Looking for a skilled trade with excellent job potential? The demand for well-trained electricians is strong and growing. ElectricalSchool.org can help you find the best training option for you, and help you achieve your vocational ambition of becoming an electrician. Search by state to find up-to-date information on electrician classes, state license requirements, job prospects, salary data and more.
How to Become an Electrician?
If you’re looking into the skilled trades for your first career or for a career change, you may have looked at becoming an electrician. This is a high-demand career with growth at eight percent, a faster than average job growth. It’s also a job that pays well because it requires special skills and several years of education and training. When thinking about this career for your future, be sure you know what it’s like to work daily as an electrician and what these professionals do on the job.
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Types of Electricians and Where They Work
Most professionals, about two-thirds, work for electrical contractors or are the owners of those contracting companies. These skilled tradespeople offer a variety of electrical services, including installation of wiring in new buildings, and maintenance and repairs of existing electrical systems. They may be residential, commercial or both. Residential electricians work in homes, while commercial electricians work in larger, commercial buildings.
With special training, an electrician may also work as a line installer or repairer. These workers install and repair the power systems and telecommunication cables that run outside homes and businesses. They do most of their work outside, often high off the ground in cherry pickers or by climbing telephone poles.
What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become an Electrician?
Prior to finding training in the trade, you will need to have acquired a high school diploma or equivalent. Once earned, training is typically available through a local technical college or community college, and these colleges will usually have the necessary support system help you find work placement.
Although some candidates enter directly into the trade as an apprentice, a vocational training program at an electrician school (many community colleges and technical colleges offer electrical technology programs) is the best way to learn the skills and practical knowledge you will use on a daily basis. In addition, applying for an apprenticeship after completing a trade school or vocational school program gives you an edge over the competition and could help you find a better placement in the field.
In some states, gaining an associate degree, or indeed a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, will accelerate the process to better paid positions and obtaining a constructors license but it is not a requirement. Generally, a student on a degree program will receive a broader education, but this may not be a good choice for someone who does not enjoy the classroom.
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How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
Each state or locality may have a different requirement for minimal training hours to become fully licensed in the trade. State requirements will be determined by your local licensing board. (We offer a full guide to licensure requirements here). However, in general, the length of time from the beginning of your apprenticeship to becoming a licensed journeyperson is typically about four years. Journeyman license requirements may vary in your area.
Depending on the program, you may be able to include some of the time spent in a vocational program at a community or technical college if an official apprenticeship is part of the training course.
How Much Does it Cost?
Training costs varys by the length and location of the program. However, in general, students should expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $11,000 to attend a course. More information on how much it costs. For some colleges and some states you may be eligible for financial aid.
How Do I Become an Electrician Apprentice?
So, how do you get started with an apprenticeship? If you know of a reputable company in your area, you may consider asking them directly if they are open to hiring an apprentice. It is also possible to inquire through a local trade union or search for openings on a reputable website like this one. Alternatively, apprenticeships may be awarded through a community college, technical college or trade school upon completion of a training program.
Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) will offer non-union apprenticeship programs through their local chapters. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union together with the National Electrical Contractors Association offer union apprenticeship programs across the country.
Working as an apprentice has a lot of advantages, be they union or non-union. For one, apprentices earn while they learn. In fact, according to payscale.com, the average apprentice makes around $15.40 per hour while gaining electrical training. This will be better for people not suited hours of classroom instruction. Another advantage of this option is the proximity to journeypersons, master electricians and electrical contractor companies.
Apprentices function as assistants to these highly skilled professionals, helping them carry tools and equipment, run electrical wires and troubleshoot problems, creating an in-depth educational experience. In short, they have the opportunity to soak up all of the knowledge and expertise of their mentors while providing valuable labor and gaining work experience. Getting on an apprenticeship will usually require a high school diploma or GED as a minimum.
How Do I Become a Journeyman Electrician?
Upon completing the required hours, you will become qualified to work as a journeyperson. Journeyperson electricians will need to acquire a license to work in most places, either through a statewide licensing program or a local one. See our full guide to journeyman license requirements by state here. Someone with journeyman status may oversee apprentices and work nearly independently, but they are often restricted from specific responsibilities by local regulations. These duties are typically reserved for master-level electricians. Journeyperson electricians make an average hourly salary of $25.46, or $50,920 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Your state may have continuing education requirements to maintain your journeyman license. This will usually involve keeping up-to-date with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and your state requirements and regulations, and demonstrating it with appropriate test scores.
How Do I Become a Master Electrician?
