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How to Become an Electrician and the Salary to Expect


Have you been thinking about becoming an electrician? It's a career that can be both interesting and rewarding with good compensation for your work and a variety of different job sites. It's a field where there is a high demand for skilled workers who are fully certified at the journeyman level. It takes a commitment to become certified and some states have different requirements for certification, but we've covered the basics that let you know how long on average it takes, the steps required, the average salary you can expect to make and everything that you need to know about becoming a certified electrician.

What does an electrician do?

An electrician is a skilled professional that competent in reading diagrams and blueprints for the installation of electrical systems. They also install and maintain circuit breakers, wiring, transformers as well as other systems, diagnosing problems and making repairs as necessary. There are a variety of special tools, testing equipment and devices used for diagnosing issues and making repairs and these tasks may take place within industrial environments, places of business or residential homes. Some electricians are hired to work in a specific place while others are constantly on the move going from one location to another. Electricians must know the National Electric Code as well as the building and government regulations in the state that they are working in. Some electricians are employed by a company while others work on their own as self employed workers. Those who work in industrial settings usually work with other tradespeople such as architects and engineering teams.

What are the skills necessary to become an electrician?

Becoming an electrician isn't something that is suitable for everyone because there are certain characteristics and aptitudes that are necessary to make it in this field. A healthy respect for the power and danger of electricity is one of them. Beyond this, there is a lot that goes along with the job. You must have the ability to understand and do certain types of mathematics such as whole numbers, integers ,decimals, fractions, basic algebra, geometry including proportions and rations, units and measurements, beginning trigonometry, physics, and the ability to read blueprints. These are all part of the subjects that are required in the educational components for becoming a certified electrician.

What are the steps involved in becoming an electrician?

There really is no shortcut when it comes to fulfilling the requirements for becoming a certified electrician. If you're starting from scratch, you'll need to have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. The next step is to apply for an apprenticeship program for electricians and it must be a program that is sponsored by either the Independent Electrical Contractors, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or the National Electrical Contractors Association. The programs all include a combination of classroom coursework and on the job training components. The total amount of time that it takes to complete an electrician program is four years. The other option for becoming a certified electrician is to enroll in a vocational school, also known as a trading academy in some areas. If you've already had some experience in this line of work by working as a helper under the supervision of a journeyman electrician, this is also helpful in gaining the skills, knowledge and competency necessary to pass the required exams for certification.

Which electrician program is the best?

There are electrician training programs which are offered in an online format. The classes help you learn about the National Electrical Code and they also provide instruction that you would receive in the classroom of a brick and mortar school. Most online programs offer virtual simulation experiences in lieu of one on one instruction. The brick and mortar programs provide more hands on experience, but one is not necessarily better than the other. It's always wise to check on the regulations and requirements outlined for the state that you live in to make sure that any program you are considering is an approved course of study that will help you to reach your goals.

Apprenticeship requirements

All electricians need to serve an apprenticeship under the supervision of a journeyman electrician. This phase of the training period gives you hands on experience learning under a skilled professional while you are gaining competency and learning through observation and assisting someone who has already gained certification. There is no substitute for this type of experience and it is as important as learning the classroom content. The next step after an apprenticeship is to get licensed. There are multiple benefits to being involved in an apprenticeship program. You are learning your trade on the job while earning a wage that can help you to pay for living expenses. In order to qualify for an apprenticeship program, you must at a minimum be 18 years old with a high school diploma or a GED, and complete the necessary coursework involved in a training program whether it is through a technical/vocational school or one of the three electrical training programs referred to earlier who offer such programs.

What kind of course work is required to become an electrician?

We've already discussed the different types of mathematics that are required as a part of the coursework to become a certified electrician. In addition to these, you will have courses that will teach you how to read a blueprint as well as diagrams that show you the best practices for the installation of electrical systems and their multiple components. There will also be classes in codes and standards along with several of them that deal with electrical concepts and theory as well as mechanical skills, codes an standards and safety and first aid courses that help in the prevention of electrocution and other accidents an what to do in case of an emergency.

