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Job Spotlight - Electrician

Are you interested in working as an electrician? Does working with your hands give you a sense of satisfaction? Are you looking for a job that is almost always in demand? Would you like to earn some skills that can help you set up your own business? If you answer yes to these questions, you may want to consider working in this field.
 

Quick Facts: Electrician
2015 Median Pay (Annual) $51,880
2015 Median Pay (Hourly) $24.94
Entry-Level Education At Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended Education Post-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2014-2024 Projected Outlook 14% growth (much faster than average)
2014 Number of Jobs 628,800
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains 85,900

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Electrician FAQs

If you want to learn more about Electrician work and how you can get started in this growing field, then you have come to the right place. We will help you find out all you need to know on how to get started in this job and how to find the right education. Below you will find the most frequently asked questions about the path to working as an Electrician. If you feel we missed any questions or topics, or you have a suggestion contact us and let us know.

What is an Electrician?

Next time you decide to binge on some movies or go to the grocery store to buy some food, you should remember that it was partly an Electrician that made it possible. Even though they did not necessarily invent these modern conveniences, it is through their skills that it is possible for you to enjoy it. This can be said about anything that relies on electricity.

An electrician is a skilled tradesman who installs, maintains and repairs electrical and communication systems in homes, businesses and anywhere electricity and wiring is needed. Some electricians even install and maintain wiring on ships, airplanes or in military vehicles. Electricians can thought of as heroes in a way, especially if you are one of those that ever sat through a blackout where there was nothing to do but stare at the candles flickering until the lights came back on.

If you are thinking about working as an Electrician, you have picked wisely. Considered one of the top 10 jobs of the future, Electricians are always in demand and will continue to be so for years to come. There is plenty of room for growth in this burgeoning industry with Electricians becoming in more demand with the movement towards alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

How to Get Started as an Electrician

Quick Info: What You Need to Know to Work as an Electrician
Types of education
• Apprenticeship programs from IBEW, IEC, etc…
• Accredited technical or trade school
• Military service electrician courses
Licensing
• Most states require knowledge National Electrical Code
• Check with state and local code enforcement department for licensing requirements
• Independent contractors may need a business license
Keep learning
• Attend classes and seminars to keep up with changes
• Most states require a certain number of hours of classes a year

If you are looking to find a job as an Electrician, you have a few different ways to make this possible. We will present you with the most common ways that people get themselves involved in the field. We will give you both the pros and cons of each path, then you will have to decide which path is right for you.

While we cannot definitely say which is better between going to trade school or getting trained through an apprentice program, we can give you some insights in to both types of education so you can make up your own mind which is best for you.

Apprenticeship

Considered the old school method of learning how to enter this field, apprenticeships are still one of the more common ways to learn the craft. You need to enroll in an apprenticeship program sponsored by one of the following associations; the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC).

As part of the apprenticeship you will work closely with an experienced Electrician through hands-on learning combined with classroom study. You should expect to spend 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and another 144 or more hours in the classroom each year throughout the 3 to 5 year apprentice program.

Pros

  • Quickly start getting paid to learn
  • Best way for people who do not like school
  • On-the-job study can be an easier way to learn

Cons

  • You will be an apprentice for 3 to 5 years
  • Sometimes you will be doing more grunt work than learning
  • Doesn’t mean you will learn the latest technologies
Technical School

Even though you will currently find most Electricians got their start through an apprentice program, there is something to say about those who attend a trade or vocational school. If you are truly interested in more than just splicing wires or hooking up a system, you may find trade school to be the better route.

Depending on the level of degree you want to pursue between a simple certificate to an associate’s degree, you will spend 1 year to 2 years – respectively – in a trade school program. You will have classes that will give greater depth on electrical theory, mathematics, wiring and the advancements in technology. Most trade schools also offer an apprenticeship program so you can get some practical hands-on experience in the field.

Pros

  • A certificate or an associate’s degree can give you an advantage when searching for a job
  • Will help you learn the latest technologies
  • Potentially offers higher salary and advancement opportunities such as supervisory roles

Cons

  • You have to spend more time in a classroom
  • You most likely won’t get a salary while going to school
  • You still have to go through an apprentice program
Military

Some of the best electricians out there today got their start when they enlisted in the U.S. military. Yes, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines offer courses for electricians. If you don’t have the money for school or you feel it is your patriotic duty to serve your country, then maybe the military is the right way to go.

Electrical courses in the military offer the best of both worlds when it comes to apprenticeships and going to a technical school. You can learn your trade in both a classroom and gain actual experience working in the field. Plus, there is a strong chance that if you show yourself willing and able you may be get the opportunity for advanced classes which can come in handy once you are out of the service.

