Electrician

residential electrician working

Electricians are indispensable tradespeople essential for maintaining electrical systems’ functionality, safety, and efficiency in residential and commercial settings. Become an electrician and enjoy a trade that provides continuous learning experiences in a field essential for public health and safety.

Education & Training

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How Long Do Electrician Courses Take to Complete?

Some individuals may opt for a remote certificate program, which can be completed in approximately a year, opening opportunities for internships afterward. Alternatively, others may pursue a 2-year Associate’s degree.

Those with prior experience in a skilled trade can bypass specific educational prerequisites, leveraging their certifications in related fields as credentials when seeking apprenticeship opportunities.

Different educational and vocational training pathways you can choose as a prospective electrician may vary in length based on the institution offering them and your location. Aspiring electricians should, at a minimum, hold a high school diploma or GED before enrolling in a vocational school, technical college, or community college.

Related: How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician

How Much Does it Cost?

Short-term courses focusing on specific topics, such as electrical design or basic electrical engineering skills, may range from $50 to $500, with completion times spanning a few days to a few weeks. For more extensive certification programs covering classroom and practical skills essential for an electrician’s career, tuition can range from $1,200 to $9,000.

If pursuing an Associate’s degree program typically spans two years, tuition may vary from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the institution and the mode of instruction.

The cost of programs for aspiring electricians varies significantly depending on the chosen certificate or degree level.

What Will You Learn in an Electrician Training Program?

A training course for electricians will address the following:

  • An Overview of the Electrical Industry: Current technology and standards in the residential electrician industry.
  • Basic Electrical Math, Theory, and Safety: Fundamentals of algebra and geometry, electrical system operation principles, and circuit and personnel protection.
  • Tools of the Trade: Hand and power tools used for construction and circuit work.
  • Building Materials & Construction: Conductors and cables, enclosures and cabinets, terminal devices, and project planning fundamentals involved in construction.
  • Circuits: Branch circuit basics and troubleshooting.

Benefits of Taking a Course

Taking an online course to become an electrician offers several benefits. Firstly, online learning provides flexibility, allowing students to study at their own pace and schedule, accommodating those with full-time jobs or other commitments.

Additionally, online courses such as the ones above, often utilize interactive simulations and multimedia resources, enhancing understanding of complex electrical concepts. Learning about the National Electric Code (NEC) is crucial for aspiring electricians, and online courses can offer comprehensive modules on NEC standards, ensuring students are well-versed in the latest safety and industry regulations.

Moreover, the online format enables access to various instructors and industry experts from multiple locations, providing a broader perspective on electrical practices. Overall, online courses offer a convenient and practical pathway for individuals seeking to become proficient electricians, with the added advantage of NEC knowledge for a well-rounded skill set.

Salary & Career Outlook

Electrician careers are on the rise and expected to grow around 10% over the next decade.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for electricians is $60,240 per year, or $28.96 per hour.

Job outlook is expected to grow 6% over the next decade, with about 73,500 openings forecasted to open for electricians each year.

The increase of alternate energy sources like wind and solar power, plus new home construction, help create new jobs in the field. The average pay for an electrician is currently between $55K and $94K, though could see a change due to job demand.

Is Electrician a Good Career Choice for You?

That’s the wonderful thing about electricity, as compared to other sources of energy: electricity itself is a renewable, clean source of energy. We may, over the coming decades, use less petroleum and other nonrenewable resources, but we will continue to use same amount—or more—of electricity.

In fact, the growing usage of solar power and wind power will require installation and/or conversion—as well as maintenance—by electricians, and that may be one of the reasons why the field is expected to grow.

Why Become an Electrician

Maybe we’re biased, but we think a career as an electrician is a pretty great deal!

