Get charged up because this guide on how to become an electrician may just spark an interest in you! If you enjoy the power and excitement that comes with wiring up a house, building, lights and more, then this career may be the one for you. Powering your way into a new profession can certainly cause some shock and resistance if you aren’t prepared, so in this article we answer everything you need to know to learn how to become a licensed electrician, including what you can expect in terms of salary and job expectations, how long does it take to become an electrician, how to become an electrician apprentice, how to become a journeyman electrician, pros and cons of the career and more. And if you caught our electrician puns and jokes above, you are already on the right frequency!
You may also be interested in learning how to become a lineman.
What Does an Electrician Do?
Electricians plan, install, connect, maintain, and repair electrical power systems. Depending on their specialty and training, electricians may work in homes or residential buildings, in commercial or industrial settings, or in some combination of all three. In addition to conventional electrical installations, they may also be tasked to work on lighting, communications, and control or monitoring systems, or on high-use equipment that relies on electricity to function. Electricians may be called on to work indoors or outdoors, on new construction projects, or in special environments that require a steady and reliable supply of power.
Before achieving a professional license, an electrician must go through extensive training in an apprenticeship program, under the supervision of a working journeyman or master electrician. Once they achieve more advanced status, they can choose to be entrepreneurs and work more independently if they’d like, as contractors operating their own electrical installation, repair, and maintenance companies.
How Much Does an Electrician Make?
For those who aren’t interested in completing a four-year college degree program, a career as an electrician can be an appealing option. The annual median salary for electricians in 2019 was $56,180, which is above the average for all occupations in the United States as a whole. In the nine highest-paying states (Hawaii, Alaska, California, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) plus the District of Columbia, the median wages for licensed electricians exceed the $70,000 per year level.
Between 2019 and 2029, the demand for electricians in the United States is expected to rise by eight percent. This is twice the national average for all job categories, and in some popular specialties the increase in available jobs for electricians may exceed this percentage by a notable amount.
How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
With a high school diploma completed, it will generally take you four to five years to become an electrician. This can vary based on your specialty and the type of education you receive prior to apprenticeship. In order to become a master electrician, the highest level of recognition, it will take about eight years in total.
How long is electrician school? Typically electrician schools are one to two years.
How to Become an Electrician: A Step-by-Step Guide
In order to become an electrician you’ll most likely benefit from some schooling program. Following this an apprenticeship is where you’ll gain the most hands on experience. After this point you’ll be considered an electrician. Then you can advance to being a journeyman electrician, followed by a master electrician. For details on how to do this, here is our step by step guide on how to be an electrician.
Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma
Graduating from high school is the minimal educational requirement for aspiring electricians.
No particular coursework is required to gain acceptance as an electrician’s apprentice, which will represent your most important step on the path to becoming an electrician. However, it could help your cause of you have a background in relevant academic disciplines. This might include hands-on instruction in industrial or mechanical arts, and advanced coursework in mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
If you have employment history working in some type of electrical trade, even if it was only part-time, that would represent another valuable addition to your resume.
Step 2: Choose an Electrical Specialty
Electricians-in-training follow a progression to long-term employment. They start out as apprentices, before working their way up to journeyman status. Beyond the journeyman level, they can become a master electrician, and possibly an electrical contractor after that.
Before you begin an apprenticeship, however, you must decide what type of electrical work you’d like to perform. As a general electrician, you could specialize in residential, industrial, or commercial installation, maintenance, and repair. Or, you could pursue diverse training so you’d be qualified to practice your trade in any environment.
Another option is to pursue a career in a more specialized category. Should you select this path, you’d ultimately train to seek a license as a specialty or limited electrician, and your license would only authorize you to work on certain types of electrical systems.
Various states grant limited or specialized licenses to electricians who want to install and maintain:
- Electrical signage
- Electronic systems
- Video voice systems
- Alarm systems
- Fire safety systems
- Lighting (residential or non-residential)
- HVAC-R electrical wiring
- Power lines
- Elevators electrical systems
- High voltage systems
- Low voltage systems
- Irrigation power systems
- Electrical pump wiring systems
This is a broad sampling of the licensing categories that are available for prospective electricians across the country. Some of these specialties are licensed in many different states, while some may only be recognized in a few. Regardless, these more specialized categories are options you could pursue, if you prefer a particular type of electrical work.