Pros

  • Paycheck and training provided
  • Gain solid experience
  • Best of apprenticeships and post-secondary education

Cons

  • Four year enlistment
  • Can be sent in harm’s way
  • Hours are sometimes irregular
Licensing

Upon completing the Electrician apprentice program, you may need to become licensed, depending on your state and laws. Most states will require you to have a working knowledge of the National Electrical Code in order to become licensed as an Electrician. Check with the local Electricians association, state or local code enforcement department or the IBEW to see if you need to be licensed in your state or locality.

Keep in mind, if you plan on working as an independent contractor, you may need a separate license. You are now ready to work as an Electrician.

Continuing Education

You will find that most states that require licensing to work as an Electrician will ask you to attend some continuing education classes every year. These classes, or seminars in some cases, are designed to keep you up to date with the Code and changing technologies so you can be at the top of your game. These seminars or classes can be particularly handy for those working as a specialist.

Where Can I Find an Electrician School?

Finding a trade or vocational school that offers an Electrician program is easier than you think. Just go to your favorite web search and type in either “electrician school” or “electrician training” and you will see literally millions of web sites dealing with this topic. From this list, you can narrow it down to programs that fit whatever needs you may have.

If you feel that it is too impersonal to look on the internet, you can always try other ways such as:

  • Look in your local phone book
  • Ask an electrician
  • Call the IBEW and ask for a recommendation
Accreditation

When going through the list of trade schools, make sure you find one that has the proper accreditation, especially in the program you are interested in. The accreditation of the program means that it meets the quality of education that is necessary for this degree. Try to find an Electrician program that has been accredited or recommended by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

Prerequisites

More likely than not, before you can enroll in any Electrician program or apprenticeship, you will need to meet some requirements. These requirements are pretty straightforward. Typical requirements are:

  • Must have a high school diploma or hold a General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
  • Must be 18 years old or older
  • Must have successfully completed one year of high school algebra
  • Must be able to pass a drug test
  • Must be in somewhat physical shape
Joining the Military

Joining the military might be easier than picking a school or finding an apprenticeship. For the most part you just have to head down to the recruiter’s office and sign up. We do highly recommend that you take the time to ask questions and maybe set up a cooling off period so you don’t do something you may regret. The military isn’t for everyone but it can be an amazing experience.

If you don’t want to talk to a recruiter right now or just want more details, you can always go the websites that each branch of the military has. There should be plenty of information to help you make up your mind one way or the other. You can find links to their sites below:

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Marine

Coast Guard

National Guard

Are There any Online Electrician Classes?

Yes there is. Since the majority of the classroom instruction is discussing theories of electricity and codes, there are some online programs. If you decide to go this route, you should be aware that you will need to still find and enroll in an apprentice program to get your hands-on experience. You should also try to find an online program that has NECA accreditation to make things a lot easier.

In some respects, going through an online program while going through a normal apprentice program can be very beneficial since you will be getting a full range of education. The only hard part is the amount of hours in a day that you have to complete everything. Luckily, online programs provide extremely flexible schedules so you can study at almost any time of the day you have an internet connection.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Electrician Program?

No matter which route you plan on taking, you can expect to spend upwards of 5 years before you are certified. This isn’t as bad as it sounds since you will be learning a trade that will be well worth it for years to come. Plus, as we have mentioned, there is a good chance that you will still be able to get a paycheck while learning your craft.

What is a Typical Electrician Job Description?

To put in the plainest terms the job description of an Electrician is connect and maintain electrical output to and in houses, businesses or any other place that uses electricity. They are charged with keeping us plugged in, sorry for the bad pun.

  • Some of the duties of an Electrician include:
  • Connect electrical wiring to circuit breakers, transformers and other equipment
  • Read and create blueprints for electrical wiring of a building
  • Repair and replace electrical wiring in fixtures or equipment using specialized tools
  • Provide inspections of electrical equipment such as transformers or circuit breakers
  • Identify electrical problems or hazards by using testing equipment
  • Tests the continuity of circuits and electrical systems, noting and fixing problems
  • Keeping electrical systems up to local and national code
  • Design and fabricate parts for special jobs
  • Using conduit inside of walls, partitions or other areas to hide wiring
  • Advise on safety of electrical devices or equipment
  • Charged with assembly, installation, testing and maintenance of electric or electronic wire, appliances, equipment or fixtures in homes, businesses, factories or anywhere else where needed

How to Get Licensed as an Electrician

Quick Info: Tips for Licensing
The path to licensing
• Go through an apprenticeship or trade school
• Meet the state and local requirements listed by code enforcement agency
• Study the National Electrical Code and prepare for your exam
• Pass the both the written and hands-on parts of the exam

If you want to work as an Electrician in most states, you will need to earn your licensing. This is not that difficult of a process and can be summed up in 4 easy to follow steps. These steps are listed below.

