Our informational guide on how to become an electrician will help you as you begin your career; not only will you find out the steps and progression of becoming an electrician but we will also show you where you can find educational resources to help and avoid the trail and error that many people go through in the process of becoming an electrician
There are many sites on the internet that will give vague outlines of the path to becoming an electrician; for instance you have to be an apprentice for a certain amount of time then after you the state test you are a licensed/qualified electrician. None of these sites showed me where to go to find information on getting an apprenticeship how the selection process worked or what was actually involved in the apprenticeship period – for instance did you know that you have the tuition of the apprenticeship program deducted from your wages? Did you also know that there are different calculations on the way that companies can pay you once you are an electrician? Finally, how is the best way learn the classroom material that you need to master in order to pass the licensing test?
You will find a wealth of detailed information here that will hopefully help you make an informed decision and ultimately succeed in the field if you so choose. Right now we are building out a section that will go cover each state and the different requirements and license reciprocity you can find that page here.
Is it difficult to become an electrician?
From a class room perspective it is not an exceptionally hard undertaking aside from have good math and problem solving skills; what is hard is finding a school that knows how to “teach” you the material so that you can pass the test on the first attempt. Make no mistake you will have to study but if you put in the time and dedication and attend a well regarded school then you will have no problem passing on your first attempt.
Now one of the harder parts of becoming an electrician is the work experience/apprenticeship that you have to go through. Electricians in many states are still unionized which is not a bad thing but there are certain rules that the unions will adhere to and certain qualifications that they want in their apprentices. These can range from exceptional grades to just being a fun person to be around for long periods of time; you will spend a lot of time with your mentor(s) throughout your apprenticeship period and being able to get along with all sorts of people is key. I know some of you are already saying that is not fair but if you have not learned by now life is not fair (actually it is fair because it is unfair to everyone at one time or another but that is another subject entirely) so get used to it and realize that you will have to do your homework and make sure that you know exactly what your company/guild is looking for in an apprentice and make sure that you meet all or as many of the requirements as possible. Also realize that it is a competitive job hunting market; not only do many other people want to become electricians (there is also a high percentage of peoples family members becoming electricians if someone in their immediate family is one) but with the recent recession and downturn in the economy employers are being more selective in who they hire.
Do not let this deter you from becoming an electrician as being an electrician can be a rewarding and beneficial career not only is there demand in the field but the salary is good and you are paid WHILE you are learning the trade. Another huge bonus is not having a large amount of student loan debt that has to be paid off when you finish your training and start working in fact you will be earning from day 1!
So exactly how do you become an electrician; well as they say that depends……
First off are you interested in the field and do you know what the typical day to day work of an electrician entails? Secondly, what state do you want to become an electrician in? Requirements differ from state to state. Do you want to specialize within any one area i.e. residential, commercial ect? Do you want to be an independent electrician and start your own company or do you want to work for a large company? These are only a few of the questions that you have to ask yourself as you begin thinking about becoming an electrician.
Very simply there are three steps to becoming an electrician – they are:
- Meeting the Minimum Requirements and Education Requirements
- Apprenticeship (this is sometimes part of the Education step)
- Licensing or Certification in your state
Now let’s dig into the detail of each of the steps but first is being an electrician a good fit for you?
Being an electrician might be right for you if……
- You enjoy working with your hands
- Changes and challenges everyday
- Being outdoors in all types of weather
- Being indoors in small cramped spaces sometimes
- Having the satisfaction of seeing the result of your work every day.
- Not afraid of heights
- Enjoy working with others
- Detail orientated
What an electrician will typically do from day to day:
- Install, maintain, and repair various electrical equipment required to maintain electricity flowing throughout structures such as houses, offices, and even cars and boats
- Adhere to state electrical code and regulations in all your installations, repairs ect.
- Talking and consulting with general contractors, home owners, and other construction workers. This will include troubleshooting various electrical issues or problems and knowledge of electrical tools and materials used in building.
Minimum requirements to become an election:
- Valid driver’s license and social security card
- A reliable means of transportation
- Drug free and clean background check
- Finished High School or have a GED
- Finally and probably most importantly you must provide your own tools (at the very beginning of your apprenticeship you will need very few and build up your inventory of tools as time progresses) typically you will spend between $250 and $500 dollars when you have all the tools you will need. You can get your tools from Amazon almost always cheaper than elsewhere.
Ready to start your career as an electrician?
You will first need to find a school/apprenticeship program in your area. Details on several of the popular apprenticeship programs are here. The easiest way is of course if you have a family member or know someone who is already an lectrician. Many times they will hire you on as a helper and you can get hands on experience almost from day one to see if the field is a good fit for you. Some people prefer to go to a technical or trade school and take courses that will qualify for credit towards your apprentice period. There are also several online schools that provide courses. This is a good option for you if you live in a small area that is not close to a trade school or apprenticeship program. You can find information about them here. Make sure that if you choose this route the courses you take are accredited and will be honored by the organization where you go to choose your apprenticeship.
Another great place to look is in the classified sections of the paper and see if any electrical companies are hiring helpers/apprentices; if you are able to secure a position this way then you will most likely be assigned to a Master Electrician or Journeyman Electrician and assist them with very basic tasks.
As you gain experience and knowledge you will be allowed to take on more complex assignments. Make no mistake your first year or so will have you performing more “repetitive” easy tasks but realize that this is a very important part of the training as you will pick up the lingo and see how many different tasks are done. Becoming familiar with all the tools used and the materials used is also vital and is only learned by repetition. Don’t forget that you will also be getting paid during this time so while the work may not be the highlight during the first year you will still be collecting a paycheck; which cannot be said for very many professions.
After you finish your apprentice you will then have to pass a licensing test and meet other requirements that vary from state to state; you can find that information here. You will also need to start thinking about what area you want to specialize in or if you want to be a generalist. Remember that the more specialized your knowledge in a particular area the higher salary you will be able to command.
Progression of Your Career as an Electrician
The first level is an Apprentice Electrician at this stage you will work under the direct supervision of a Master electrician and possibly a Journeyman electrician and perform very basic tasks. After a couple years you can take an exam to become and Journeyman Electrician; or the equivalent as the name varies from state to state. As an apprentice electrician salary will usually be between $21,000 and $26,000. Remember in addition to this salary you are getting your training as well.
As a Journeyman Electrician you be able to work without direct supervision; but will still have to be employed by a Master Electrician and will be able to start to specialize in the area of your choosing. Again depending upon state regulations after a certain amount of time you will be able to sit and take the exam to become a Master Electrician or again its equivalent. At this level salary is on average between $28,000 and $36,000.
Master Electricians can start their own companies and have many Journeyman and Apprentice electricians working under them. Many also become consultants to large corporations or municipalities and have the potential to earn a very high income because they will typically own their own business where their income is limited only by the number and quality of the employees they have. A minimum salary would be around $55,000.
Do not forget that there is an almost endless amount of specialty certifications you can obtain; whether that be a specialization in car electrical systems or non-residential specialization. Each of these can add to your earning power and help enable you to one day start your own business if that is one of your goals.
We wish you the best of luck as you begin your journey of becoming an electrician. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion or want more information – you can find our contact info on the “About” page.