How to Become Electrician

This article provides in-depth information into What is Electrician? What Electrician do? Degrees for Electrician, Steps to become Electrician and much more.


What does an electrician do?

Electricians are highly skilled trade professionals. Electricians are trained to handle a wide variety of issues associated with electrical power, lighting and control systems. An electrician read blueprints that reveal the location of outlets, circuits and other equipment. Most importantly electricians keep their communities safe by preventing and responding to dangerous situations.

There are basically two types of electricians. One type is residential which typically works in private homes or new home constructions while the other type is an inside electrician who most often is employed by factories and businesses with larger electrical systems. 

Some of the main tasks that an electrician has to handle are as follows

  • Adding, maintaining and replacing circuit breakers, fuses and wires

  • Finding and replacing faulty wiring or aged wiring that could pose a safety hazard. 

  • Planning the layout and installation of wiring through an entire building or series of buildings

  • Reading blueprints to learn where circuits, outlets, panel boards and other electrical components are to be found.

  • Reviewing the work that other electricians have done in a building and making sure it meets the safety standards set out in the national electrical code

  • Teaching and appraising apprentices

Steps to become an Electrician

Following is the step by step guide for becoming an electrician

Earn a high school diploma 

The first step towards becoming an electrician is to pass high school. A high school diploma or an equivalent like GED is a must. Those that aim to become an electrician should take up courses that offer some exposure to electrical principles such as mathematics, physics and other technical sciences. Students should pay special attention to subjects like english classes because being an electrician would require knowing how to read technical documents. Vocational schools and local community colleges offer special programs exclusively for high school learners.

Get Formal Training

Once the career path is decided, students must join an apprenticeship program sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) or Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC). These programs include both classroom and on the job training and takes up to four years to be completed. Or students can opt for a certification from a technical vocational school or training academy. Certification will lead to classroom programs followed by apprenticeship to develop on the job skills. Requirements for an apprenticeship varies but in most cases students have to complete 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of on the job training.

Land a Job

Those that have training of more than a year after apprenticeship or classroom certification are known as helpers. Helpers are usually assigned to work with one or more electricians on job sites. Those that start out as apprentice will be given on the job training and in the case of classroom certifications, apprentices have to work under the close supervision of a journeyman electrician

Get Licensed

The requirements for licensure vary from state to state. Electricians usually pass a comprehensive examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the national electrical code and local electric and building codes.

Continue Education

Codes keep changing and so do practices. What must have been the best practice a few years back does not necessarily have to be the best practice today. Electricians must continue education including courses that offer unique certifications in order to be up to date.

Salary of an electrician

According to the BLS, the average annual salary of an electrician is $55,200 approx. Electricians working in New York, Massachusetts, California and Washington may earn upto $78,000 per year. 

Job Growth of an Electrician

According to BLS, employment opportunities for  electricians are projected to grow at 10% growth rate between 2018 to 2028. The fact that wiring is a must in homes, factories and other businesses and will continue to be needed reassures that the job of an electrician will always be in demand.

Types of Degrees for an Electrician

There are two types of formal education for a degree as an electrician and one type of apprenticeship which are discussed below:

Electrician Certificate

Certificate programs consist of basic courses designed to prepare students for apprenticeships and take upto a year to be completed. Students should ensure that their certificate program coursework is aligned with the latest version of the National Electrical Code. Some apprenticeship programs accept credits earned in certificate programs

 

Associate Electrician Degree

Associate degree for electricians is the most popular option for electricians. It is a two year degree program and has specializations like renewable energy or industrial electrical technology. Many associate degrees in electrical technology are offered as applied degrees. Applied degrees prepare students to start working immediately after graduation. On the other hand, some associate degrees offer general education courses that open doors to four years bachelor’s degree programs. 

 

Apprenticeship

In order to work as a licensed electrician, it is important to know that apprenticeship is a must. Some apprenticeship will take formal education into account and apply academic credits to classroom hours. All apprentices require to complete 144 hours of classroom work and 2000 hours of hands on training under the supervision of a licensed electrician. Apprentices will learn about blueprints, electrical code requirements, electrical theory, safety practices and more. After completion of four to five years of training, apprentices will be awarded with the designation of a journeyman electrician. After several more years of competent work experience, a journeyman electrician is eligible to become a master electrician. 

Concentrations to consider

Following are the job concentrations to consider for an electrician

  • Electrician: the first obvious choice is to be an electrician. The primary job of an electrician is to install, maintain and repair electrical lines and components ike lighting, wiring etc. electricians are mainly of two types: resident and inside electricians. Residential electricians work in residential homes while inside electricians work in factories, businesses etc 

  • Construction Electrician: These electricians work on construction sites powering new homes and business constructions. Construction electricians need to work on site for several weeks completing one job and then move to another.

  • Electrical drafters:  electrical drafters work with blueprints, create diagrams and develop layout drawings for electrical equipment. They create diagrams for circuit boards, maintain and install electrical equipment.

  • Lineman: lineman installs and repairs wires and cables that carry power from a powerhouse or substation to a particular destination. Their job also includes building transmission towers and  erecting utility poles.

  • Powerhouse , Substation and Relay Electrician: These electricians work specifically with power generating stations, substations and in service relays to ensure that the power grid stays up and running. They are also responsible for inspecting and testing components of a station, repairing any problems and maintaining equipment.

Preparing Yourself a career as an Electrician

Those that want to pursue a career as an Electrician can prepare themselves in the following ways:

  • Community College: those that want to pursue higher education after HIgh School can do so through community colleges which offer associate degrees in electrical technologies and take upto two years for the course to be completed. 

  • Trade Schools: Trade schools offer certification and diploma courses for electricians. Some trade schools allow their students to commence training as early as high school. Certifications and diploma courses take upto a year to complete.

  • Military: armed forces prepare servicemen and servicewomen for healthy civilian careers post retirement. Those that want to pursue a career as an electrician receive on the job training. They also enroll in courses which are designed to further their knowledge.

Skills to become an Electrician 

Following are the standout skills to become an electrician:

  • Technical ability: Electricians need to be good in mathematics and critical thinking skills as their job requires them to think technically. They should have both theoretical as well as well practical knowledge. They should know to read blueprints and must be up to date about codes. 

  • Manual Dexterity:  electricians have to be on their feet all day most of the time. Their work will require them to crawl through tight spaces, lifting heavy materials etc which requires electricians to have dexterity,  physical stamina and strength.

  • Good Customer Service: electricians work for customers. Therefore it is essential that they provide good customer service. In many cases people appreciate good customer service more than the product.

  • Business savvy: Most electricians work independently. This requires them to have the ability to track progress of their jobs, plan out payroll and handle all other duties common to small business. Hence it is important that electricians have the right knowledge about business

  • Good Communication skills: An electricians job is technical in nature. But every job requires good interpersonal skills. Electricians must be able to understand the needs and must be able to effectively communicate the needs. Electricians also trains apprentices. Hence it is important that they have good communication skills so as to be able to train the apprentices well.