How to Become an Electrician
Of all the skilled trades, electricians are among the most in demand. From the lights illuminating our homes to the power that charges our phones and tablets, electricity is a part of our lives. And as such, it’s an important industry to be involved in. Being an electrician is one of the best ways to explore this industry while serving humankind.
However, being an electrician doesn’t mean only installing a few light bulbs or fixing the switchboard. There is much more to it than meets the eye. Thus, if you are willing to become an electrician, you must undergo thorough training and get licensed. For your convenience, here, we’ve put forward the detailed process to become a certified electrician.
However, before going into it, let’s understand the pressing requirements of electricians that made it a flourishing career choice for many.
Why Have Electricians Become a Lucrative Career Option?
Until recently, people used to handle most of their daily work manually. However, with the availability of electricity in every corner of the country, usage and reliance on electrical goods have increased in every household by many folds. It led to continuous demand for electricians who can repair or maintain these electrical systems.
The need for electricians will further increase due to population growth and urbanization. The number of people living in cities has increased by 20% over the last decade and is expected to increase by 30% by 2050. This leveraged the demand for housing, increasing the need for managing a higher number of electrical circuits and control systems.
The electricity demand will continue to grow as more people use electrical appliances. This, in turn, will hike the need for electricians to maintain and repair these electrical systems. Moreover, the rising popularity of solar power will add to this growth because it will require more electricians who can install, maintain, and repair solar panels.
Step-By-Step Guide to Become an Electrician or Undergo Electrician Training
An electrician is a tradesman specializing in installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical components. These professionals work as individuals or contractors in power plants or construction companies.
Usually, electricians deal with wiring, power generation, lighting, and electrical devices. However, they may also specialize in any one of these areas. For example, an electrical technician might only work with lighting systems, while another might do the wiring for heating and air conditioning systems.
No matter which electrical domain you specialize in, you’ll have to follow the below-mentioned steps to have a progressive career ahead. However, please note that you can opt for comprehensive theoretical-cum-practical training at a trade school or only on-the-job training in an apprenticeship program to become an electrician. You can opt for any path and get licensed depending on your needs. Although there is no change in your job opportunities in each case, the time needed varies.
Step 1: Determine If You Have the Right Aptitude and Attitude to Become an Electrician
There are different matters you must be acquainted with before becoming an electrician. The following are some of the major things you need to learn.
- The working mechanism of electricity
- Reading blueprints
- Using hand tools like wrenches and screwdrivers
- Using power tools such as drills
- Implementing math formulas for calculating voltages and currents
- The operation of wiring and circuits, including resistors, capacitors, inductors, transformers
- Installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems
It’s evident that the job role of an electrician is vital. Hence, aspiring candidates must have the right skills, aptitude, and attitude to do this work.
If you want to become an efficient electrician, you must learn and perform all the tasks mentioned above competently. You must do everything, from reading electrical diagrams to installing wires and other electrical equipment on walls and ceilings, without damaging the components or injuring yourself or others around you.
Thus, before choosing an electrician career, ask yourself if you can develop the necessary skills, adequate competence, and positive attitude.
Having the Right Attitude
Someone with good aptitude will perform well even when faced with challenges or complex situations. As an electrician, you might encounter many instances during your studies and job life that require practical problem-solving skills. If you have a reasonable aptitude, you will be able to overcome all hassles and succeed at becoming an efficient electrician.
Electricians must be able to think logically, so they should be good at math. They must have in-hands experience and improve their work with practice. Also, these professionals should have good communication skills to explain their work to others. Strong interpersonal skills are equally important, as you must work well with others to complete your task.
Having the Right Attitude
Along with being competent, you should have the right attitude to become a successful electrician. Attitude typically refers to how much effort you put into learning about electrical systems or doing manual labor around the house when any electrical need arises. As an electrician, there will be times when you may have to crawl underneath floors or stairs while working on wiring connections inside walls., In such cases, having a positive attitude toward hard work will help you handle the situation better.
The next thing to consider is whether or not becoming an electrician is something that will fit into your lifestyle and schedule. To become an electrical technician, you must have enough time available for training and on-the-job experience. Besides, if you prefer a more structured schedule at a workplace where you can interact with co-workers regularly, this profession can be a great choice.
Step 2: Obtain (or Have Obtained) a High School Diploma or General Education Degree (GED)
To become an electrician, you must possess a high school diploma or general education degree (GED). It is true for most positions in this field.
