Becoming an electrician opens the door to a rewarding career filled with opportunities and challenges. Whether you’re just starting your journey or looking to enhance your existing skills, this article will delve into how to become an electrician and whether becoming an electrician is a good career path.
Your salary as an electrician will depend largely on how much experience you have, the industry you are in, and the company that you work for. According to Glassdoor, the salary of a licensed electrician is most likely as follows:
- Entry Salary (US$53k)
- Median Salary (US$69k)
- Senior Salary (US$90k)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary across all professions is estimated at US$ 61,900. The median salary of an Electrician is relatively low in comparison to this.
What does an Electrician do?
An electrician is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in electrical wiring, installation, repair, and maintenance of electrical systems. As an electrician, you might work in various settings, including residential, commercial, and industrial environments.
Overall, the electrician job description involves ensuring the safe and reliable functioning of electrical systems in various settings. Their work requires technical knowledge, attention to detail, and adherence to safety guidelines.
Electrician Career Progression
- Apprentice Electrician: This is the starting point for many electricians. As an apprentice, you will work under the guidance of experienced electricians to gain hands-on training and develop fundamental skills.
- Journeyman Electrician: After completing an apprenticeship program and acquiring the necessary experience, you can become a journeyman electrician. At this stage, you’ll work on electrical projects independently.
- Electrical Foreman/Supervisor: With years of experience and demonstrated leadership skills, you can advance to an electrical foreman or supervisor where you’ll oversee a team of electricians.
- Electrical Project Manager: As an electrical project manager, you are responsible for planning, budgeting, and coordinating electrical projects from start to finish.
- Electrical Contractor/Business Owner: Electrical contractors manage their own companies, oversee multiple projects, handle business operations, and lead a team of electricians.
- Electrical Engineer: With additional education and qualifications, you may pursue a career as an electrical engineer. Electrical engineers design and develop electrical systems, conduct research, and analyze complex electrical problems.
- Executive Positions: In large organizations, electricians or electrical engineers with extensive experience may have the opportunity to move into executive positions where they oversee strategic planning, business development, and high-level decision-making.
- Job Stability and Demand
- Hands-On and Varied Work
- Skills in High Demand
- Portability and Global Opportunities
- Opportunities for Career Advancement
- Physical Demands and Hazards
- Irregular Work Hours
- Work Environment Variability
- Physical Strain and Fatigue
- High Level of Responsibility
Useful Skills to Have as an Electrician
- Technical Aptitude
- Problem-Solving and Troubleshooting
- Attention to Detail
- Manual Dexterity and Physical Stamina
- Customer Service Skills
Popular Electrician Specialties
- Residential Electrician
- Commercial Electrician
- Industrial Electrician
- Maintenance Electrician
- Renewable Energy Electrician
How to become an Electrician
The specific steps to becoming an electrician can vary based on your location and the requirements of your local jurisdiction. However, here are some common steps to consider:
1. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to pursue a career as an electrician. Ensure you have completed your secondary education or its equivalent.
Why Do I Need a Highschool Diploma to Become an Electrician?
There are a few different reasons why a high school diploma, or an equivalent such as the GED is required when you consider how to become an electrician.
- Basic Educational Foundation: A high school diploma signifies that you have foundational skills that are important for understanding electrical principles, interpreting technical documents, and effectively communicating in the field.
- Licensing and Certification Requirements: To become a licensed electrician in many jurisdictions, you need a high school diploma. This is because licensing authorities aim to ensure that individuals entering the profession have met minimum educational standards.
- Apprenticeship and Training Programs: If you decide that being an electrician is a good career path for you, you need to enter a formal apprenticeship program or vocational training course to gain practical experience and technical knowledge. These programs often have entry requirements, which can include a high school diploma.
- Employability: Employers often prefer candidates who have completed their high school education as it indicates a certain level of knowledge, discipline, and ability to follow instructions. It can also open doors to additional career advancement opportunities and higher-paying positions within the electrical trade.
Do I Need a Degree to Become an Electrician?
In most cases, you do not need a traditional four-year degree to become an electrician. However, there are certain situations where a degree in electrical engineering or a related field may be beneficial.
For example, if you aspire to work in more advanced areas of the electrical industry, such as electrical design or engineering, a degree can provide a deeper understanding of electrical principles and open up additional career opportunities. However, for most electrician roles, practical experience and relevant certifications are more important than a formal degree.
2. Enroll in a Pre-Apprenticeship Program (Optional)
Some vocational schools, trade schools, or community colleges offer pre-apprenticeship programs in electrical trades. These programs provide you with foundational knowledge and skills related to the electrical field, which can give you a head start in your career.