If you’re thinking about how to become an electrician but you need more convincing, here are some other reasons why people really enjoy a career as an electrician:

  • The pay is excellent. For a career that doesn’t require a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree from a university, the pay for electricians is VERY high. As we mentioned above, the average salary for electricians is $63,310. The average income for people with a high school degree and a full-time job is $38,102 and that’s a difference of more than $20,000. Not too shabby.
  • Even if you go the technical college route, the student loans can be reasonable. Many electrician training programs available at tech schools and community colleges are not nearly as pricey as four-year degrees from universities, and many electricians have very little student loan debt.Keep in mind, there are electrician programs offered at for-profit colleges that are extremely pricey, and we’d urge to seriously consider all your options before enrolling in a program that is extremely expensive. Remember that there are plenty of affordable, cost-effective training programs for you to enroll in.
  • You will have to opportunity to be part of a union. Unions are a powerful ally, and they make sure that electricians receive good wages and benefits from their employers. Unions often get the biggest and most lucrative jobs in the construction world, and being a part of a union can mean job security and better pay. You don’t need to be a union member if you’re an electrician, but for many electricians, it’s a great option.
  • You’ll have an electrician’s license. A professional license lets employers know that you have all the skills to get a job done. In the business world, people hire workers without really having a clear idea if they’re able to do the jobs they’re being hired for.It’s not uncommon for a business owner to hire a sales rep or a marketing manager or an accountant, only to find out that they don’t have the skills they promised they did. When you have a license, it’s a message to your future employers that you’ve been properly trained and are a reliable worker.
  • You’ll have job security. There are some jobs that won’t be around in a few years—think, “postal worker”—but there are some jobs that aren’t going anywhere, and “electrician” is one of them. When you consider that electricity is a renewable resource and many industries are moving towards greener energy resources, a job as an electrician is looking pretty darn good.
  • You’ll be active, but not too active. There are certain jobs in the construction services field that are pretty grueling (ie, “construction worker”), but work as an electrician is a perfect mix of “active” and “not back-breaking,” and it sure beats a desk job. Plus, you’ll spend a lot of your time solving problems, which can be very satisfying.
  • You’ll be able to start your own business. Many electricians, after accruing enough experience and know-how, decide to open their businesses. With a skill that is in-demand and a pool of licensed workers to hire, some electricians are able to increase their salaries well into the six figures. Something to keep in mind, if you decide to become an electrician!

Begin An Electrician Career In Four Steps

Here’s the process you’ll follow to become a licensed electrician, boiled down to 4 steps.

Step 1: What type of Electrician?

Learn about the different types of electrician careers (we discuss each type in a section below), and get a feel for the type of electrical work you’d like to do.

Step 2: Apprenticeship or School

Find an electrical apprenticeship, either through a technical school, union, or employer OR enroll in an electrician program at a trade school or community college.

Step 3: Work Experience

Find a job after graduation, and then begin accruing the necessary work experience to…

Step 4: License

Take your state or municipality’s licensing test and become a journeyman electrician.

Career Path

How Should I Get Started?

Many people are interested in a career as an electrician, but they’re unsure of the first step to take.

If that describes your situation, start by learning about your options. Check out the apprenticeships in your area, learn about the educational institutions in your area, and keep a list of all the opportunities available to you.

There are a couple of different ways to get your start as an electrician, and there’s no “right track” or “wrong track.” Some people start their careers by contacting apprenticeship programs, and others go back to school and get the training they need. Whatever works!

Electricians may specialize in residential, commercial, or industrial settings, focusing on installations, maintenance, or repairs. Some choose to further their education and become electrical contractors, managing projects and teams.

Continuous learning is crucial as the industry evolves with technological advancements. Electricians play a vital role in ensuring electrical systems’ safe and efficient functioning.

Requirements To Get Started

Most states have the same general requirements to become an electrician apprentice or enter a trade school:

  • You must be 18 years old;
  • You must have a high school degree or a high school equivalency degree;
  • You must obtain a qualifying score on an aptitude test; and
  • You must pass a drug test.

No College Degree

It is important to note that you do not need a college degree to become an electrician. Many people choose to go to an electrician training school, trade school, or community college in order to become journeymen electricians, but a college degree is not required to become an electrician.

Mathematics and Algebra

You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to become an electrician and understand electricity, but a solid understanding of mathematics—and algebra, in particular—is required.

