So you want to become an electrician? Congratulations! You’ve picked a consistent career that will always have an important place in society.
The high level of technical knowledge, skill, and risk management required will take some time to learn, but it’s all part of the journey.
If you’re just starting out, you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information you’ve had to process – but don’t worry – our complete guide to becoming an electrician will help calm your nerves.
Electrician Job Description
If you’re considering becoming an electrician, you’re probably curious about the scope of the work you’ll be doing.
Being an electrician means being a skilled professional who can implement a wide range of solutions regarding electrically powered equipment of all kinds.
How to Become an Electrician
High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED)
If you’re still in high school (or working towards your GED) and want to become an electrician – stay there until you graduate! It’s great that you’re already thinking about what you’d like to do with your future, but like most things, becoming an electrician usually requires at least a high school diploma (if you’re planning to take the traditional route).
Electricians will often read manuals, take measurements, do basic arithmetic, algebra, or geometry, and apply other critical thinking skills that are taught throughout the high school years. If your school district offers any sort of woodshop or mechanical drawing classes they could prove very useful when learning how to become an electrician or other trade professional.
Trade or Vocational School
Attending a trade or vocational school isn’t always necessary to become an electrician. But it does offer a much easier route to obtaining all the skills and knowledge you’ll need to become a certified electrician. These schools can even help you with job placement after graduation.
Throughout your time in the classroom, you’ll learn everything you need to know about becoming an electrician. Most importantly, you’ll learn the National Electrical Code (NEC) – which despite its name, is not federal law – but will teach you the information you need to safely install electrical wiring and equipment.
Attending a trade school is a much less costly route than a traditional four-year university. Every state has different schools or programs – you can easily do research online and find information on the trade schools and programs near you. If you’re eager to get out in the field, some places even offer accelerated programs.
Graduating from a trade or vocational school with the proper certifications for becoming an electrician will quickly help you stand out from the competition when searching for an apprenticeship.
Applying For and Obtaining an Apprenticeship
If you’ve received your high school diploma, or completed training at a vocational school, you’re ready to apply for an apprenticeship. If you attended a trade school, they’ll most likely have a program that helps you secure an electrical apprenticeship.
If you didn’t graduate from a trade school, you’ll be required to find an apprenticeship on your own. Finding an apprenticeship on your own might take some extra effort – using the internet, local job boards, or the United States Department of Labor to find a company offering electrical apprenticeship training is a good place to start.
According to their webpage, “The IBEW represents approximately 775,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads, and government. The IBEW has members in both the United States and Canada and stands out among the American unions in the AFL-CIO because it is among the largest and has members in so many skilled occupations.”
Apprenticeships can also be acquired through independent electrical contractors. Experienced electricians will often run their own businesses and take on apprentices to help them. Ask family members and friends and see if they have any connections in the industry.
Completing an Apprenticeship
Applying for and completing an apprenticeship is the first step toward becoming a certified electrician. Depending on the state you live in, you’ll most likely be required to complete a specific amount of hours in the field to become a certified electrician – with on-the-job training and mentorship from a master electrician.
When you’re in the field:
You’ll learn how to draw up blueprints or plans to install, maintain, or repair electrical equipment.
You’ll get comfortable using any special or technical tools that are required to properly complete a job in the industry.
You’ll make sure any work completed is compliant with the national and state regulations.
As mentioned above, you’ll be required to complete a specific amount of hours in the classroom and the field.
It could potentially take up to five years to get all the necessary training to complete your apprenticeship, get licensed, and take the test to become a Journeyman Electrician.
The Future of Your Career as an Electrician
Now that you’ve completed the requirements and passed the exam to obtain your license – it’s time to figure out what the future holds for you.
After apprenticeship, you’ll be considered a Journeyman Electrician. You’re now a certified electrician with the ability to work independently or join an already established electrical company.
Working as an independent contractor could prove difficult if you’ve just received your certification. You won’t yet have the proper certifications to train new employees, pull required permits, or lead projects on a work site.
After a few years as a Journeyman Electrician, you can apply to become a Master Electrician. Becoming a Master Electrician puts you at the top of your trade. Similar to the first two stages, you’ll have to pass another exam to become a Master Electrician.
As a Master Electrician, you’re in a much stronger position to work as an independent contractor. You’ll have everything you need at this point in your career to conduct business and lead a team of electricians.
The Different Types of Electricians
Independent Electrical Contractor
As mentioned above, you can become an Independent Electrical Contractor. In this situation, you’ll own and operate your own business! This will be a challenge, as there is a lot of competition in the industry.
Residential Electricians are those who operate on homes or apartments in local neighborhoods. They mainly focus on installing or repairing electrical equipment and maintaining the wiring. This is a great place to start if you’re planning to take on the challenge of running your own business.
Working in larger properties like shops and offices, this type of Electrician will specialize in the type of power used in commercial buildings. It’s a bit different, so becoming a Commercial Electrician could require some extra training or a focus during your time as an apprentice.
Industrial Electricians specialize in doing electrical work within large facilities that use specific electrical equipment or machinery. They work in buildings like warehouses and power plants that require a specialized technician to help with the maintenance they need. If you’d like to go this route, make sure you focus the bulk of your apprenticeship on this area.
How Much Do Electricians Make?
Since you’re considering becoming an electrician, you’re probably wondering how much they make annually. Naturally, the exact amount you make will vary based on your location and employer.
According to Indeed, “The average salary for an electrician is $26.44 per hour in the United States.” Which calculates out to an annual salary of just over $50,000 (before taxes). On the high end, you’ll find electricians making over $50 an hour in some places!
The more experience and certifications you have under your belt as an electrician, the more you’ll be able to make hourly. If you own your own electrical company or specialize in a certain type of equipment, it’s possible to make even more annually.
Just like most things in life, becoming an electrician takes time and effort. You’ll have to study hard and take your time in the field seriously. Learning how to become an electrician is a great career choice and life skill that opens up a world of possibilities.
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