Step One – Formal Education

The first step to become a licensed is to complete your education at a trade school and or your apprenticeship. You should become familiar with the type of work you will be doing and the process behind it. By the time you have completed your school or apprenticeship you should be ready for the next step.

Step Two – Requirements

The requirements for licensing can be different depending on where you live. You may find that your state does not require a license but the town, city or county you live in does. It is best to contact the local or state code enforcement agency to find out what requirements are necessary and how you can fulfill them.

You will most likely need to complete anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 hours working in an apprenticeship prior to being eligible to take any licensing exam. In some states or locations, you can only get credit for 2,000 hours a year, so keep that in mind. You will need to be able to provide documentation of your hours such as paystubs, W-4 or school transcripts showing the number of hours you have worked in this capacity.

Step Three – Study

Licensing exams generally cover the understanding of the National Electrical Code (NEC) or something very similar. You will need to become very familiar with the codes of the area you live. There are a number of different study guides as well as buying a copy of the NEC or whatever code is used in your area. Study, study and then when in doubt… study more!

Step Four – Take the Exam

Seems pretty straight to the point. You have presumably studied for this moment so now it is time to put your knowledge to the test, so to speak. Prior to taking the exam you should find out what kind of format that will be used. Some exams will be multiple choice, oral, essay or computations. Or a combination of all of these, depending on where you are.

More than likely, you will find that there is a hands-on demonstration of your skills as part of the exam. Not overly complicated so as to make it too difficult but enough to show you have gained some skills. This is done to separate the people who have actually learned the skills against those who just memorized the Code part.

Words of Advice

When you are scheduling your exam, find out what the format your exam will be in. You might also want to see if you are able use study aides during the exam. Some states do allow you to have a copy of your Code Book with you. If this is the case, you may want to look in to ways to quickly find the info you need such as tabs, bookmarks, etc…

What Are The Different Types of Electrician Jobs?

First of all, you should know that there generally two types of Electricians out there, not including specialists. You will either be a Journeyman or a Master Electrician. What do these titles mean? Let’s look at them individually.

Journeyman

A Journeyman Electrician normally works in construction by installing lighting, power supplies, communications or security systems in either residences or businesses. In some cases, they may also work on overhead lines or underground wires. You may even help train aspiring Electricians through the apprentice program. Typically these are what you think of when you hear the word Electrician.

To become a Journeyman Electrician, you will take the Journeyman’s Electrical exam after completing your apprenticeship. The actual exams will vary state by state and sometimes even county to county. This exam will give you the certificate that allows you to work on electrical systems without supervision.

Master Electrician

Those acquiring the status of Master Electrician have been recognized as being highly skilled in their field. They have reached the pinnacle of being an Electrician and typically work in more of a supervisory role and or even own their business. Most Master Electricians have taken college level courses in management along with supervision classes to help with their role as a supervisor.

Typically, it takes 7 to 8 years to reach the level of experience to become a Master Electrician. They will also have to pass a certification exam that gives them the title of Master. Some have bypassed the experience part by getting their bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (EE) and passed the certification exam, depending on the state they are in.

Electrician Specialties

As with most craft fields, there are specialties that you can focus on to maximize your knowledge in a specific area. By specializing you can work in one type of environment or venue. Even though you may limit yourself in job opportunities, you may find that your services are very much in demand over a general Electricians. You will need to pass a certification exam in order to specialize in any of these niches as well has have some experience. Check with the local or state code enforcement agency for details on the certification exam.

Generally there are 4 specialties that an Electrician can choose from. These are:

What is the Median Electrician Salary?

Electricians are among the top trades in so far as salary goes. The annual median salary is currently listed at $51,880 or $24.94 an hour, according to the latest information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% make upwards of $83,000 while the lowest 10% is around $30,000 a year. Roughly 10% of Electricians are self-employed and enjoy the ability to set their own schedules.

electrician salary

Your real pay is dependent on a few factors such as:

  • Location
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Certification
  • Employer

What is the Job Outlook for Electricians?

The forecast for the next decade is exceedingly bright for those working as an Electrician. The continued growth in construction is a big factor in the projected increase of over 200,000 new Electrician jobs or a growth of 14% 2024. This ranks faster than the average of all occupations in the U.S. This number may also increase as new technologies make demand go higher for skilled Electricians.

Electrician Projected Job Growth

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