If you’re out of high school and you need a refresher, algebra is the branch of mathematics that uses letters to stand for numbers. A very basic example would be

x + 3 = 5

and you have to find out the value of x (which, in this case, would be 2).

If you’re uncertain about your mathematical capabilities, it may be a great idea to enroll in an electrician program at a technical college. They will re-introduce you to algebraic expressions, and prepare you for the math you’ll use OTJ.

Moderately Good Health

As we mentioned above, you don’t need to be Einstein, but you need a solid grasp on mathematics and algebra. In a similar way, you don’t need to be the strongest person in the world, but you do need to be in somewhat decent shape to become an electrician.

On any given job site, on any given day, you may find yourself climbing / reaching / crouching / kneeling / digging / and so on. And, even without all those actions, you’ll be moving around a great deal and using your hands.

That’s a good thing, when you consider that desk jobs are really, truly, bad for people.

Note, above, that we say “somewhat decent shape”—there are plenty of electricians who are in their fifties and sixties (both men and women alike) who aren’t endurance athletes, and they’re enjoying a great career. They do, however, have a full range of motion and are able to handle the physical requirements of the job.

Licensing

We briefly mentioned licenses above, but it’s an important topic, so we’ll give you a few more details you need to know.

Once you complete an apprenticeship—or complete a specific number of supervised work hours on the job—you’ll need to get your license to become a journeyman electrician. In most cases, licenses are granted by the state, but there are certain states (Illinois is one) that licenses people at the local municipal level.

Each state has different rules about what it takes to become a journeyman, but the general requirements are usually the same.

The requirements are usually related to:

  • the number of on-the-job training hours you’ll need to complete;
  • required coursework you’ll need to take during your training; and
  • an exam that deals with electrical theory, the National Electric Code, and local electric codes and building codes.

Why Do Need to Know This?

You may be wondering why we’re discussing licenses, when you’re at the beginning of your career, and just figuring out how to become an electrician.

There are two main reasons we bring it up.

Here’s the first:

Because each state has unique licensing requirements, you’ll (usually) want to do your apprenticeship or go to school in the state you want to work in. The requirements you meet to become a journeyman in one state may not be enough to meet the requirements to become a journeyman in another state.

Some states recognize licenses from others states—that’s known as “reciprocity”—but not all states have reciprocity. So, in many cases, it makes sense to receive your training in the area where you want to live and work.

Here’s the second reason:

While most states have licenses for journeyman electricians, some have different types of journeyman licenses—as well as other electrician licenses (Florida is one such state that has many different types of licenses; another state with a bunch of different license types is North Carolina). You don’t need to figure all of this out now, but it’s something to keep in mind as you move through your career.

If you would like to learn more about the electrician licensing boards and licensing requirements for each state, you can check the National Electrical Contractors Association site, or talk to your apprenticeship leader or college advisor.

What Are an Electrician’s Job Duties?

Workers handle everything from electrical fixture installation to maintenance. An electrical career involves knowing how to fix broken wires, hang outlet boxes, and safely ground electrical components. Employees use a variety of tools to complete their tasks including wire strippers, voltage testers, calibrators, and pliers.

Every day presents a new workplace challenge for an electrician. If the worker specializes in construction, a job site can vary from industrial and business locations to homes. An electrician might address multiple electrical issues at numerous locations each day.

During construction, wires go through the frame of the building before the walls go up. From there, electrical employees install outlets, meters, and fixtures. In addition, an electrician also:

  • Mounts back boxes
  • Runs cables for telecommunications
  • Follows blueprints
  • Installs security systems
  • Connects wires to fittings and sockets

Why are Electricians Needed?

Electricians are indispensable professionals essential for maintaining electrical systems’ functionality, safety, and efficiency in residential and commercial settings. Their expertise is crucial in wiring new constructions, properly installing lighting fixtures, and addressing electrical malfunctions. Electricians play a pivotal role in safeguarding against potential fire hazards by adhering to stringent codes and regulations. As technology advances, electricians are increasingly vital for integrating smart home systems, renewable energy solutions, and energy-efficient components. In commercial and industrial settings, electricians contribute to the seamless operation of businesses by handling complex electrical installations and troubleshooting issues that could disrupt productivity.