In general, a master electrician has eight years of experience in the trade, although specific laws can vary from place to place. These experienced professionals are at the top of the trade and can oversee both apprentices and journeyman electricians. In addition, some areas regulate that only a master electrician can complete top-level duties such as dealing with permit agents and designing new systems. A Master electrician make an average of $29.12 per hour, or $58,240 per year, and set the stage for starting your own business as an electrical contractor.
How Much Can I Earn as an Electrician?
According to the U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electricians made annual wages between $33,410 and $96,580 per year in 2019. Although this data represents a wide range of earnings, it is important to note that these salaries include apprentice, journeyperson and master electricians. As such, it is highly representative of the potential for wage growth over the course of an electrician’s career. In addition, because business ownership is a possibility for many electricians, there may be the potential for even higher earnings if that is a career path you wish to take. An independent electrical contractor, who may hire his or her own employees, may earn considerably more.
Once you have your electrician license, job security is good. Even when the construction industry slows down, the demand for electricians to maintain, repair and update electrical installations is constant, especially in urban areas. You also have the option to work for yourself. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts job growth of around 8% for the ten years to 2029, which is much faster than average.
How Do I Become Licensed as an Electrician?
Licensing laws vary greatly from state to state, with some states regulating the profession and others not requiring licensing at all. However, even in states without a licensing requirement, local licenses may be issued by cities, townships and counties. Because of these variable provisions, you will want to ensure you have researched the regulations in the areas in which you wish to work prior to entering the workforce. As you progress, you will want to be sure you complete the requirements that can prepare the way for you to become a licensed electrical contractor.
Where licensing is required, there are some general trends. For example, apprentices are usually not required to carry a license but must work under a licensed journeyperson or master electrician. Also, in some states apprenticeship programs, both union (IBEW-NECA) and non-union (Independent Electrical Contractors IEC and ABC), might be specifically tracked through registration but not licensed.
An electrical contractor requires a business license in most states.
Can I Train as an Electrician Online?
Electrician training requires a lot of hands-on experience. For that reason, becoming a licensed journeyman electrician requires hours working under the guidance of an experienced professional such as a master electrician. However, there is a body of fundamental knowledge that can be taught online, and for which you only need a quiet space and access to a computer. Online programs (such as that offered by Penn Foster College and other trade programs) can teach electrical theory, get you up to speed with the latest version of the National Electrical Code®, explain electrical systems, electrical wiring, devices and components, prepare you in safety practices and much more. You can combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training to give you the best of both worlds and a head start.
What Electricians Do on the Job
The daily real world duties of an electrician depend on the exact job, position level and type of work environment, but in general the bulk of an electrician’s day is spent doing hands-on work with electrical systems. Some typical, everyday duties of an electrician include:
- Reading and interpreting technical drawings, diagrams and blueprints
- Installing electrical systems and components, including electrical, wiring, data and telecommunication cabling and lighting
- Maintaining electrical systems and making repairs
- Inspecting the components of an electrical system and wiring to make sure they work and meet codes
- Identifying problems with components and wiring that need to be fixed
- Using tools
- Following national codes and state and local regulations for wiring and electrical components
- Overseeing other electricians and guiding their work
- Electrical training and working with electrical apprentices
Electricians who are in a supervisory role may have more responsibilities, including designing and planning electrical components and wiring for a new building.
The Work Environment
Most electricians work inside, but even for residential and commercial electricians it is sometimes necessary to make work on the exterior of a building or home. Line workers and installers mostly work outside in all kinds of weather conditions. Professionals of all types need to drive from job to job, so having a reliable car or truck is necessary, and jobs may sometimes require long drives.
For all electricians, the bulk of the work is physical and hands-on. There is a lot of standing but also crouching, kneeling and fitting into uncomfortable, small spaces. Many may also work in industrial settings with a lot of loud noises. Injuries are possible in this career, including burns, shocks or falls. Some work in groups or teams and collaborate with other construction professionals, while others mostly work alone.
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Working Hours for Electricians
As an professional, the hours you work will depend on your particular job. Those who are focused mostly on maintenance can rely on steady hours and a regular 40-hour work week. For most electricians, though, the hours can vary widely, even for each individual. You will often be working on a project basis, so you may be on one job for months or another for just one day. Projects may be plentiful one month and few the next.
If you have been thinking of getting started in this profession, it’s important to know what to expect. This is a great career for anyone willing to put in the training and coursework and who is prepared to do hands-on, sometimes physically demanding work.