Subjects like mathematics and science are essential to take on the day-to-day duties of an electrician, but general knowledge acquired through primary education can also help. Algebra and trigonometry are important subjects to learn as they will help you with complex electrical calculations. It is also essential to study physics since it deals with electrical currents and circuits. Besides, English classes can be helpful since communication is vital when working with co-workers on electrical projects.
If you are yet to receive your high school diploma or GED, many programs can help you get it. These programs will teach you everything from basic maths and science to advanced concepts that relate specifically to this industry.
However, you should remember that earning a high school diploma or GED does not guarantee employment with any company but increases your chances significantly. It is because many employers prefer applicants who have already obtained these educational degrees.
Step 3: Enroll in a Formal Training Program from a Trade School or Community College
To become an electrician, you must complete a training program that includes classroom instruction and on-the-job training. After completing your high school education, you can begin working toward earning your associate’s degree from community colleges or trade schools across the country. These institutes offer multiple programs related to electrician training.
Trade schools offer courses in electrical engineering, electronics, and related fields that teach students about electrical theory and installation procedures of electrical equipment in residential and commercial spaces. The advantage of enrolling in these programs is that they provide practical experience and classroom instruction. So you’ll better understand the type of work an electrician must perform after graduation. It’s a great way to get started in the field and will give you the skills needed to work independently after completing the program.
These courses usually take anywhere from 2-4 years. Depending on what path you want to take after graduating high school, you can opt for a suitable training course. Once you have completed this training period, you can take an exam to receive your license as an electrician. Most states require journeymen electricians to have 4 years of formal education or training before taking the exam that leads to licensure.
The traditional training programs vary by state. But most offer courses including both theoretical classroom studies and practical on-the-job training. Many states and licensing regions allow students to substitute some of the hours they spent in school for hours of on-the-job experience required to be licensed as a journeyman. 1 year of formal education generally equates to 1,000 hours of on-the-job experience. However, students can only substitute 2 years’ worth of training or 2,000 hours for the required 4 years of education.
Step 4: Obtain Hands-On Training Through an Apprenticeship Program
To become a licensed electrician, you must complete an apprenticeship program. An electrical apprenticeship is when you work under the supervision of experienced personnel in the industry. You’ll learn how to do your job by observing and doing their tasks. Also, you’ll get enhanced training to use standard equipment and tools to execute electrical projects effectively. In short, during the apprenticeship tenure, you’ll work alongside professional electricians through related coursework and evolve yourself as an electrician.
There are several ways to find an electrical apprenticeship. Some of them are stated below.
Through a Trade School
Trade schools will be the best choice if you’re looking for a more traditional route. They offer comprehensive training courses that teach you everything about electrical work. You can complete these programs on campus or online. As a part of their course, students must compulsorily participate in an apprenticeship program to get hands-on industrial experience. These schools usually have partnerships with local businesses in need of qualified electricians. So, you must apply for these apprenticeship programs and get recruited through your school itself.
Through a Union
The Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, or JATC, has offices in almost every major U.S. city. It will place you with a local union employer and likely facilitate and host a classroom and lab-based technical training at their office. This organization ensures that apprentices receive training in all aspects of electrical work, from laying out circuits and installing wiring systems to working with equipment like transformers and generators.
Through a Non-Union Employer
Some private or government employers may also offer apprenticeship programs that aren’t affiliated with unions or trade schools. These opportunities are sometimes referred to as “open-entry” programs because they’re open to anyone who meets the requirements of the position. So, you can keep a check for these open apprenticeships and apply for job roles suitable for your career.
Step 5: Earn the License by Passing Your State’s Licensing Exam
After completing your apprenticeship, you must earn the required licensure by passing your state’s licensing exam. As the exam is different in each state, you should contact the local board of exams for detailed information.
Many states require apprentices to gain enough experience before taking the licensure exam. It can take anywhere from 12 months to 4 years, depending on what type of license you’re seeking and how many hours of on-the-job training are required by your residing state’s law. Most states require that you have at least 3 years of experience as an apprentice in addition to qualifying for the exam before they issue the license. So, you’ll have to start your career as an apprentice, working under the supervision of a licensed electrician before becoming licensed yourself.
Most states require a combination of theoretical education and hands-on experience to obtain a license. The licensure exam tests your knowledge of the National Electrical Code, safety regulations, electrical concepts, and building codes. You may also have to take an additional exam about the electrical rules specific to your state or municipality.
How Much Time Does It Take to Become an Electrician?
Becoming an electrician is a gratifying career. With a high salary, plentiful job opportunities, and the ability to work on various projects, it’s no wonder that many people are interested in becoming certified electricians. However, you must complete your training before earning money as an electrician.