Where Can Electricians Work?

Electricians can work in diverse residential, commercial, and industrial environments.

In the residential sector, electricians are involved in wiring homes, installing lighting, and ensuring the safety of electrical systems.

Commercial electricians contribute to the electrical infrastructure of offices, retail spaces, and other businesses, handling tasks like wiring, lighting, and power distribution.

Beyond traditional settings, electricians find opportunities in specialized areas such as renewable energy projects, telecommunications, and home automation.

Some electricians become contractors or entrepreneurs, overseeing their projects and teams.

As technology advances, electricians are increasingly sought after for roles related to smart home technology, energy efficiency, and the integration of sustainable energy sources.

What is the Work Environment Like?

The work environment for electricians varies depending on their specialization. Electricians often work indoors in residential settings, ensuring proper wiring, lighting, and electrical system functionality. Commercial electricians can be found in diverse environments, from offices to retail spaces, handling the electrical infrastructure of businesses. On the other hand, industrial electricians may work in factories or manufacturing plants, dealing with complex machinery. The work often requires electricians to be comfortable working at heights or in confined spaces. Regardless of the setting, safety is paramount, and electricians may need to adhere to strict guidelines and regulations. Electricians commonly work full-time, and their schedules may include evenings, weekends, or overtime, especially when addressing urgent issues or meeting project deadlines.

Certifications

What Are The Best Certifications for Potential Electrical Engineers?
If you’re looking to start an Electrical Training Program, It’s important to choose a program that will give you the most bang for your buck—and one that will help you stand out from other job applicants when it comes time to apply.

Here are our top recommendations:

The National Electrical Code (NEC) Exam Certification

This is a very important certification for anyone who wants to work in the electrical field. This test covers all aspects of electrical installation and electrical maintenance. It also covers all relevant parts of the NEC Code and gives you an idea of what type of questions will be asked on this exam.

Journeyman Wireman Certification

This certification allows you to become certified as a journeyman wireman if you pass a test at your local union hall or apprenticeship center. This test covers everything from basic electricity to advanced wiring techniques and troubleshooting methods used by professionals in this industry every day around the world.

Certified Technicians Association (CTA) certification

Possessing this certification is a great way to prove your proficiency in electrical work, especially if you’re looking to take on more advanced positions within your field. The CTA exam tests your knowledge on topics ranging from basic electricity principles to advanced troubleshooting techniques. If you pass this test with flying colors, it will open up a whole range of new career opportunities for you.

Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology

Many people choose this path because it’s shorter than earning a bachelor’s degree and has less stringent requirements—but it still gives students the chance to learn about everything from basic circuitry theory all the way to how power systems work in industrial settings

If you’ve decided that you’re interested in becoming an electrical technician or electrician, it’s important to find out what kind of training will be offered by each school before you apply.

Let’s take a look at what electricians actually do, figure out what kind of electrician you want to be, find out how much you can expect to make (some good news: it’s a lot), and then go into more detail about each of the four steps.

Definitions

Many of the terms we’ll talk about on this page are not “common knowledge” terms, so let’s take a minute to define each of them.

What Is An Electrician Apprentice?

An electrician apprentice is someone who is learning how to be an electrician by performing basic tasks under the constant supervision of a licensed electrician. He or she will start small and complete very simple jobs, and eventually be given more responsibility and more complicated work. For many people, an apprenticeship is the first step towards becoming a fully-licensed electrician (aka, a “journeyman electrician”).

Apprenticeships are an “earn as you learn”-type of situation, where you get paid for the work you do, and most (but not all) of the training you’ll need is completed at various job sites. There is a certain amount of classroom training involved in an apprenticeship, but the great majority of apprentice’s training is done on the job (“OTJ”).

Apprentice programs are mostly organized and run by unions, but there are also state and national programs that organize apprenticeships, as well private companies and electrician training schools. Some people are able to find apprenticeships without much effort; others need to go to school and get some experience before attaining one (and we’ll talk more about that later).

