There are a variety of scholarships available for students entering school to become electricians.

Areas Of Specialty For Electricians

Electricians can choose to specialize in a few different areas. Many electricians decide to specialize in order to advance their careers. Most jobs are focused in the construction or maintenance fields, although it is not uncommon for an electrician to be knowledgeable in both. Because there is a wide variety of jobs beyond "general electrician," it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what is out there so you can focus your studies on the area you would like to specialize in.

Here are a few areas electricians can specialize in:

Inside wireman: Inside wiremen are electricians who specialize in the interior wirings of buildings such as lights, electronics, appliances, and alarms.

Outside lineman: Electricians who are outside linemen handle higher voltages of electricity. They are the ones to deliver electricity to industrial or manufacturing facilities and other buildings.

Service electricians: These guys (and ladies) are problems solvers and troubleshooters. They are contractors or independent freelancers working to repair electrical problems in residential or commercial buildings.

Construction electricians: When it comes to construction projects including wiring, a construction electrician is hired. They take care of all the actual wiring, electrical blueprints, and connecting the electrical for the building they are working on.

Marine electrician: Radars, radios, sonars, and other important equipment on ships is what a marine electrician is in charge of taking care of.

Research electrician: A research electrician checks all the circuits within industrial and commercial labs. They provide technical assistance, and solve problems with machines used for research.

Career Outlook For Electricians

Through 2026, employment for electricians is expected to grow 9 percent, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This is due to the aging of many current electricians who are approaching retirement age, along with the fact that many employers are looking for qualified electricians but are having a hard time finding them. With the advancement in technology for buildings, knowledgeable electricians will be necessary for the required installations. Also, older buildings are aging, and so are the components that keep them wired, so electricians will be employed to repair and maintain them. The more well rounded the electrician, the easier employment opportunities will be found.

Apprentice electricians earn about 40-50 percent of a full electrician salary. This translates to around $10 per hour. But as you gain more experience, your pay will rise to match your skill set.

Journeymen electricians' median salary is $24 per hour.  Electricians who own their own businesses will make more, depending on their reputation, location, and how many people they employ. Many small electrical businesses can see a profit of over $100,000 annually. Electricians who work in manufacturing and and power generation bring home more than electricians who work in construction.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that, on a whole, the median pay for electricians is more than $54k. The highest 10 percent earned more than $92K.

Other resources:

What is an electrician?

Different specialized jobs of electricians


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