The time it takes to become a competent electrician depends on whether you go through formal schooling or an apprenticeship program. If you decide to go through formal education, it will typically take 4 years to complete the required courses and earn your degree. However, if you choose to complete an apprenticeship program instead, it will take 5 years or longer, depending on how long each apprentice program lasts.
So, if you’re looking for a job immediately after high school, an apprenticeship is the best way. Most electrical companies need qualified workers to work on their projects through extensive learning. You’ll have to work full-time while going through your apprenticeship training program – sometimes, it can be for long hours.
You’ll also have classes once or twice a week where you learn new skills and techniques. This training through apprenticeship usually lasts 4-5 years, depending on the type of company you’re working in and where they’re located in the country. So, based on that, the time needed to become an electrician varies.
However, during this tenure, the employer will pay for all your expenses, including any supplies used on the job site and tuition costs associated with classes taken at community colleges or trade schools, if any.
How Much Does an Electrician Degree Cost?
The cost of a degree varies by the institute and from program to program. It also depends on whether you are enrolled in an online or traditional classroom-based electrician training course. Usually, the program’s cost will vary on many factors, including the course duration, institute location, whether or not you live in-state, and the type of financial aid available to you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of a 2-year associate’s degree in electrical technology is around $11,000. It does not include any fees or books. However, the price can vary depending on whether you are studying in a public or private institution or attending it full-time or part-time.
The average cost for a 4-year bachelor’s degree in electrical technology ranges from $34,000 to $41,000 per year at public institutions. In contrast, the same course costs between $46,000 and $57,000 per year at private institutions, depending on your state. Some schools or colleges may charge additional fees such as room charges and board or student association dues.
The following are some critical factors that influence the cost of an electrician’s degree.
Community colleges or trade schools offering online programs are generally less expensive than those requiring students to attend in-person classes. Besides, there are only a few financial aid options but higher tuition fees at private universities than at public institutions.
2-year associate’s degrees are less expensive than 4-year bachelor’s degrees. It is because the former degree types require less coursework and provide fewer opportunities for specialization.
Type of Degree
Associate’s degrees in electrical technology may cost less than bachelor’s degrees. An electrical engineering degree will cost more than an associate’s degree in electrical technology because it requires more advanced coursework and specialized knowledge about electricity usage in different industries. Some schools offer associate’s degrees in electrical engineering technology, but they have shorter graduation periods than other types of programs.
Job Profile and Career Opportunities of an Electrician
The electrician is a skilled tradesperson responsible for installing, maintaining, repairing, and servicing electrical systems. They work on various electrical equipment, such as household appliances, building wiring, and industrial machinery. These professionals can work on small or large projects requiring more than one person to complete.
A person who works in this profession may be an apprentice or a master electrician. However, they find employment in various industries, including manufacturing, construction, information technology, and telecommunications.
These technicians are responsible for supervising electrical installation projects in every sector. Also, they ensure that all electrical systems in a building meet local codes and regulations.
Besides, electricians must understand how electricity works to troubleshoot problems whenever they occur. An electrician must fix all hassles, from minute short circuits to hefty transformer breakdowns. So, they must be competent enough to use all sorts of hand and power tools whenever a project need arises.
Due to technological advancements, electricians now also use computers to design digital electrical circuits, update customer records, and manage billing information.
Electricians’ roles vary depending on the size of the company they work for or the type of work they do. For instance, an electrician working for a large corporation would have more responsibilities than one working for a small business. However, these technicians get opportunities to work for both government and private companies.
Many companies have turned towards opting for electrical contractors instead of full-time employees. It is because contractors can help corporations save money by paying less per hour per person than they would if they hired people directly on their payrolls.
However, some electricians opt for higher studies and specialize in specific areas rather than doing everything from start to finish on projects. Some may specialize in residential wiring, while others may be adept in handling industrial electrical systems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that electrician employment will grow by 7% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than average for other occupations. BLS also projects that there will be intense competition for these jobs due to a surplus of qualified applicants.
Electricians are expected to retire at a rate faster than younger workers enter the workforce. However, as per BLS reports, this trend will be offset by increased demand for their skills from various industries.
An electrician is one of the most demanded jobs in the world. It’s a job that pays decently, and the skills you need to acquire are not that hard to learn.
Today, as the need for these technicians is rising, many are looking into a career path as an electrician. The good news is that becoming an electrician is more straightforward and shorter than you think. It’s possible to become an efficient electrician with proper training and certification in about a year if you follow the right path. However, thoroughly research the career and the institutes offering electrician training programs before creating a course plan.