Going into the electrical trades is a rewarding career choice for many reasons. First, it's an exciting skilled trade to be a part of. You get to hold the satisfaction of helping people stay safe within their household and happy in their communities. Second, you are compensated well for the work you do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average base pay is $27.36 per hour, the top 10% of electricians earn nearly 6 figures ($98,720). On top of that, job growth is 8% above the national average. It's an exciting skilled trade to be a part of, you get to hold the satisfaction of helping people stay safe within their household.
To become an electrician, you'll need soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and most importantly technical skills to understand the science and theory behind electrical work. This industry is not cut out for anybody, and the journey it takes to eventually becoming a master electrician, isn’t any easier than the work itself.
So, in this article we'll streamline the process so you’ll know the steps to become an electrician. We'll discuss how to find out if it's the right fit, the qualifications you'll need, and the process to become a licensed technician.
Are you in California? Check this article out to learn How to Become a Certified Electrician in California.
Is becoming an electrician right for you?
Before you dedicate time and energy to trying to become an electrician, you first need to take into consideration three things by asking yourself the questions below.
Work-life balance: Does the lifestyle of an electrician fit the ideal lifestyle you’d like to have?
Work-life balance is basically what it sounds like, the balance between your personal life and your work life. This is important because work in some cases shapes our lives, so we want to make sure you know what to expect. Some electricians work early hours, and others late. Make sure that this trade compliments your goals in life Check out this article to learn more about work-life balance in the trades.
Career growth: Does the career trajectory of an electrician interest you?
Career growth refers to the overall picture of your career journey. Career growth is shaped by the different roles and responsibilities you take on. This is important because being able to challenge yourself and grow is what makes a job exciting at the end of the day. There are huge opportunities to become a six-figure earner while being an electrician, but you must do the work to achieve this. Check out this article to learn more about career growth.
Day to Day life: Does the work that an electrician does interest you?
Becoming an electrician is a large commitment, so you want to make sure that you are at least interested in the work that an electrician does. Talk to electricians in your area to find out what company life is like, and try to set up a job shadow to see if it's the right fit. Who knows, maybe you'll even get an offer from the company you shadow.
1. Check if you have the necessary qualifications
Once you have decided that being an electrician is for you, the next big step is to get the necessary qualifications. The biggest qualification you need is having a high school diploma or a GED. Having this will show employers that you can commit to a goal, and will give you important background to help you in your career.
Don’t have a GED or high school diploma?
No worries at all, it is fairly simple to obtain a GED nowadays. All you need to do is reach out to your local community college, or even your local adult school to enroll in their program to obtain one. You can find trade schools in your area on Trade Academy. Learn more about obtaining your GED at GED.com.
Here are a few GED and high school courses to pay attention to, as they will help you later when you are looking for a career:
English for writing technical documents
Being able to communicate through writing is important with passing down projects to others or even informing your client abut the work you are doing.
Algebra for things such as calculating electrical currents.
Precision is essential when it comes to electricity. Being able to calculate numbers accurately may be the difference between having power and not having power.
Shop or design for designing electrical wiring systems.
Effectively designing electrical wiring systems ensures that work can be easily done to the house you are working at. You are there for one job, but someone else may need to come and do additional work, so ensuring you are designing accessible electrical wiring systems is important.
These classes help shape and provide fundamental knowledge of the electrical trade, as you will build on these skills within trade/vocational school and implement them in your day-to-day of being an electrician.
2. Attend a career technical education program
The next step is to enroll in a career technical education program or trade school. These continuing education programs will offer the necessary foundational knowledge that you need to get started with an apprenticeship or entry-level position. Community colleges also have electrician programs that provide the same technical training as a technical school.
Looking for an electrical program near you? Browse our database of trade programs in your area.
You’ll learn through hands-on experience and classroom instruction. You may learn things such as electrical technology, electrical theory, general building codes, the national electrical code, or even electrical signs. Classroom instruction will ultimately prepare you to become an apprentice. Some programs are also hybrid, where you will learn all material at home and practice in the classroom.
It usually takes 12-14 months to complete, and costs around $5,000 - $10,000 for trade school and $10,000 - $12,000 for an associate's degree through a community college (Source). Be sure to take a look at all prospective schools as there may be financial aid available for you. Trade Academy also offers industry specific scholarships.
If you need help figuring out how to pay for trade or vocational school, check out this article to learn the 5 ways to pay for trade school.
3. Find an apprenticeship program
The next step is to find an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is essentially a job training program (in this case electrical training) where you get paid to learn with electrical workers at your company. Think of it as a paid electrician training program.
Apprenticeships teach skills that are usually not taught within your technical training, so it is a great learning opportunity within your electrical career. You’ll learn how to talk to customers, how to complete work orders, and dive into what a 'day in the life' may look like.
Finding an electrical apprenticeship can be a difficult task, but Apprenticeship.gov has resources to help you find the right apprenticeship for you. In addition, unions have information on apprenticeships from companies inside their union. Many independent electrical contractors may be looking to grow and have electrical apprentices as well.
This work experience is essential to get the job experience needed for the “hours of experience” requirement for an electrician licensing. Depending on the state, you'll need approximately 8000-10000 hours (four-five years of experience) before obtaining your electrician license.
4. Get a state’s electrician license
The last step in the process is obtaining your electrician license. Each state has different licensing requirements to obtain a license. If you're in California, review our guide on getting licensed there.
For further information, check out Cover Wallet’s article on the requirements to get a license depending on the state you live in. Once you have completed your apprenticeship the only other step is to take your state’s electrician licensing exam.
Understanding the process to become an electrician is a big step in your journey, so learning about these four steps will put you ahead of the game. Being an electrician is a rewarding career path with tons of job opportunities that pay well and have the satisfaction of helping people.
Regardless of what trade you choose, dedicating time to explore trades will help you discover new interests and grow a fulfilling career!
You can set up a job seeker profile on Trade Academy, no matter where you are in this process, to see what opportunities are available.