3. Complete an Electrical Apprenticeship
Apprenticeship is a common path to becoming an electrician. Research and seek out apprenticeship opportunities offered by electrical contractors, unions, or trade associations. These programs combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training, allowing you to learn and earn a wage simultaneously.
Once accepted into an apprenticeship program, you’ll typically work under the guidance of experienced electricians while receiving structured training.
How Long Does an Electrician Apprenticeship Take?
Apprenticeships can last anywhere from three to five years, depending on the program and local requirements. During this time, you’ll learn various aspects of the trade, including electrical theory, codes and regulations, wiring techniques, installation practices, and safety procedures.
4. Gain Practical Experience
Through apprenticeships or internships, you should focus on acquiring hands-on experience by participating in different electrical projects. This will help you develop skills and build a strong foundation in the trade.
This experience is an important aspect of further licensing requirements.
What Are Internship Opportunities for an Electrician?
While internships may vary based on location and availability, they offer invaluable opportunities for individuals to gain practical experience, develop essential skills, and make meaningful connections within their chosen field. When looking for internships as an electrician, there are several places you can explore to find opportunities. Here are some top places to consider:
- Electrical Contractors: Reach out to local electrical contracting companies in your area. Many contractors offer internship programs or may be open to providing internships to aspiring electricians. Contact them directly and inquire about any internship opportunities they may have available.
- Construction Companies: Construction companies, including general contractors and specialized electrical contractors, may have internship positions available for electricians. These internships can provide hands-on experience in electrical installations within the context of construction projects.
- Industrial Facilities: Reach out to manufacturing plants, factories, and industrial facilities in your area. These organizations often require electrical maintenance and may offer internships to individuals interested in gaining experience in industrial electrical systems and equipment.
- Educational Institutions: Contact technical schools, community colleges, or vocational training centers in your area. They may have partnerships or connections with local businesses or contractors that offer internships to their students.
- Online Job Platforms: Utilize online job platforms and internship websites to search for electrician internships. Websites often list internship opportunities in various industries, including the electrical trade.
- Networking: Network within your local community and industry circles. Attend career fairs, trade shows, or industry events where you can connect with professionals and companies in the electrical field. Building relationships and seeking referrals can lead to internship opportunities.
What Skills Will I Learn as an Electrician?
As an electrician, you will acquire a wide range of skills that are essential for performing electrical work safely and effectively. Here are some key skills you can expect to learn as you progress in your career as an electrician:
- Electrical System Installation: You will learn how to install electrical systems, including wiring, conduits, electrical panels, switches, outlets, and lighting fixtures. This involves understanding electrical diagrams, blueprints, and specifications to ensure proper installation and adherence to electrical codes and regulations.
- Electrical Troubleshooting and Repair: You will develop skills in diagnosing and troubleshooting electrical problems. This includes identifying faulty components, testing circuits, and using tools and equipment to repair or replace defective parts. You will learn to interpret electrical measurements and use testing instruments like multimeters.
- Electrical Safety: Safety is paramount in electrical work. You will learn about electrical hazards, safe work practices, and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) effectively. This includes understanding electrical grounding, proper handling of live electrical circuits, and following safety protocols to minimize the risk of electrical accidents.
- Blueprint Reading and Electrical Design: You will learn to read and interpret electrical blueprints, schematics, and technical diagrams. This skill is crucial for understanding the layout of electrical systems, planning installations, and ensuring compliance with specifications.
- Electrical Code Compliance: Electricians need to be familiar with electrical codes and regulations to ensure installations meet safety standards and legal requirements. You will learn about national and local electrical codes and how to apply them in various situations. This includes knowledge of wiring methods, circuit sizing, grounding requirements, and electrical load calculations.
- Equipment and Tool Usage: Electricians work with a wide range of tools and equipment. You will learn how to safely use and maintain hand tools, power tools, testing instruments, and specialized equipment specific to electrical work. This includes tools such as wire cutters, conduit benders, drills, and cable testers.
5. Obtain a Journeyman Electrician License
After completing your apprenticeship and meeting the required work experience hours (which can vary by jurisdiction), you’ll need to pass a licensing exam to become a journeyman electrician. The exam typically assesses your knowledge of electrical concepts, codes, and regulations.
Is It Difficult to Obtain a Journeyman Electrician License?
The process of obtaining a journeyman electrician license can be both difficult and time-intensive.
Outside of fulfilling a prerequisite amount of work experience, a journeyman electrician license often involves passing licensing examinations. These exams typically assess your knowledge of electrical theory, code requirements, safety practices, and practical skills. The exams can be comprehensive and require thorough preparation to succeed.
