This page provides a general overview of how to become an electrician. We’ll start with obtaining your high school education and walk through the various levels of training needed to become a master electrician. Although secondary education isn’t required, obtaining an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree from an accredited university gives you a lot more credibility and can help you compete against other electricians in your area.
Getting Started: What You Need to Know
Many schools offer pre-apprenticeship electrician training programs as part of the curriculum at a vocational, technical or trade school. You will find that many employers expect job candidates to have this experience and education under their belt prior to hiring them as an apprentice.
Although it takes four or five years to complete an apprenticeship, when you’re done, you will have all the knowledge and skills possessed by a journeyman. Even better, you will have had many opportunities to watch master electricians complete a variety of electrical tasks. This kind of hands-on learning is rare in the modern world.
In many states, you will also have to pass an exam and apply for a license in order to strike out on your own. In general, the more you know, the more you will build up your confidence. Electricians make a good living, but they also face dangers every day on the job. Therefore, safety should always remain a primary concern.
Step 1: Complete High School (Do You Need a GED?)
Before beginning training as an electrician, you will need to complete your high school diploma or get your GED. This requirement is not only based on the current job market but also is a prerequisite for applying for licensure in most states. Most of the job relies on specific skills that you obtain during your apprenticeship. However, there are also core concepts that you can obtain in an academic setting.
To prepare for a career as an electrician, consider taking the following courses in high school:
- Algebra and trigonometry. Electricians need advanced math skills in order to calculate how much wiring they need for a certain job. They also have to calculate circuit angles and the force of electrical currents.
- Physics. Electricians deal with complex scientific concepts in the course of their daily work. Therefore, you’ll need a deep understanding of how electricity works.
- English. Technical documents guide electricians with mapping out the wiring in residential and commercial buildings. You’ll also have to write estimates and communicate effectively with clients.
- Mechanical drawing classes. If your high school offers these courses, you can get a head start in drafting plans for electrical systems in homes and buildings.
Step 2: Apply to Programs
In today’s job market, most positions require some kind of training beyond high school. When you apply to electrician programs, look for ones that cover not only the fundamentals of electricity but also offer specializations, such as commercial electrical systems.
You can find electrician programs at technical institutes, trade schools and career colleges, and some traditional colleges and universities. These programs give you a firm foundation and the knowledge and skills needed to move forward with your career.
For example, most training programs will include mastery of the National Electric Code, which covers workplace safety, information about electrical systems and other information needed to kickstart your apprenticeship. You can also look for a trade school with hands-on training, such as an internship or other professional exposure.
Step 3: Complete the Program
Completing the training program with flying colors can set you up to obtain the right apprenticeship. Every program will have different requirements, which you can research prior to applying to the trade school, community college or university sponsoring the courses. You can even take classes online and obtain a diploma or certification that will help you qualify for an internship.
Electrician programs cover classroom instruction and hands-on training. Since most states require an apprenticeship for a minimum of four years, it’s important to find the right electrician or company to work for.
During an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship training program, you will learn to decipher technical documents, including construction blueprints and electrical system plans. You also need to learn the fundamentals of installing, repairing and maintaining electrical boxes, wiring and related equipment. Additionally, you will need to familiarize yourself with local and state laws that govern the trade in your area.
Apply for an Apprenticeship
Once you complete your education or training, you can apply for apprenticeships. Depending on who you want to work for, many other candidates may apply for the apprenticeship. Therefore, it’s important to make the best impression you can, including showcasing your training program diploma, any college degrees that you have obtained and other awards or achievements that help you stand out.
Luckily, there are many resources available to help you. For example, you can find an apprenticeship in your area through the United States Department of Labor. Plus, you can search for apprenticeships and online job websites or on the following websites: The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).
When you apply for an apprenticeship, you will typically have to take an aptitude test. This exam may test your math and reading skills. Furthermore, you will have to make a good impression during the interview phase, pass a drug test and demonstrate minimal physical requirements required to become an electrician.
Here are a few examples of the hours required to become an apprentice, journeyman or master electrician:
- Residential wireman. 4,000 hours of on-the-job training by a licensed master electrician plus an exam.
- Journeyman electrician. 8,000 hours of hands-on experience under a master electrician and another exam
- Master electrician. 12,000 hours of training by a licensed master electrician, plus maintenance of your journeyman license for at least two years, and yet another exam
Note that each state has its own requirements. So, make sure to learn the rules that govern the industry where you live.
Step 4: Get Certified (Take an Exam)
Every state has its own standards for obtaining an electrician’s license. In fact, some states require a license while others do not. For example, Pennsylvania and Illinois do not require electricians to obtain a license. However, the vast majority of states do, and local authorities may require a license even if the state does not.
If you work in an area that requires a license, you’ll have to pass a National Electric Code exam. You will probably also need to show that you have completed a certain amount of classroom instructions and hands-on training under a journeyman or master electrician.
How Much Does It Cost?
As is the case with most trade schools and college programs, there is a vast difference in what you will pay to complete your pre-training program. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the quality of the program, materials covered and where you take your classes. Fortunately, you may qualify for grants and scholarships as well as other types of financial aid.
Becoming an electrician involves several years of serving as an apprentice and journeyman. Most companies charge apprenticeship fees ranging between $400 and $1,000 annually. However, you can try to find an employer who will pay for your apprentice classes or tuition. Plus, you can earn money while you train, which is hugely beneficial.
What Is the Average Salary?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians make an average of $60,000. The lowest wage earners average around $37,000, while the highest-paid electricians make nearly $100,000 or more. As you can see, this is a highly lucrative field. However, the choices you make in terms of where to apprentice and complete your journeyman hours will greatly impact your wages.
What Kind of Personality Does It Take?
There are several traits that will serve you well as an electrician. If you don’t have these personality traits, you can work toward developing them:
- Good communication and people skills
- Ability to work independently
- Understanding of regulatory requirements
- Basic math skills
- Excellent English skills
Patience and understanding also go a long way in dealing with clients. Courteous and professional behavior can lead to additional work in the future and referrals to friends, neighbors and family members.
What Kind of Personal Skills Are Needed?
Problem-solving skills and tenacity are two personal skills needed by successful electricians. You should also have the manual dexterity needed to install and maintain electrical systems and use power tools. Rewiring buildings and installing conduits, tubing and cabling often require a great deal of physical endurance. Sometimes, you spend long periods on your knees or in uncomfortable positions. So, personal and mental endurance can help you build your career and find satisfaction in the work.
What Is the Career Outlook?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9% job growth for electricians through 2030. That’s about as fast as all occupations are expected to grow. The BLS is also projecting nearly 85,000 openings due to electricians who will retire, change careers or otherwise leave the field.
Both online and traditional programs can help you obtain the knowledge needed to secure one of the best apprenticeships available. Check out the list of schools below and apply to the ones that will help you meet your career goals.