Step 3: Complete an Electrician’s Training Program at a Technical School or Community College
Aspiring electricians don’t need to have a college degree to land an apprenticeship. However, possessing of an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in electrical installation and maintenance can definitely improve your chances of securing a place in an apprenticeship program, given how competitive those programs can be.
If you spend one-to-two years studying electrical work in a well-designed educational program with a comprehensive preparatory curriculum, you’ll increase your knowledge base and make yourself more attractive to companies or individual contractors who hire apprentice electricians. Many technical schools, vocational schools, and community colleges feature one- and two-year programs that will teach you more about electricity and electrical work, and most importantly they will offer you opportunities to gain first-hand field and laboratory experience, working under the guidance and supervision of skilled instructors or trained professional electricians.
Carrying a degree, certificate, or diploma will not eliminate the need to serve an apprenticeship. But you may be able to substitute some of your classwork and field work for the normal apprenticeship hourly requirements, reducing the time you’ll need to invest in your on-the-job learning program.
Step 4: Secure an Apprenticeship as a General or Specialty Electrician (How to Become an Electrician Apprentice)
Completing a four-year apprenticeship, featuring approximately 8,000 hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed master or journeyman electrician, is the baseline qualification to become a practicing professional.
Apprenticeship programs will generally include an additional 500 to 600 hours of classroom instruction, in addition to the extensive fieldwork. Your electrical apprenticeship will be a paid position, which will allow you to work and train on a full-time basis without having to worry about your finances.
Individuals who pursue specialty or limited licenses usually won’t need to serve as apprentices for more than three years to qualify to take their licensing exams (except for aspiring linemen, who will need a full four-year training program). Their classroom requirements will also be reduced. Naturally, if you choose this path your choice of apprenticeship should reflect your licensing preference.
You won’t have to find apprenticeship opportunities entirely on your own. If you’ve attended a technical school, they should have a career assistance or job placement department that will help you find a suitable position with an employer that regularly hires and trains apprentice electricians.
Another option is to seek the assistance of the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, which is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (the largest union for electricians in the country). The JATC has offices in all states and in most cities, and they can help you find union-affiliated apprenticeship openings locally or nationally.
Should you prefer a non-union position, you can connect with one of two organizations that arrange apprenticeships for aspiring electricians. One is the Independent Electrical Contractors, or IEC, and the second is the Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABS. Like the JATC, they have offices in most cities and all states, which highlights how much demand there is for highly motivated and supremely qualified apprentice electricians.
Regardless of what type of apprenticeship you pursue, you’ll likely have to complete reading and mathematics aptitude tests in order to secure a position. You’ll likely have to go through an interview process as well, to make sure the fit is good for employer and employee alike.
Step 5: Apply for Your Journeyman Electrician License (How to Become a Journeyman Electrician)
After you’ve completed your apprenticeship, and obtained a card or other form of acknowledgment of your accomplishment from your employer, the next step is to take your licensing exam to become a journeyman electrician. State requirements to become a licensed electrician vary, so you’ll have to contact your state’s licensing board (or search their website) to obtain more information before you can proceed.
Once you’ve taken and passed this exam in the state where you plan to work, you’ll be officially licensed as a journeyman electrician, meaning you’re fully qualified to perform all types of installation, maintenance, and repair work in your licensing category. You may be classified as a general electrician, or specifically licensed to work in residential, commercial, or industrial environments, or granted permission to perform more specialized or limited duties. But the journeyman classification is what officially signifies your status as a professional electrician.
As a journeyman, you’ll still be working under the authority of a master electrician or electrical contractor. But you’ll be qualified to work independently and without any direct supervision.
Journeyman electricians may be hired by well-established local or national electrical installation and services companies, general mechanical service companies, municipal or state agencies, corporate or industrial employers who need in-house electrical services, or by small contractors or start-ups seeking to expand their businesses.
Licenses for journeyman electricians need to be renewed every one to two years. This will not require you to take additional licensing exams, but you will have to provide proof that you’ve completed a predetermined number of continuing education hours since the issuance of your last license.
Step 6: Become a Master Electrician and/or an Electrical Contractor
Beyond the journeyman category, the next step up the ladder is to become a master electrician. Master electricians are fully trained and qualified to perform a complete range of installation, maintenance, and repair duties, and they can also supervise workplace operations that involve teams of journeymen and apprentices working on larger projects.
