How to Become an Electrician: Career Guide

Have your lights ever gone out in the middle of the night or maybe one of your electrical outlets stopped working?

You either fixed it yourself or called an Electrician, right?

Electricians are specialized in electricity and wiring systems, their goal is to bring light and warmth into your life.

Some Electricians may work on homes while others work for companies or government buildings, which can lead to different roles.

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Electrician - Job Description

An Electrician is experienced and knowledgeable on electricity both inside and outside of homes and buildings.

These qualified individuals spend their time working with wiring systems, installing, upgrading, and running risk management operations in order to make sure everything is safe.

Working as an Electrician can be a time-consuming and dangerous job, but with the right skills, it can also be a great career.

Electricians are considered tradesmen and women who work to ensure we are all staying warm and dry.

Duties

There are many responsibilities for an Electrician, especially because some Electricians work inside buildings, while others work on the outside.

Some of the tasks that you can expect to do on a daily basis in this career are:

  • Reading and creating blueprints
  • Using hand and power tools
  • Inspecting and install electrical components and wiring systems
  • Keeping records of data
  • Adhere to state and local regulations
  • Using testing tools to diagnose problems

Salary

There are many types of Electricians, which means that there will be a variety of salaries throughout this career and the field.

On average, an Electrician with at least two years of experience and education can make about $56,000 a year.

In the beginning, it’s easier to expect a salary closer to $39,000.

However, after many years of experience, it’s possible to earn over $80,000 in some areas as an Electrician.

Some of the factors that can play into how much salary you make are the location of your work and the type of electrical work that you do.

Average National Salary: $56,000

$38K
10%
$44K
25%
$56K
50%
$64K
75%
$72K
90%

Average Electrician Salary by State

StateSalary
Alabama$44,728
Alaska$53,849
Arizona$47,471
Arkansas$44,115
California$53,561
Colorado$47,807
Connecticut$52,122
Delaware$50,348
Florida$46,033
Georgia$46,272
Hawaii$50,492
Idaho$45,257
Illinois$49,404
Indiana$46,848
Iowa$45,793
Kansas$44,896
Kentucky$44,642
Louisiana$45,534
Maine$46,224
Maryland$49,821
Massachusetts$52,170
Michigan$48,430
Minnesota$48,910
Mississippi$41,591
Missouri$45,553
Montana$43,467
Nebraska$43,971
Nevada$49,389
New Hampshire$48,670
New Jersey$53,225
New Mexico$43,614
New York$51,451
North Carolina$45,745
North Dakota$44,594
Ohio$46,752
Oklahoma$45,074
Oregon$47,759
Pennsylvania$47,855
Rhode Island$50,540
South Carolina$44,496
South Dakota$40,902
Tennessee$43,563
Texas$46,992
Utah$45,430
Vermont$46,177
Virginia$47,198
Washington$51,211
West Virginia$42,245
Wisconsin$47,322
Wyoming$42,758
* Salary information last updated 2021

How to Become an Electrician

Step 1 Earn a High School Diploma

In most cases, you won’t need to have a college degree to become an Electrician.

Most of the time, a high school diploma or GED will be perfect for you to begin your journey.

There are still a few things that you will need to cover in case you don’t choose to go to a trade school or university.

Make sure that you have good knowledge of math and construction skills, as well as written and communication skills.

Other classes that you should consider taking in high school include:

  • Trigonometry
  • Physics
  • English
  • Shop
  • Mechanical drawing

You will also need to be at least 18 years old to begin a career as an Electrician.

Along with that, a GPA of at least 2.5 is typically what employers look for when hiring new Electricians.

If you don’t have a high school diploma, then a GED will suffice.

Many schools, community colleges, and adult education centers provide information on the GED process.

Step 2 Attend Trade School

After high school, you may decide that you want to learn a bit more about becoming an Electrician before you begin your career.

In that case, a trade school program or classes at a community college can take you a long way.

Most programs take about one year to finish, while an Associate’s degree from a community college can take up to two years.

There is no legal requirement to earn a degree or certificate in order to work as an Electrician, but many employers, as well as customers, like to see that you have a solid education.

Most programs allow for classroom time as well as labs or internships with senior Electricians.

If you plan to earn certification or specializations, for example as a Journeyman, in the future, then attending labs and having on-the-job experience is required.

Some community colleges even offer Journeyman programs, which can open many doors and opportunities.

