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How to Become an Electrician in 7 Steps

electricians how to become one

If you’ve wondered how to become an electrician, but still aren’t sure what to do, we’ve got the exact 7 steps you need to take. Electrician jobs are expected to grow more than 8% in 10 years and with an average salary of $57,000 a year being an electrician is a solid career. In fact, you can start earning a paycheck after completing technical school as an electrician apprentice. So lets get started with how to become an electrician.

1. Decide if Becoming an Electrician is a Good Career Match

Before you spend time and money on a new career, you should do some basic job research to see if becoming an electrician is a good job match. This is the most important step. Don’t skip it. Here are 5 things for you to consider before you decide to become an electrician.

  1. What electricians do: Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems. That means you’ll be at job sites, outdoors and where ever the work is.
  2. How long it takes to become an electrician: While technical school can take as little as 10 months, you’ll spend 4-5 years as an apprentice and another 4-5 years as a journeyman electrician. It can take 10 or more years to become an electrician.
  3. Licensing: Most states require electricians to be licensed.
  4. Electrician work is dangerous: Working with electricity is dangerous. Although accidents are potentially fatal, common injuries include electrical shocks, falls, burns, and other minor injuries.
  5. You work alone: Electricians may collaborate with others, but for the most part, you work alone.

Making a Career Change to Become an Electrician

If you hate your job now, we want to help you find an occupation you will enjoy. That said, when changing careers, it’s important to look at job fit and personality type, along with your career interests and work values. Personality type, career interests and career values, or what you really want from your job, all equal job satisfaction.

Becoming an electrician appeals to jobseekers and career changers who want to work with their hands and who want to solve problems. These workers also want independence, supportive managers and recognition for their work. If you are an ISTJ personality type according to the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, becoming an electrician is a great career move.

Are You Qualified to Become an Electrician?

There are a few basic qualifications on how to become an electrician.

  • You must be at least 18 years or older
  • Have a GED or high school diploma
  • Be somewhat physically fit, i.e. able to crouch, crawl, bend, lift and climb
  • Have reliable transportation, a valid drivers license (most apprentice programs require it), and be willing to make long commutes to worksites.
  • Able to follow instructions. The work can be dangerous, not following exact instructions and protocols can endanger you.

Depending on which state you live in, you may have to meet other requirements you need to meet before starting your electrician journey. This article will provide information on how to become licensed in California.

2. Have a High School Diploma or GED

to become an electrician you need a high school diploma and an apprenticeship.
Electrician measurements with multimeter testing current electric in control panel.

Ok, so you know what an electrician job entails, now it’s time to get to the steps. First you have to be a high school graduate or equivalent.

If you have already graduated from high school, make sure you have a good grasp of these academic subjects. While being an electrician is not theoretical work, it does deal in math, physics, English and mechanical drawing concepts.

  • Algebra and trigonometry: Electricians use math skills to choose wiring lengths, calculate the force of electrical currents and measure circuit angles.
  • Physics: Electricians need to understand basic scientific concepts to effectively complete their work.
  • English: This profession will require technicians to read technical documents.
  • Shop and mechanical drawing: These skills can be useful to an electrician in designing electrical systems in buildings and other structures.

3. Go to a Trade or Vocational School

As we mentioned earlier, a trade, vocational or technical school program can be completed in as little as 10 months. While attending these schools is not a requirement to become an electrician, it can help you develop your skills and connect you to employment opportunities and job placements.

In addition, you’ll get comprehensive lab-based and classroom training. You’ll have the foundational tools and knowledge of basic electrical concepts that could make you a stronger candidate when you apply for apprenticeships.

Lastly, most states and licensing regions allow students to substitute classroom hours spent pursuing a formal education for hours of experience. This is especially helpful in getting your journeyman license.

How this works: Usually, one year of formal education equals 1,000 hours of on-the-job experience. You can only substitute up to 2 years or 2,000 hours. Depending on the vocational-technical school, you could get into a complete journeyman program that aligns with the local licensing requirements. Most of these programs provide 4,000 hours of on-the-job experience, about half the required hours to become a licensed journeyman.