6. Pursue Continuing Education and Certifications
As an electrician, it’s important to stay updated with industry advancements, code changes, and new technologies. Consider pursuing continuing education courses and obtaining relevant certifications to enhance your skills and marketability. Here are some common certifications to consider:
- National Electrical Code (NEC) Certification: The NEC is a widely adopted standard for electrical installations in the United States. Obtaining a certification related to the NEC showcases your expertise in understanding and applying electrical code requirements. Examples include the Certified Electrical Inspector (CEI) certification or NEC Specialist designation.
- Electrical Safety Certification: Safety is paramount in the electrical trade. Earning certifications related to electrical safety can enhance your professional profile. The Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP) certification, offered by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), is an example of a credential focused on electrical safety knowledge and practices.
- Manufacturer-Specific Certifications: Electrical equipment manufacturers often offer certifications specific to their products. These certifications demonstrate your proficiency in installing, troubleshooting, and maintaining their equipment. Examples include certifications for control systems, circuit breakers, lighting systems, or renewable energy equipment.
- Green Energy/Energy Efficiency Certifications: With the increasing emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency, certifications related to green energy and energy-efficient technologies can be beneficial. For instance, certifications like LEED Green Associate or certifications from organizations like the Building Performance Institute (BPI) showcase your expertise in renewable energy systems or energy audits.
Can I Become an Electrician Through Online Education?
While online education can be a valuable resource for acquiring knowledge and skills related to the electrical field, becoming a fully qualified electrician requires hands-on practical training.
If online education is something you are interested in, consider exploring hybrid programs that offer a mix of online and in-person training or apprenticeships to ensure a well-rounded education and skill set.
What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become an Electrician?
There are several web resources available that can help you learn skills related to becoming an electrician. Here are some popular online platforms and websites where you can find educational materials, tutorials, and resources:
- Electrical Technology is a website that provides comprehensive articles, tutorials, and resources on electrical theory, calculations, wiring, and electrical installations. It covers various topics relevant to electricians at different skill levels.
- Mike Holt Enterprises offers electrical training materials, books, videos, and online courses for electricians and electrical professionals. They cover topics such as electrical code, grounding and bonding, electrical calculations, and more.
- Electrician Information Resource provides resources, articles, and guides on various aspects of the electrical trade. It covers topics ranging from electrical safety and code compliance to electrical career advice and training resources.
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) offers online training programs, webinars, and resources for electrical professionals. They cover a range of topics, including electrical safety, codes and standards, project management, and business skills.
What’s the Career Outlook for an Electrician?
The career outlook for electricians in the United States is generally positive, with steady demand for skilled professionals in this field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% employment growth for electricians from 2021 to 2031, which is the average growth rate of all occupations. This growth is attributed to the increasing need for electrical installations, repairs, and upgrades in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.
Here are some other factors that may influence the career outlook for an electrician, and determine if an electrician is a good career path for you.
- Construction Industry: The construction industry plays a significant role in driving the demand for electricians. As construction activity and infrastructure projects continue to grow, electricians will be needed to install and maintain electrical systems in new buildings and infrastructure developments.
- Renewable Energy: The growing emphasis on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, is creating additional opportunities for electricians. The installation, maintenance, and upgrading of renewable energy systems require specialized electrical expertise.
- Aging Workforce and Retirements: Many experienced electricians are approaching retirement age, which is expected to contribute to job openings and create opportunities for new electricians such as yourself to enter the field. The retirement of older electricians may also lead to potential career advancement for those with experience.
- Skilled Trades Shortage: The shortage of skilled tradespeople, including electricians, is a significant concern in the U.S. job market. The demand for skilled electricians often exceeds the supply, leading to ample job prospects for qualified individuals.
What Are the Job Opportunities of an Electrician?
As an electrician, you can explore a variety of job opportunities in different sectors. Here are some common job opportunities for electricians:
- Construction Electrician: Construction electricians work on new construction projects, including residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. In this position, you will install electrical systems, wiring, lighting, and electrical equipment according to building plans and electrical codes.
- Maintenance Electrician: As a maintenance electrician, you will focus on the repair and maintenance of electrical systems in various settings, such as factories, hospitals, schools, or commercial facilities. You will need to troubleshoot electrical issues, perform regular inspections, and ensure the safe and efficient operation of electrical systems.
- Industrial Electrician: Industrial electricians work in industrial settings, such as manufacturing plants, refineries, or power generation facilities. As an industrial electrician, your job description will require you to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems and equipment specific to industrial processes, machinery, and controls.