Step 3 Become an Apprentice

Whether you decide to go to a trade school or college is up to you, but becoming an apprentice should happen regardless of your education.

This is because an apprenticeship will allow you to work side by side with senior Electricians in order to learn the tricks of the trade.

If you attend a trade school, they may offer an apprenticeship program in order to graduate.

There are many cases where a program or college will allow an apprentice to work for pay, or even for school credit.

Other ways that you can become an apprentice are:

  • Electrician unions
  • Independent electrical contractors
  • The Joint Apprentice Training Committee

An apprenticeship can last anywhere from 1 to 4 years and can provide hands-on experience that is unmatched, especially in trade careers.

Some of the types of things you will learn through an apprenticeship as an Electrician include:

  • Understanding and reading blueprints
  • Installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical equipment
  • Using devices to test electricity

In order to become an apprentice, you may have to take an aptitude exam in order to show your competence.

It is also possible that you will need to attend a job interview, take a drug test, as well a background test in order to become an apprentice.

Step 4 Further Your Career

Now that you have all of the knowledge, you will now want to step out and take on the world.

An Electrician can maintain their career in the same company as their apprenticeship in most cases.

However, for those who want to look for other experiences, there are some options.

The first thing you will want to do to further your career as an Electrician is to earn a certification.

Most certifications are different depending on which state you work in, but many require that you pass an exam.

Some of the types of Electrician certifications that are available in the United States are:

  • Journeyman Electrician
  • Master Electrician
  • Industrial Electrician
  • Commercial Electrician

Securing and maintaining certifications can not only boost your salary but your reputation as well.


Education

When it comes to gaining education to become an Electrician, there are some options.

Some people choose to enter the workforce right out of high school, this can be difficult at times due to lack of experience.

That’s why there are other options for aspiring Electricians.

Some people choose to enter a trade school program, which can take about one year to finish.

There are even trade school programs you can do online, however, any labs or apprenticeships should be done in person.

A one year program can consist of topics that include:

  • Basic electrical theory
  • Wiring and load calculations
  • Voltage and currents
  • Field and shop safety

Many programs also require an apprenticeship or some type of on-the-job training before graduation.

For those who want another type of educational program, an Associate’s degree from a community college can be a great choice.

An Associate’s degree can be gained online as well, but it is wise to do any electrical work or labs in person.

These types of degrees take about two years to finish for full-time students, and provide classes like:

  • Fundamental Knowledge of Electrical Work
  • Residential Wiring
  • Electrical Code
  • Commercial Wiring
  • Accident Prevention
  • Electrical Drawing and Print Reading

Along with an Associate’s degree or a trade school diploma, it’s important to gain on-the-job know-how.

This can be done through an apprenticeship, which can take anywhere from 1-4 years to finish.

An apprenticeship will allow you to shadow a Master Electrician in order to gain knowledge about the field.

Many programs require this for graduation, but if your program doesn’t, you should definitely look into becoming an apprentice.

The most important thing about education is that it provides hands-on knowledge to the student.

Labs, apprenticeships, and on-site training are very important for this career, and shouldn’t be skipped.

Video About The Career


Certification & Licensing

There is no legal requirement for licensing to become an Electrician in the United States.

With that being said, there are opportunities to earn credentials in order to maintain or even boost your career.

Depending on the type of Electrician you choose to become, and where you work, there are a variety of certifications.

Some of the most popular certifications for an Electrician are:

  • Journeyman Electrician
  • Master Electrician
  • Commercial Electrician
  • Residential Electrician

In order to become a Journeyman Electrician, you will need to complete an apprenticeship program.

It is also required that you pass an exam in order to gain this credential.

The exam requirements can change from state to state, but most Journeyman Electrician exams will cover topics that include:

  • Electrical theory
  • System and circuit grounding
  • Fuses, circuit breakers, and protective devices
  • State laws and regulations
  • Installation of motors
  • Calculations of electrical loads

Most Journeyman Electrician exams cost about $75-$100 and consist of anywhere between 100-200 questions.

Passing the exam will provide you with the opportunity to work as a certified Journeyman Electrician.

A Master Electrician is one step above a Journeyman Electrician, and also requires that you take an exam and pass before the credential is valid.

