If you work as an electrician, you help keep society functioning. Whether you’re repairing power lines after a storm or installing electrical wiring in homes or businesses, your services are indispensable.
The first step to becoming an electrician is learning about the skills and training you need to enter this line of work and succeed at it. Although you don’t have to earn a college degree to start working as an electrician, you still need to meet certain requirements, and these may include passing a licensing exam.
What Skills Do Electricians Need?
Electricians work in a variety of settings. Depending on your employer and the position you hold, you may be specializing in particular kinds of tasks. However, there are some core skills or qualities that all electricians share, especially the following:
Electricians develop a comprehensive understanding of various electrical systems and their components, such as fuse boxes and transformers, and they become adept at inspections, new installations, repairs, and upgrades. They also become familiar with various tools and pieces of equipment.
Electricians encounter a variety of challenges on the job, including issues that arise unexpectedly. They use critical thinking, math, and collaboration with colleagues to come up with effective solutions.
The ability to work with various tools while focusing on wires and other electrical components is essential for an electrician. You need to have strong observational skills and manual dexterity.
Wearing the right protective gear, observing safety protocols throughout every job, and following electrical safety codes are crucial requirements for electricians. From fires to powerful shocks, the job has a variety of risks that need to be mitigated through extensive training and responsible behavior.
Working as an electrician is often physically demanding. Carrying equipment, standing for hours, and crouching to squeeze into tight spaces may all be part of a job.
What Degree Do You Need to Become an Electrician?
To start training as an electrician, you first need to earn a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development test. You must also be at least 18 years old.
Becoming an electrician involves a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job experience under appropriate supervision. Each state has its own requirements for education.
One option is to start your training by enrolling in a certificate program offered through a trade school or community college; you may also want to aim for an associate degree in electrical technology. Another option is to pursue an apprenticeship, and a number of states require it. It’s also possible to take a combined path. You can attend a trade school and then get accepted for a paid apprenticeship with a master electrician.
After gaining more experience and acquiring the necessary license, some electricians want to run their own business. In that case, they may benefit from courses in management or entrepreneurship.
Because there are multiple options for electrician training, it’s important to consider what works best for you. Review what your state or municipality requires, and check if major employers in your area make additional demands when evaluating job candidates. Any program or apprenticeship you participate in should be legitimate and recognized by your state.
What Certifications or Licenses Do Electricians Need?
Let’s say you’ve just earned a certificate from a trade school. Or maybe you’re currently working your way through an apprenticeship. When can you actually be a licensed electrician in your state?
States vary in their requirements for licensure. Even if the state doesn’t require a formal license for certain electrician jobs, municipalities within the state may have their own professional regulations.
Before being awarded a license, you’ll need to prove that you’ve completed a certain number of classroom hours and documented hours of supervised work. It’s likely that you’ll also need to pass an exam. The exam will draw on a range of knowledge relevant to electricians, including your grasp of the National Electric Code.
Typically, the first kind of license you’ll earn as an electrician is a journeyman license. As a journeyman electrician, there will probably be restrictions on the kinds of work you can undertake. For example, you won’t be able to work for yourself or supervise other electricians.
With additional experience and testing, you’ll be eligible to become a master electrician, broadening your employment opportunities and giving you greater independence. Another way to enhance your professional development is to earn certifications for special kinds of equipment or types of electrical work.
To maintain your journeyman or master license, you’ll need to periodically participate in continuing education. Typically, continuing education involves additional classes or practical training.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a License?
It takes anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to earn a certificate or associate degree through a trade school or community college, but you may also need a few more years of supervised work experience before applying for a journeyman license. As for an apprenticeship, it will generally take at least three years to complete.
Once you earn a journeyman license, you’ll typically need to wait for another two or three years before you can apply for a master license. The time frame for training and licensure doesn’t look the same for everybody, especially because of the variations in requirements for different states and municipalities.
What Are the Job Prospects for Electricians?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment growth rate for electricians is estimated at nine percent between 2020 and 2030. The median salary is roughly $60,000. There are opportunities to advance and increase your salary, especially by becoming a master electrician, and you can wind up running your own contracting business.
The best way to find work is by making connections through your training program or apprenticeship. However, these connections will help you only if you continue developing your skills and updating your knowledge.