Electricians are technically very important in our lives because all day-to-day activities or functions require electricity either directly or indirectly. Every part of our lives involves electricity, including home, telecommunication networks, workplace, and even health-related devices. So, if you have chosen this as your career line, then let us assure you, you will shine and always be needed. However, you must decide what type of electrician you would like to become. Like most other professions, electricians are segregated in two categories: generalist and specialist. While the generalist performs minor residential based electrical repairs and maintenance, specialist’s work includes commercial and industrial repair and maintenance.
In this blog, you will learn the steps involved in becoming an electrician. Also, read what the profession looks like and learn the different types of electrician careers.
Electricians are trained to work on building assessments, wiring, connectivity, heating, and security system. One must enter into a certified apprenticeship program to become an electrician. In broader terms, the professionals read blueprints and drawings to install, repair and maintain building wiring, transformers, circuit breakers, and other electrical systems. They also use different testing devices to find and repair different circuit related problems in different building structures, and plants and machinery. They must also adhere to the National Electric Code and state and local regulations.
You can be self-employed or work with various groups, such as engineers, architects, building contractors, builders, and other businesses. There is no fixed location as where you would work – you may work indoors, outdoors, in homes or businesses, at construction sites or stationed in factories. The frequent commute is often involved in this profession.
Electrician Apprentice can be referred to as trainees who work under someone, mostly with licensed electricians, to learn the basic tasks of the job. As an apprentice, you will complete very simple jobs, such as connecting wires and repairing simple systems. You will mostly accompany seasoned journeyman and observe their work. Eventually, with time, you will get to do a variety of complex tasks.
Apprentice is similar to a college intern – you learn as you earn. You will have to go through a certain number of hours of classroom training in your apprenticeship and the rest of the time you will receive on the job training.
Unions, state and national programs, and private companies and electrician training schools organize apprentice program. However, the qualifications required will differ from one institute to another. Some programs may require applicants to complete schooling and gain some experience before attaining one.
The electrician apprenticeship will take four or five years to complete. By the end of it, you must have learned absolutely everything you need to know to become an experienced journeyman.
Once you have worked certain hours as an apprentice, or have completed your course in a trade school, you will be eligible for the test and become a licensed journeyman electrician. A license is the biggest credential that will help you build a solid career as a journeyman. A journey worker is completely trained and is capable of performing different simple to complex tasks on varied electrical settings. Once you become a journeyman, you shall work on your own and may start training electrician apprentice under you or in apprentice programs.
Your final goal should be a career as electrician journeyman. The higher you go, the better opportunities you will receive, including becoming a master electrician, and the better will your pay scale be. However, the requirements to become a journeyman electrician differ in each state. So, you will have to look up your state’s website to find the needed information.
Master Electrician and Electrical Contractor
Most states offer master electrician license, where the parameters to apply include completion of at least four years of the apprenticeship program, a certain number of years of experience as a journeyman, and clearing an examination. As a master, you must possess a deep understanding of different electrical systems, circuits, and wiring. The master electrician is the most sought-after jobs with great pay structure. Master electricians are usually hired as electrical contractors.
Electrical contractors are recruited for designing, installing, and maintaining electrical systems for different projects, including industrial, residential, commercial, large and small-scale projects. Contractors typically hire other journeymen and apprentices and start their own company. However, you can work alone, and recruit people on a freelance basis. To become a contractor, you need years of experience, preparation, and a license.
There are different types of electrician specialization that you may want to study:
- Wiremen: Install the wiring in private homes and residential buildings.
- Inside Wiremen: Works on the construction of commercial buildings and industrial structures. They do a variety of work, such as establish temporary power during the construction phase, install new systems, plan power distribution, install lighting, security, AC, etc.
- Outside Linemen: Work outside the building structures, install and maintain the distribution of electricity from the main power plant to the homes and commercial buildings. They are tough physically for they climb poles and trucks.
- Telecommunication Technicians: Install low-voltage cables and wires for phone lines, computer cables, data cables, fiber net, and multimedia circuitry, and install security systems and access control systems. They work alongside wiremen.
Industrial electricians work with high voltage electrical systems, such as in manufacturing plants, factories, power plants and other places that are prohibited to the general public.
Residential electricians work on people’s homes, apartments, and new home construction.
Commercial electricians work in commercial buildings and institutions, such as offices, restaurants, schools and colleges, malls, hospitals, and other places open to the public.
Electricians are one of the highest paying professionals. The median salary of an electrician should be $65, 000 per year, given to the fact that it was $53, 204 in 2014. In fact, in the US, more than ten states’ income of electricians was more than $60, 000, which was more than the average salary of other professionals.
There were around 5,58,500 electrician jobs in 2012, and the number has grown by 20% between 2012 and 2022, and it is one of the fastest growth rates than many other occupations. This means that even if you start your career now, within five years, you will be earning more than most of the professions.