Some states don’t specifically license anyone under the title of master electrician. In most instances, those states allow journeymen to make the transition directly to electrical contractor, if they have the experience necessary to qualify for a contractor’s license.
To take the exam to become a master electrician in states that recognize that category, you’ll need to have accumulated at least four years of experience working as a licensed journeyman electrician. This means it will take you eight years to move from a beginning apprentice to master electrician status, which signifies the highest level of expertise recognized in the industry.
Electrical contractors are entrepreneurs who own and operate their own businesses. Before becoming a contractor, you’ll have to first obtain a master electrician’s license, or prove that you’ve been working as a journeyman electrician for several years. Most electrical contractors are master electricians, but those who aren’t must hire at one master electrician to supervise work projects before they can receive their business license.
Pros and Cons of a Career as an Electrician
Pros of Becoming an Electrician
For individuals who truly enjoy working with their hands, a career as an electrician can be highly rewarding. Electricians are in demand everywhere, since they help provide a product that is universally needed and appreciated. An added bonus to the profession is that no two installation jobs are ever exactly the same, which prevents the work from becoming overly routine or boring. Because there are so many specialties and sub-specialties in the field, electricians can custom-build their careers, choosing from many types of electrical work and a variety of working environments. They can become independent contractors or company employees, depending on their personal preferences. Thanks to the profession’s unique reliance on apprenticeships, electricians are paid fair wages throughout the duration of their training period, in an attractive earn-as-you-learn system.
Cons of Becoming an Electrician
The work of an electrician is inherently dangerous. While taking the proper precautions can reduce the risk, the profession still has a higher-than-average injury rate compared to most industries, and exposure to electrical shocks can sometimes be fatal. The work of an electrician can be physically demanding, putting practitioners in awkward or challenging positions that can in some instances increase the hazards. Even though it is true that electricians don’t have to attend college, it will still take them at least four years to complete their apprenticeships. This will involve between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job training, plus 500 hours or more of additional classroom instruction.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Electrician
Good communication skills are vitally important for electricians. They must be clear, concise, and descriptive in their communications with their customers, co-workers, and other tradespeople or professionals who they may be sharing space with while working on various projects. The best electricians are personable and friendly, and seem eager to cooperate and to provide fast and accurate information about what they’re doing. On larger jobs, they may be called on to work with architects, engineers, projects managers, and an expansive team of other electricians and tradespeople, making it essential that they be comfortable and confident when giving or receiving instructions.
Since no two jobs are exactly the same, electricians must be creative and innovative when called on to provide solutions for difficult installations, inspections, or repair jobs. They must be instinctive and enthusiastic problem-solvers, able to provide workable and efficient answers for clients who have unique or special demands, or own unusually designed buildings that need to be wired. Great electricians can think on their feet, and make smart adjustments to their plans when they encounter unexpected obstacles. While electricians work directly with their hands, it is the quality of their minds that separates the top electricians from the pack.
To make sure their projects stay on track, and that they are careful about adhering to deadlines, the best electricians will have well-developed time management skills. They respect their work and they respect the needs of their clients, and consequently they are always well-organized and fully prepared to meet predetermined schedules and timelines. Superior electricians are highly focused on the job, and they know how to skillfully coordinate with co-workers, other contractors, and customers to make sure work is completed quickly, smoothly, and efficiently.
Among the many vital characteristics that superior and highly successful electricians possess, their diligence and sense of responsibility is perhaps their most important. Safety is paramount when working with electricity, and this is something the top performers never lose sight of when they’re busy installing, maintaining, or repairing electrical systems. Good electricians know the National Electric Code and any local rules and regulations like the back of their hands, and they are diligent and responsible about observing all codes and regulations to guarantee that they, their co-workers, and their customers will remain safe at all times.
This guide was created in order to help you get answers to questions such as how to become a certified electrician and how long does it take to become an electrician. Many people are surprised that, despite not requiring a bachelor’s degree, it can take quite a few years become being able to practice. But this is partly due to the fact that you are in control of electricity which has the power to significantly impact people’s lives in many ways. Having the skills of an electrician also gives you the ability to build and create many exciting and unique gadgets. If you know of someone who you think has the right skills and interest, then please share with them this guide on how to become an electrician. You may just empower them to generate their own future! Or you might instead wish to learn how to become a carpenter.