What is the licensing process like?

Once you have completed your electrician's training course as well as your apprenticeship program, the next step is to become a journeyman electrician by obtaining your journeyman license. The tests as well as the requirements for achieving this goal vary from one state to another so you're going to need to do a little research to make sure that you've satisfied all of the requirements. It's a good idea to prepare in advance by studying for your journeyman exam. You will need to have a working knowledge of the coursework and the principles of electrical systems as well as the National Electrical Code because questions related to this code will appear on the test. While most of the exams cover the basics there are differences in each state as the examinations are prepared differently for each state and they also address the different requirements which can even vary from one county to another within the same state. You will find useful information by reviewing the National Electrical Code, the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, the International Energy Conservation Code, and information supplied by the National Fire Protection Association, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the International Code Council. The journeyman electrician's examination for licensing in your state will contain questions that relate to the information found within these areas. There are several online resources that can help you to prepare for the examination that is specific to your state. Although the questions are likely to be different, the content will be the same and it can help you to brush up in areas that you may not be familiar with or important things that you may have forgotten.

Career specializations within the electrician field

If you haven't already considered which specialization within the field of electricians that you would like to pursue, it may be a good idea to check them out in advance, so you an gear your apprenticeship towards a specific area of work, unless you plan to become a generalist. If you're the type of electrician that works specifically with vehicles you may want to consider becoming an automotive electrician. Aviation electricians work with the electrical systems in aircraft. There are also commercial electricians and those who work with building automation systems. You may also want to consider becoming an industrial electrician or an outside lineman who works for public utility systems and you can even hone this specialization further and work in powerhouse and substations as a technician. Some electricians specialized in Wind Turbines, some choose to become solar power technicians, sign specialist electricians, security and fire alarm installation, telecommunication lines, marine electrician work, low voltage, or residential working the all types of home electrical systems and the latest in smart home technology. you may also elect to become an electrical inspector as your vocation. in addition to all of these specializations for electricians there are also multiple licensing phases. They go in this order. There is the apprentice phase which is working for pay as a journeyman electrician's helper, the journeyman license, the master electrician and the contractor, each a step above the other with a higher annual salary potential.

The differences between the licensing phases are significant. A journeyman will have accumulated approximately 4,000 hours of hands on practice within a two year period of time before he or she will become eligible to apply for and take the master electrician license. The master electrician has the authority to supervise job sites along with other electricians, to design electrical systems and to authorize electricians to pull permits. In addition, it qualifies the holder to apply for their independent electrical contractor's license. The Electrical contractor's license is really a business license versus the master electrician license which is considered to be a professional license. You are required to possess a valid master electrician license before you an apply for an electrical contractor's license.

What kind of salary can you expect to make as a journeyman electrician?

The amount of money that you will make as an electrician depends upon several different factors. The longer you've been a journeyman level contractor or higher in licensing, the higher the pay in most cases. A journeyman contractor who is just starting out in the profession without any particular specializations will earn around $49,000 to $54,000 per year. Some earn up to $92,000 per year depending upon their specialty, the number of years that they've been in the profession, their experience, the state in which they work and the company that they work for.

Final thoughts

Becoming an electrician can be a very rewarding career. Electricians are necessary to keep the world running smoothly and they install, maintain everything from massive electrical systems in airplanes, ships, industrial plants, business offices, cars, trucks and residences and they help us to keep the lights on in our homes and on the streets and much more. There are dangers which are inherent to the job, but if you know what you're doing and you follow the recommended best practices, you will do fine in your career as an electrician. Although this isn't the highest paying career, you can work your way up to earning a decent living as an electrician. If you're willing to make the commitment to completing the coursework, an apprenticeship and follow through to obtain your license, then becoming an electrician may the the right choice for you. The entire program takes approximately 4 years and you will spend 2 of these years in an apprenticeship that gives you hands on practice and experience under the watchful eye of a journeyman electrician. By following the recommendations in this guide to becoming an electrician, you should have no problem navigating your way through a training program then preparing for and passing the licensing exams for your local state.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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