Steps to Become an Electrician
Step 1: Qualifications You Need
Most states have almost the same requirements to become an electrician apprentice, which includes:
- Applicant should be at least 18 years old
- Applicant must have a high school degree or an equivalent diploma degree
- Applicant must pass a drug test
- Applicant must qualify in an aptitude test
- Must have a basic understanding of mathematics (algebra and trigonometry) to do quick calculations, measure lengths, and understand figures and diagrams
- Be in good physical shape to be able to climb, reach, crouch, dig, kneel and do other activities that require core strength and litheness
To add a bonus point in your resume, you can also join a mechanical drawing class to understand technical diagrams and concepts.
After you finish school, you can directly apply for an electrician training school, trade school, or a community college in order to become a journeyman electrician. College education for this profession is not mandatory. However, a college education may help you get better opportunities, which is also subjective to the company hiring.
Step 2: Get a Pre-apprenticeship Training
Certified training will help you learn the fundamentals of electrical engineering. Knowing the basic concept of electrical system operations, you will stand a better chance of winning your boss over. It will also make you keen and help you grasp things easier. As mentioned earlier, you can apply for pre-apprenticeship training at trade schools, technical institutes, and career colleges. You can take bachelors in electrical engineering after you finish high school. The training will provide you with a more comfortable introduction to this trade and help you gain practical knowledge upfront that would make you stronger in pursuing the career.
Things you will learn during your training include National Electric Code, electrical theory, electrical systems, circuit functioning, workplace safety and many other things to give you a head start. You will have both regular classroom instruction and hands-on training.
Step 3: Apply for Apprenticeship
You may have to apply at the National Electrical Contractors Association or the NECA. The NECA usually sponsors over 300 joint training apprenticeship programs. Through NECA, you will not only gain industry-standard skills and knowledge but also earn a wage while doing so. Electrical apprenticeship openings are also available in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC). You may also find local apprenticeship by exploring newspaper and online job boards and talking to your community. United States Department of Labor is another place where apprenticeships jobs are posted.
If you are from another country, try finding openings within your city’s electricity board department.
After applying for an apprenticeship, you will have to pass a basic aptitude test. The aptitude test is to see how good you are at reading comprehension and understanding simple mathematics and first-year algebra. Furthermore, you will need to clear an interview and meet certain fitness requirements, such as physical fitness, drug test clearance, and mental agility. Your mechanical aptitude level may also be tested.
This is why employers often prefer basic training in electricals. However, trade schools and vocal schools help applicants in speeding up the application process and achieve success by imparting information that they need to know.
Step 4: Register as an Electrician Apprentice in Your State
This is not obligatory in all states. However, states like Texas and California have made it mandatory for applicants to register before starting to work on actual job sites. You just have to fill out a form, submit it along with a fee. However, this requirement varies with each state and country. You may want to check with the department of licensing or labor to find out the regulations of your state.
Step 5: Complete Your Apprenticeship
You will take around 4 – 6 years to complete your apprenticeship and gain eligibility to work as a journeyman electrician. Your apprenticeship will include on-the-job training, mentored by a seasoned journeyman electrician. Your master will continually supervise you throughout the five years of training. This is just like a paid internship that you apply for during the last quarter of your college degree program. However, unlike interns who are paid monthly, apprentice electricians are given hourly wages.
You will also get to study many important concepts and work on real-life projects of various sizes that a typical journeyman electrician does at his work. Some of the things you will learn and practice during your apprenticeship include:
- Reading, understanding, and modifying blueprints and mechanical diagrams relating to electrical plans
- Testing and inspecting electrical systems, wiring, circuits, and components for problems using special tools
- Designing, installing, repairing and maintaining electrical wiring, fixtures, control systems, and other electricity-distribution equipment
- Understanding the National Electric Code and the state’s regulations and complying to both while on the job
By the end of the apprenticeship period, you will be capable of performing a full range of electrical work of a journeyman electrician, including construction and maintenance.
Step 6: Get Licensed in Your State or Local Municipality
Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will need to obtain your license to become a journeyman electrician. While in most states, licenses are provided by the state, there are states that give out a license at the municipal level. Therefore, it is important to contact your local municipality authorities and ask them if you need to be licensed to work under an electrical contractor. Some states only ask licensing if individuals plan on starting their own electrical business.
However, you will have to pass an exam relating to your understanding of National Electric Code, electrical concepts, practices, security and safety, building codes and local laws, in order to obtain the license. You must also show that you have 5 years of experience as an apprentice and practical training under the supervision of a licensed journeyman.
Are you ready to pursue this career? Have you decided how you will do it? Please comment on your experience below and share your knowledge with others.