Apprenticeships take a while to complete—usually four or five years—but they cover absolutely everything you’ll need to know to be an electrician.

What Is A Journeyman Electrician?

Once an apprentice has met all the requirements in an apprenticeship program—or gone to a trade school or community college and worked a state-specific number of hours—he or she is allowed to take a test and become licensed as a journeyman electrician. That license is a big accomplishment, and allows the worker to build a solid career.

A journey worker has been fully trained and is capable of all types of electrical design, installation, and maintenance. They may work on residential buildings, commercial or business offices, and in industrial or factory settings.

They are allowed to work on their own, and can also begin training apprentices in apprentice programs. Every state has unique requirements about what it takes to become a journeyman electrician, and we discuss those requirements in each of our state posts.

Note: some people say “journeyman electrician”, others say “electrician journeyman”, and some others say “journey electrician.” It all means that same thing.

For many electricians, a career as a journeyman electrician is the final goal. Others, however, decide to continue their education, learn more skills, and demand higher pay as master electricians.

What Is A Master Electrician?

A master electrician has years of experience as a journeyman electrician, and a deep understanding of the tasks and jobs required of an electrician. He or she has great job security, is sought after for high-paying jobs, and may be allowed to work as an electrical contractor.

Many states offer a master electrician license, and the requirements differ depending on where the electrician wants to be licensed.

In most states, a master electrician must complete the four-year apprenticeship program (or get an electrical engineering degree), complete a certain number of years of work experience, and pass an exam to prove his or her knowledge.

What is an Electrical Contractor?

An electrical contractor is an electrician who is hired to design, install, and maintain electrician systems for all types of buildings (residential, commercial, industrial, etc). He or she may work alone or hire others and start a contractor company.

The pay for electrical contractors is among highest of all electricians, because the training requirements and licensing tests require years of preparation.

It’s worth noting that some electrical contractors have their own training programs, and can take on apprentices.

What Is a Helper?

The term “helper” means different things in various parts of the United States and Canada. Sometimes it refers to someone who has no experience or training, and is given very simple jobs, such as retrieving or holding tools, digging around buried wires, or cleaning up a job site at the end of the day; other times, it refers to someone who’s actually had a little bit of training and can assist the electricians as they install wiring and create electrical systems.

Either way, helpers can be an integral part of a crew, and a job as an untrained helper can be a quick way to learn about the career and make some professional contacts. Some states (like Texas), have plenty of positions for electrician helpers.

Types of Electricians

Now that we’ve defined some terms, let’s take a look at the different types of electricians. There are:

Residential Wiremen

These electricians install the wiring in private homes and multi-family units. That means installing electrical systems and wiring in new houses being built, as well as maintaining the wiring in houses that have been around for a while.

Residential wiremen need a thorough understanding of state and local electrical codes to make sure that a dwelling has all the energy it needs, and is compliant with local power regulations. Many electricians start their careers as residential wiremen, and then branch out into commercial and industrial jobs.

Inside Wiremen

Where a residential wireman works on an individual’s home, an inside wireman works on commercial buildings or industrial structures.

Inside wiremen establish temporary power during the construction phase, plan power distribution within a project, install new wiring, and bring power to motors, HVAC (heating, venting, and air conditioning), and other systems. They also install lighting, fire alarms, and security systems, and maintain a structure’s power system after it is built.

Telecommunication Technicians

These workers install all of the low-voltage wiring inside a building, including computer cables, phone lines, and various types of multi-media circuitry. They also install security systems and access control systems. Another very, very important job! Telecommunication technicians often work alongside inside wiremen.

Outside Linemen

These are the tough guys who install and maintain the distribution lines that bring electricity from a power plant to the buildings and homes all over the area. They work on electrical power systems that are underground, above-ground, and on utility poles.

The work is often done outdoors and in challenging conditions—you’ll often see outside linemen climbing poles or in bucket trucks—and the pay is usually very high.

Search Electrician Programs

Get information on Electrician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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