- Residential Electrician: Residential electricians specialize in electrical work for homes, apartments, and other residential buildings. In this position, you will install and maintain electrical systems, wiring, outlets, lighting fixtures, and appliances in residential settings.
- Commercial Electrician: As a commercial electrician, you will focus on electrical work for commercial buildings, such as offices, retail spaces, restaurants, and public facilities. You will handle the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems in commercial settings, including lighting, wiring, electrical panels, and data communication systems.
- Renewable Energy Electrician: With the growing emphasis on renewable energy sources, you can specialize in the installation and maintenance of solar power systems, wind turbines, or other renewable energy technologies. If you become a renewable energy electrician, you will work on residential, commercial, or utility-scale projects related to renewable energy.
- Electrical Contractor: Some electricians choose to become electrical contractors and run their own businesses. As a contractor, you will oversee electrical projects, manage teams of electricians, handle client relations, estimate project costs, and ensure compliance with codes and regulations.
- Electrical Inspector: Electrical inspectors work for government agencies or private organizations to inspect electrical installations, ensuring compliance with electrical codes, regulations, and safety standards. If you choose to become an electrical inspector, you will review plans, conduct on-site inspections, and issue permits or certifications.
What Type of Companies Hire an Electrician?
Electricians are hired by various types of companies and organizations across different sectors. Here are some examples of the types of companies that commonly hire electricians:
- Electrical Contractors: Electrical contracting companies are dedicated to providing electrical services to clients. They undertake projects of different scales, including residential, commercial, and industrial electrical work. These companies often hire electricians as their core workforce.
- Construction Companies: Construction companies, including general contractors and specialized construction firms, hire electricians for electrical installations in new construction projects. These can include residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, as well as infrastructure projects.
- Maintenance and Facilities Departments: Many companies and organizations have maintenance and facilities departments responsible for maintaining the electrical systems and equipment within their premises. These departments may employ you to perform routine maintenance, repairs, and troubleshooting of electrical systems.
- Manufacturing and Industrial Companies: Manufacturing facilities and industrial plants require electricians to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems and equipment used in their production processes. This can include machinery, control systems, and power distribution systems.
- Renewable Energy Companies: Companies specializing in renewable energy technologies, such as solar power or wind energy, often hire electricians for the installation, maintenance, and repair of renewable energy systems. In these companies, your electrician job description may involve working on residential, commercial, or utility-scale renewable energy projects.
- Government Agencies and Municipalities: Local government agencies, such as public works departments, utilities, or transportation departments, may hire you as an electrician for various roles. This can involve electrical maintenance of public infrastructure, street lighting installations, or electrical inspections.
What is the Work-Life Balance of an Electrician?
The work-life balance of an electrician can vary depending on several factors. Here are some aspects to consider regarding the work-life balance of an electrician:
- Working Hours: Electricians often work full-time, which typically means 40 hours per week. However, your specific working hours can vary. You might work regular daytime shifts, or you may have evening, weekend, or on-call responsibilities, especially in roles such as maintenance or emergency services. Additionally, certain projects or deadlines may require overtime work.
- Flexibility: The electrical trade can offer some flexibility in terms of work arrangements. When working as an electrician, you might sometimes have the option to work flexible schedules or negotiate shifts depending on your specific work environment or employer policies. As a self-employed electrician, you may have more control over your working hours but may also need to handle administrative and business responsibilities.
- Work Environment: Electricians work in various settings, including construction sites, residential buildings, commercial establishments, factories, or outdoor locations. The work environment that you find yourself in can influence your work-life balance, as some environments may have more predictable schedules, while others may involve travel or changing job sites frequently.
- Physical Demands: Electrical work can involve physical labor, including lifting heavy equipment, bending, kneeling, and working in different positions. This can impact your overall work-life balance, particularly in terms of fatigue and physical recovery outside of work hours.
- Workload and Seasonality: Your workload can vary depending on the demand for electrical services. There may be periods of high activity and tight deadlines, followed by slower periods. Seasonality can also play a role, as some industries may experience fluctuations in work volume during certain times of the year (e.g., construction during the warmer months).
Should I become an Electrician?
Deciding whether to pursue a career path as an electrician is a significant choice that should not be taken lightly.
The ultimate decision rests on your shoulders. Consider the key points discussed, evaluate your own interests and aptitudes, and align them with your long-term goals. Remember, becoming an electrician requires dedication, continuous learning, and a passion for working with electrical systems.
By making an informed decision, you can embark on a fulfilling journey that offers stability, growth, and the opportunity to positively impact the world through the power of electricity.