Electrician Terms 101

  • A licensed electrician is the same as a journeyman electrician. He or she has finished an electrical apprenticeship, and can perform any kind of electrician work.
  • An electrical apprentice: Apprentices work 40 hours a week under the instruction of a licensed electrician. They get paid for their work and go to classes.​
  • Master electrician: Master electricians is the next level after journeyman, They earn the most money on the electrician pay scale.

4. Apply for an Apprenticeship

Whether or not you attended a trade school to complete your training you must complete an apprenticeship to become a licensed electrician. You can find an apprenticeship by:

  • Attending a trade school: Trade schools usually offer apprenticeship and job placement help.
  • Going through a union: The Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees, or JATC, has locations in almost every major city in the nation. The JATC will place you with a local union employer, and will host any classroom and lab-based technical training at their office. A union apprenticeship, however, will require that you join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW.
  • Going through a non-union: Whether or not to join a union is ultimately a decision that every apprentice must make for themselves. Two primary organizations offer apprenticeship placement with non-union electrical contractors: the Independent Electrical Contractors, or IEC, and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc, or ABC.

When you apply to become an electrician apprentice, you could take an aptitude test and a drug test. Here is a IEC video that briefly outlines the apprenticeship program.

5. Register as an Electrician Apprentice

Some states require that electrical apprentices register before being allowed to work on job sites. Research your state’s requirements before beginning work.

6. Finish Your Apprenticeship

Your apprenticeship is the backbone of your training to become an electrician. It combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training.

7. Get Your Credentials

The requirements for licensing and certification vary by state. It’s important to get the requirements where you plan to work, not where you live. The licensing process may include an exam. The exam includes testing your knowledge of the National Electric Code, safety procedures, electrical concepts and building codes. You will also have to prove that you have finished your apprenticeship.

More About Being an Electrician

Electrician Job Duties

Electricians typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints or technical diagrams
  • Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
  • Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
  • Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices
  • Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using handtools and power tools
  • Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
  • Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

Almost every building has an electrical power, communications, lighting, and control system that is installed during construction and maintained after that. These systems power the lights, appliances, and equipment that make people’s lives and jobs easier and more comfortable.

Installing electrical systems in newly constructed buildings is often less complicated than maintaining equipment in existing buildings because electrical wiring is more easily accessible during construction. Maintaining equipment and systems involves identifying problems and repairing broken equipment that is sometimes difficult to reach. Maintenance work may include fixing or replacing parts, light fixtures, control systems, motors, and other types of electrical equipment.

Electricians read blueprints, which include technical diagrams of electrical systems that show the location of circuits, outlets, and other equipment. They use different types of handtools and power tools, such as conduit benders, to run and protect wiring. Other commonly used tools include screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills, and saws. While troubleshooting, electricians also may use ammeters, voltmeters, thermal scanners, and cable testers to find problems and ensure that components are working properly.

Many electricians work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with others. For example, experienced electricians may work with building engineers and architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other construction specialists, such as elevator installers and heating and air conditioning workers, to help install or maintain electrical or power systems. Electricians employed by large companies are likely to work as part of a crew; they may direct helpers and apprentices to complete jobs.

Lineman electricians install distribution and transmission lines to deliver electricity from its source to customers.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of electricians.

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

$64,310

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

$56,830

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.

$65,260

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

$101,250

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment.

$59,080

Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers

Elevator and escalator installers and repairers install, maintain, and fix elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

$84,990

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.

$48,730

Line Installers and Repairers

Line installers and repairers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

$65,700

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy.

$44,890

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

$85,950

Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program. Visit apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities. 

More Information

Job description information is from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Electricians.

Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a business communications expert and is the editor of Job Affirmations. She is a professional resume writer and has studied Myers-Briggs personality types and how they influence career choice. Job Affirmations has hundreds of job descriptions categorized by the 16 Myers-Briggs types, by career interests and work values. Kate also shares her best writing tips including the proper formatting of emails and cover letters You'll find positive affirmations for work, inspirational quotes, career vision boards for your best year ever.

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