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How can I become an Electrician?

Electricians install, repair and maintain electrical power systems and equipment for residential, commercial or industrial buildings. They repair or replace old wiring, and they must adhere to all building regulations. Electricians often keep full-time schedules and might work overtime. These workers risk electrical injuries and might have to work outdoors or in cramped spaces. These professionals need little postsecondary education, but still make above the national average salary.

Education Level: High school diploma or equivalent; completion of apprenticeship or postsecondary training.

Degree Fields: Electrician training, electrical safety.

Licensure and Certification: Licensing required by most states; certification often optional.

Experience: 4-5 year apprenticeship.

Key Skills: Critical thinking, problem solving, customer service, and troubleshooting skills; excellent vision.

Salary: $51,880 (2015 median wage for electricians)

While you don’t need a degree to get into this career, electricians can find employment with the completion of an apprenticeship or some postsecondary training. Common fields of study include electrician training and electrical safety. Apprenticeships typically last about 4-5 years. Licensing is required by most states. Certification is often optional. Key skills for electricians include critical thinking, problem solving, customer service, troubleshooting skills and excellent vision. As of 2015, the median annual wages for electricians were $51,880, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Steps to Becoming an Electrician

Step 1: Complete Electrician Classes

Many technical schools offer diploma or certificate programs that can prepare individuals for entry-level work as an electrician’s apprentice. These programs may satisfy some of the coursework requirements of an apprenticeship program. In many cases, classes can also be credited toward the later completion of a bachelor’s degree program. Students will learn the trade through the hands-on application of skills needed to install, repair and maintain electrical wiring.

Step 2: Become an Apprentice

The most common path toward becoming an electrician involves completing an apprenticeship program, which allows workers to learn the trade while earning a wage. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association jointly offer training programs through the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC). Professional trade associations, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Independent Electrical Contractors, as well as vocational schools, offer apprenticeship programs.

Typically, applicants to apprenticeship programs must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Apprenticeships last 4-5 years and combine schooling with on-the-job experience under the supervision of a licensed electrician. Training is offered for indoor, outdoor, residential and voice-data-video electricians. Relevant coursework includes safety and first aid, codes and standards, electrical concepts and mechanical skills.

Step 3: Earn a License

Work experience accrued during an apprenticeship can usually be applied toward a license, which is required in many states to work for an electrical contractor. Electricians often must provide proof of work experience and pay a fee to receive a license. Many states also require a qualifying score on an examination to ensure knowledge of local regulations and the National Electrical Code. Licenses are commonly classified by type of electrical work or by level of experience, such as journeyman and master electrician.

Electricians usually must complete a minimum number of continuing education hours every year to maintain their license, as well as periodically pass another examination. In some states, an electrician must also earn certification with approved organizations before earning a license.

To really understand the licensure process, do your research. Every state has different licensing requirements so aspiring certified electricians should be sure to look into the necessary prerequisites before applying for licensure. Licensure often also comes with a variety of fees, which can vary by state.

Step 4: Acquire Certification

Professional certifications can demonstrate an electrician’s accumulated knowledge and skills and may enhance employment and advancement opportunities. The NJATC offers certifications for inside craft, cable splicing and instrumentation. All certifications require a qualifying score on a written examination, as well as a performance evaluation.

The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies offers certification for a variety of electrical systems, such as video security systems and industrial instrumentation. Individuals who satisfy the work experience requirement can take a written examination for each type of certification. According to the BLS, electricians with a wide variety of skills and certifications will have the best job opportunities in coming years.

To recap, with the completion of an apprenticeship, licensing and certification, certified electricians can earn about $52,000 a year to install, repair and maintain electrical power systems and equipment for residential, commercial or industrial buildings.