A necessary skill in the construction industry, electricians, provide a skill set required for modern life. If you want to know how to become an electrician, it starts by understanding what an electrician is and does.
What is an Electrician?
As an electrician, you will be a skilled trade professional trained to handle electrical power and components. The main responsibilities of an electrician include installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical equipment.
There are different types of electricians based on their level of experience and licensing.
Types of Electricians
1. Industrial Electrician
When you learn how to become an electrician, you can decide to become an industrial electrician. This type of electrician will likely work in a larger facility with machinery and larger equipment. Some of the places you might work as an industrial electrician include:
- Power Plants
- Chemical Plants
- Manufacturing Facilities
Larger buildings have different electrical needs. Therefore, an industrial electrician will need to train as an apprentice or journeyman under a licensed industrial electrician.
2. Residential Electrician
A very common type of electrician, a residential electrician, will work on homes. They may also work on small apartment buildings. If you become this type of electrician, you will work to repair and maintain the wiring and electrical systems for residential properties.
3. Commercial Electricians
As a commercial electrician, you’ll work on commercial buildings. This type of power is a bit different than the power used for residential buildings. Therefore, you’ll need to gain a specific number of hours of training during your apprenticeship to work as a commercial electrician.
4. Independent Electrical Contractor
You’ll be working as a small business owner if you become an independent electrical contractor. It’s common for this type of electrician to hire a team. You will likely specialize in residential, commercial, or industrial work.
5. Journeyman Electrician
This is the basic electrician level. After completing your apprenticeship and becoming a licensed electrician, you’ll be known as a journeyman. You can work independently, but you cannot train apprentices, pull permits, or lead job sites.
6. Master Electrician
After becoming an electrician and gaining two years of experience, you can apply to become a master electrician. The licensing requirements are a bit different from one state to another. You’ll likely need to pass an exam, however. As a master electrician, you can train apprentices, direct electrical teams, and lead jobs.
The Process of How to Become an Electrician
If you want to become an electrician, you will need to complete the following steps:
1. Graduate High School or get a GED
You cannot start to pursue a career as an electrician without a high school diploma or GED. Commonly, students who excel at math and physics will enjoy a career as an electrician.
2. Attend a Trade School (Optional)
You don’t have to attend a trade school, but it can be very helpful. For example, if you want to become an electrician, trade schools can offer the right training for your needs. In addition, you can obtain certification and gain help with job placement.
It’s also possible to study electrical technology as a four-year degree, but not necessary. Instead, you can earn a career diploma from a trade school. With a trade school, you’ll gain the foundation you need to become an electrician.
You can substitute trade school education for some of your hours towards your journeyman license in some states. One year of formal education may be worth as much as 1,000 hours of on-the-job experience. This means, if you complete a two-year trade school program, you can avoid 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience. Some programs provide as much as 4,000 hours of experience.
3. Gain an Apprenticeship
You will be required to complete an apprenticeship, regardless of whether you attend a trade school or not. It’s a necessary step to becoming a licensed electrician.
Apprenticeships can be found through your trade school or a union. Most major cities have locations for the Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees. The JATC can often place you with a union employer in the area for your apprenticeship.
You can also find a non-union apprenticeship. These are commonly found with Independent Electrical Contractors or through the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.
You may need to pass certain aptitude tests when you apply for your apprenticeship. These tests are necessary to determine if you have the math and comprehensive skills to enter into the apprenticeship. In addition, it’s common to go through a job interview and take a drug test for your apprenticeship.
4. Register as an Apprentice
Once you have entered into an apprenticeship, you will need to register as an electrician apprentice. Every state is a bit different, so make sure to check your state’s requirements before you start working.
5. Complete the Apprenticeship
When it comes to how to become an electrician, the most time-consuming part is the apprenticeship. You will need to complete your apprenticeship before you can become a licensed electrician.
You’ll go through classroom instruction and on-the-job training as a part of your apprenticeship. It will also include supervision from a master electrician. Most states require at least a four-year apprenticeship. Your apprenticeship will cover the following:
- Learning to read technical diagrams and blueprints
- Installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical wiring and equipment
- Understanding how to complete the work in compliance with national, state, and local regulations
- Learning how to use special testing devices when inspecting electrical systems
Your apprenticeship will include between 576 and 1,000 hours in a classroom. You will also need to spend 8,000 to 10,000 hours training on the job.
6. Become a Licensed Electrician
Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you can become a licensed electrician. However, you’ll still need to make sure you meet all the qualifications and pass the necessary exams. The exam you will need to pass will test your knowledge of safety protocols, electrical concepts, the National Electric Code, and building codes.
How Much Does an Electrician Make?
The average salary nationally is nearly $45K. When you’re a novice electrician, you will average about $30K per year. Experienced electricians earn more with an average salary of around $55K.
The highest-paid electricians can earn at least $68K per year. In some states, you can make more or less, as well. The top salaries for electricians are found in:
- District of Columbia – $61K
- Alaska – $53K
- California – $50K
- Connecticut – $50K
- New Jersey – $50K
These average salaries are based on the 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics Survey.
Skills Needed to Become an Electrician
While you only need a high school education to enter into an electrician apprenticeship, you should have specific skills, including:
- Time Management Skills – With good time management skills, you can better serve your customers.
- Customer Service Skills – Good customer service skills are helpful for customer satisfaction.
- Hand-Eye Coordination – Working with electrical equipment and wiring requires precision. Therefore, good hand-eye coordination is important.
- Leadership Skills – If you want to train other electricians, leadership skills are great to have.
- Critical Thinking Skills – You will need to diagnose issues and think through problems to find solutions.
- Math and Science Knowledge – A good understanding of math and science can be very helpful when you want to become an electrician.
- Physical Endurance and Strength – Electricians are on their feet quite a bit, and you’ll need to be able to lift more than 50 pounds.
- Independence – Most electricians work by themselves. You’ll need to rely on yourself when on the job.
A Growing Job Field
Electricians are in high demand as the population continues to grow. If you’re an electrician with a variety of talents, you’re likely to find employment easier. As solar and wind power grow, it’s also possible electricians could become even more in demand.
Currently, the employment growth projection is about 9% from 2018 to 2028. This rate of growth is higher than the average rate of growth.
Should You Become an Electrician?
Just because you understand how to become an electrician doesn’t mean you should. It’s not the right career for everybody, but it could be the perfect option for you.
Electricians are ranked as the third-best job in the construction industry. It does come with an above-average stress level and a demanding schedule. However, the average salary is considered high with opportunities to earn more as you gain experience. Job growth is also high and doesn’t expect to slow down anytime soon.
If you’re willing to go through the education and the apprenticeship, becoming an electrician might be the perfect career for you.
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