You’re interested in becoming an electrician. It’s a great career move, as there is a shortage of qualified workers in the electrical field! But how do you go about starting a career as a licensed electrician?
We have got you covered with 5 easy-to-follow steps that will guide you through the process. All you need to bring is a strong work ethic, a desire to learn and a positive attitude. Let’s get going!
In this article we’ll cover:
- Why becoming an electrician is a good career move.
- Meeting the requirements.
- Trade school and apprenticeship details.
- Licensing requirements.
- How to get hired.
Why Become an Electrician?
The U.S News ranks electricians as #5 in Highest Paying Jobs Without A Degree. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9% employment growth from 2020-2030. This means adding more than 66,000 jobs!
Electrician hiring has been steady, and the job market is looking up!
Electricians work in a risk-filled job. So, training and technical knowledge are key in landing a job in the electrical field. There are all types of electricians. Here are some of the the main roles:
- Journeyman Electrician – An apprenticeship is completed and they have passed a state licensing exam
- Electrical Technician – Works on electronics in appliances. Does not require a license
- Master Electrician: Journeyman with 2 years experience can then take an exam to become a Master electrician. Additional roles include leading jobs and conducting trainings.
- Inside Wireman: Install and maintain electrical systems inside a commercial building. Some examples are lighting, security systems, and fire alarm systems.
- Outside Lineman: Install and maintain power lines delivering electricity to buildings
- Residential Electrician: Install or repair home electrical components
- Commercial Electrician: Work in larger commercial buildings
- Industrial Electrician: Work in large buildings with heavy equipment and machinery
- Maintenance Electricians: Work on large systems inside factories and power plants
You do not need to know exactly what kind of electrician you want to become as you start out, but it’s good to know the variety of jobs that are available.
Step 1: Determine Your Electrical Interests
When looking into a career in the electrical field, determine your interests. You should consider several factors, including the time it takes to achieve your goals and what type of electrical work you prefer.
Are you an electronics guru who likes to take apart appliances to see how they function and put them back together?
Or, do you want to install electrical lines or troubleshoot system problems in homes or businesses?
There are three primary types of careers, with many additional opportunities within each job type.
Licensed Electricians work in the field installing electrical systems and equipment. Electricians can work on a wide variety of projects. Those include wiring houses or maintaining systems in industrial power plants.
It takes an average of 4 years to complete an electrical apprenticeship or 80,000 to 100,000 hours. That sounds like a long time! Just remember, anything worth having takes time. And, you are likely to earn pay during training years.
Electrical Technicians primarily test, maintain and repair electrical systems. They may also work on appliances, electrical equipment and apparatuses.
Another task is reading blueprints and diagrams and they often work under the supervision of electrical engineers. They may work in the office or in the field.
For training, most electrical technician jobs require an associates degree in a relevant field. While 23% of electrical technicians hold a bachelor’s degree, it is not a requirement.
Electrician’s Assistant or Tech
Many licensed electricians, especially on the commercial side, bring assistants or techs along with them on the job. These techs must be supervised by a licensed electrician and serve as an extra set of hands.
While there isn’t much formal training required, there is some limitation in growth opportunities for techs or assistants. However, there are still many well-paying opportunities in the electrical field without years of formal training!
For our following steps, we will focus on the requirements to become a licensed electrician.
Step 2: Meet the Requirements
What exactly do you need to become a licensed electrician? Most states require the following qualifications before starting an apprenticeship:
- Earn a High school diploma or GED.
- Possible aptitude test on math and reading comprehension.
- 17 or older age requirement
Ace the Aptitude Test!
When applying for an apprenticeship, sometimes you may have to pass an aptitude test. If you are looking at non-union opportunities, you may not need to take an aptitude test.
The typical aptitude test consists of a series of questions on algebra and functions. There is often another section on reading comprehension. How can you prepare? There are many options online to take free practice tests. Two options for free tests can be found here and here.
Why are you tested on math, english and other subjects?
Algebra and trigonometry are two areas of math electricians use when calculating the force of electrical currents.
English is needed to read technical documents and communicate with coworkers and clients. Electricians should be able to document job notes and clearly convey details to clients in writing and verbally.
Step 3: Trade Schools and Apprenticeships
Once you have met the minimum requirements above, there are two options when deciding how to obtain the necessary training to become a journeyman electrician.
Regardless of how you obtain your training, you must complete an apprenticeship to become a licensed electrician.
Trade school is going to take place on a campus with hands-on training from teachers who previously or currently work as electricians. It’s a great way to learn what you need to pass your state licensing requirements.
This is typically a two year program. Formal school time (either through a college or trade school) can substitute for some of the hours required to become a journeyman. This is typically up to 2 years or 2,000 hours.
Even if you decide to attend trade school full-time, you will still need experience in the field before becoming a journeyman electrician.
At some point in your journey to becoming an electrician, you’ll have to apply for apprenticeships. They usually require a combination of working in the field during the day, and often taking night classes for three to four years.
Apprenticeships can take effort to land, but offer pay and real electrician work while you learn and study for your license. Let’s look at the three ways to find an apprenticeship:
- Trade school: These may offer apprenticeships as part of the schooling. They also typically offer job placement opportunities.
- Union: The Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees, or JATC, is in most cities throughout the U.S. They can place you in a union apprenticeship after you join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW. Despite the name, women are welcome to join as well.
- Non-union: There are two main organizations that offer non-union apprenticeship placements: Independent Electrical Contractors, or IEC, and Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABC.
After completing the required number of hours in your state, it’s on to step 4 and getting your license! It may take a few tries to pass, but once you do, you’re an official journeyman electrician!
You can make a good living as a journeyman electrician but if you want to take the next step you can shoot for master electrician. Master electricians do more with leading teams.
Becoming an electrician is no easy task, but it can be a rewarding and lucrative career, all without a college degree!
Step 4: Get Licensed In Your State or City
Most states and even cities have licensing requirements in order to work as an electrician. Some transfer between states, others do not. Each state also charges different fees and has varying requirements.
But there’s no need to do all kinds of research on your own; we already did it for you!
Check out our Electrical License Guide for Every State.
Some states and cities may require you to pass an electrical exam, as well. This will test you on the National Electric Code. The NEC sets the standard for safe electrical design, installation and inspection. There are free electrician exam practice tests here.
Step 5: You’re Hired!
You have training and the certifications and are on your way to getting hired. You may have a job opportunity through your apprenticeship or trade school. Or you may have to go looking for your first job. Electrician hiring is projected to add 84,000 jobs per year up to 2030, so the prospects look good!
What are companies looking for when they hire their next employee? Yes, the appropriate certifications are a must. But employers also look for experience, positive attitudes and a willingness to learn.
Do you have any other connections within your circle of family and friends or from your training? Reach out and let them know you are trained and ready to go!
Start Your Electrician Career Today!
There you have it: a basic five step program for those interested in becoming an electrician. It’s not an easy journey but you’ll gain skills and be set up for success.
You now have a better idea on the steps needed to becoming an electrician. Topics we covered in this article include:
- Ensuring you are dedicated to becoming an electrician
- Meeting the requirements to starting your electrical adventure
- Learning the ins and outs of trade schools and apprenticeships
- Getting licensed in your state or city
- Finding your first job as a licensed electrician!
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