There are many people who are truly excited at the idea of a life-long career as an electrician. They’re so excited to get started, that they’re a little shocked when they find out:
It takes a while to become a fully-licensed journeyman electrician. In fact, it takes about four years.
Yep! It usually takes four years to complete the apprenticeship and become a journeyman electrician. That’s a long time.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a fully-licensed journeyman electrician to get a job and start getting paid.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the questions a lot of people have at their start of their careers:
How long is an electrician apprenticeship?
How long is electrician school?
And finally, how can I get started as soon as possible?
We’ve discussed the process on a few of our other posts, but it’s worth repeating.
Your goal is to become a fully-licensed journeyman electrician. That takes a lot of work, and you’ve got a couple of different options:
- You can become an electrician helper, which is an entry-level position. A helper basically does menial tasks: he or she digs ditches, retrieves tools and parts, and does a lot of the busywork on a site. It’s an important position, but you will learn very little, and helpers are never promoted.
You will, however, be getting paid, and more importantly, you’ll be getting some experience, which you can use to go to school or get an electrician apprenticeship. The good news: you can start right away and if you make connections and show your employer you’ve got potential, a job as a helper can lead to an apprenticeship.
- You can go to an electrician school, graduate, and become an electrician’s assistant. The pay is better, and having a degree may help you get into an apprentice program.
For more on schools, look at our “Find a School” page. For more on apprentice programs, check out a few of the posts below—we’ve provided a lot of information on what apprenticeships are, why you’ll need one, and how to get one. The good news: a diploma or certificate looks good to employers.
- You can skip electrician school and apply for an apprenticeship through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) or Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or Association Building Contractors (ABC). You’ll have to take an entrance exam and go through a few interviews. The test and the interviews can be challenging, so you want to be on your game. The good news: it takes a while to get started, but you’ll “earn as you learn” and get paid as soon as you start the apprenticeship.
The commonality between all these options is that you’ll eventually need to get an apprenticeship to become a journeyman electrician. So why not simply enter an apprenticeship program through IBEW or IEC or ABC right off the bat?
There are a couple of reasons: space is limited, apprenticeships only open up once or twice a year, and the entrance exam can be really tough.
That said, if you can find a job or apprenticeship, that should be your first choice. You’ll make money, and you won’t end up with any school debt. If you can’t find a job or an apprenticeship, you might want to consider school.
How Long Is Electrician School?
Programs may have a different aim—some may prepare you for residential work (that is, installing and maintaining electricity in peoples’ houses) whereas other programs may show you have to work in a commercial or industrial setting.
There are usually schools at local community colleges (and those offer a tremendous value) and there are schools at vocational/technical training centers.
How Much Does Electrician School Cost?
Again, the cost of electrician training at a school depends on the program. A community college—again, a very good place to get an education—can be as low as $3,000 or $4,000, up to $10,000.
Vocational/technical schools can be more pricey, and may run you from $5,000 to $15,000 or more.
Private schools can be even more expensive, and can be anyway from $5,000 to $20,000. Be careful with schools—make sure they’re teaching exactly what you want to learn, that you’ll get the diploma or certificate you want to get, you’re not paying too much, and that your class credits will transfer if you need them to. Do your research.
Something else to keep in mind: your apprenticeship will require you to take classes during your apprenticeship. Those may be taught at a local community college or in a union hall or IEC/ABC building.
How Much Is An Electrician Apprenticeship?
Again, it’s different from place to place, but usually there’s an annual charge (a couple hundred dollars for more affordable programs, up to a couple thousand dollars, for the more pricey ones), and each apprentice needs to buy books for class (usually a couple hundred dollars per year).
Ultimately, that’s much, much less than you’d spend at a four-year college. Electrical apprenticeships are incredible way to get trained and start a career.
There are some things you’ll need to think about when trying to get an apprenticeship, and to help you out, we’ve written a post called “Apprenticeship vs. School”. Definitely give it a read.
Bringing It All Together
So, how long does it take to become an electrician? Let’s recap some of the things we discussed in this post:
- To quickly get an entry-level position, you can become an electrician helper. All you need is a high school diploma. If you play your cards right, make connections, and show people you’ve got potential, it can result in an apprenticeship.
- To get some experience that will help you get an apprenticeship (and better pay), you can go to an electrician school, graduate, and become an electrician’s assistant. To search for schools in your area, see our “Find a School” page.
- To become a fully-trained journeyman electrician, making great pay and going on every job in the area, takes about four years, and you’ll need to get an apprenticeship through IBEW, IEC, or ABC, and you can visit the other pages on our website to see how you can make that happen.
There you have it! If you decide to become an electrician, we wish you all the best.