In order to be eligible for a Master Electrician exam, you will need to:

  • Be at least 22 years old
  • Have 2 years of experience as a Journeyman Electrician
  • Have more than 12,000 hours of experience under the supervision of a Master Electrician

Both the Commercial Electrician and Residential Electrician certification requirements also vary state to state and typically consist of taking an exam that is about 100 questions.

All exams require at least a score of 75% in order to pass.

All certifications require recertification after one year, which could include retaking the exam or providing information about completed further education.

Certification Example:

electrician certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 1-3 Years


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Job Outlook

With new technological advancements happening every year, the career of an Electrician will likely rise around 8 percent over the next decade.

This is due to alternative power capabilities, such as solar and wind power, that can lead to more job opportunities for Electricians.

Other factors that may weigh into the career outlook for Electricians are the number of employees retiring and leaving the workforce.

With the aging Baby Boomer population headed for retirement, this could be new opportunities for people just beginning their career as an Electrician.

Electricians who have a wide variety of experience and knowledge will likely find more prospects than someone who doesn’t have any expertise.

Employment Growth Projection: 8%

739,200
2019
801,400
2029

That's a higher than average projected growth of 62,200


Should I Become an Electrician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

There are some great benefits to working as an Electrician, but there are some downsides as well.

The hours can be long and strenuous, and there is little room for upward mobility in this career.

However, most Electricians feel that they are doing something good for the world, which makes the job more enjoyable.

This can be a stressful job, but with knowledge and experience, the overall satisfaction can be quite great.

Those who have relevant education and understanding of electrical systems typically find this career to be more satisfactory.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

Most often, an Electrician will make about $56,000 a year.

However, with specializations, credentials, and experience, it’s possible to make up to $80,000 or more as an Electrician.

You shouldn’t go into this career expecting to make that much to start, as the average new Electrician makes closer to $39,000 a year.

Having relevant education and knowledge of the field can lead to a higher salary for many Electricians.

Those who understand solar and wind power can find other opportunities that may lead to larger annual salaries as well.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

Overall, it seems that this career will continue to grow over the next decade.

With a growth of around 8 percent, Electricians should find no issues with job opportunities in the future.

Having relevant education and experience can help boost job prospects for Electricians, and having knowledge in solar, wind, and other alternative energies can have an effect on this as well.

Most career openings will be due to people retiring from the workforce or moving on to a new field.

Either way, if you are looking to become an Electrician, you shouldn’t have a problem finding job possibilities.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-3 Years

It doesn’t take much education to become an Electrician, as experience is the preferred way to learn in this career.

However, if you want to earn an Associate’s degree, that is definitely something that will help you gain job prospects.

An Associate’s degree takes about two years to finish for full-time students.

Another way to get into the Electrician world is to become an apprentice.

States have different requirements for apprenticeship programs, but most can last anywhere from one to four years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Not only should you be well-versed in electricity as an Electrician, but you will also need some other personal qualities in order to make it in this career.

Some of the things that you should have in your skillset include:

  • Communication skills
  • Ability to work as a team or alone
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mechanical knowledge
  • Business skills
  • Blueprint reading abilities
  • Customer service expertise
  • Stamina
  • Dependability
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management skills
  • How to use power tools
  • Manual dexterity
  • Basic math skills


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does an Electrician make?

Most Electricians in the United States can make a decent amount of money.

The average salary for an Electrician is $56,000 a year.

Those who have a lot of experience and time in the field can expect to make more than $80,000 in some areas.

An apprentice or junior Electrician makes closer to $25,000 to $30,000 per year.

Certifications and specializations can also make a difference when it comes to the salary of an Electrician.

Q. What does an Electrician do?

An Electrician is in charge of making sure that things that have power have it, and things that don’t need it to stay far away.

It’s an Electricians responsibility to read blueprints, maintain, repair, or install equipment, and also to make sure everything is done safely and to code.

There are several types of Electricians, some work in homes, others work in offices, hospitals, or other buildings.

It’s even possible to be an Electrician who works exclusively outdoors, on cars, or even on huge industrial machines.

Q. What is the demand for Electricians?

It’s not probable that we will all of a sudden stop using electricity in the near future.

This is good news for Electricians because there will likely be a steady stream of job opportunities over the next decade.

While this growth may be slow due to renewable energy and green energy becoming more prevalent, the career of an Electrician should grow about 8 percent.

Electricians that have certifications and experience will find more career opportunities than aspiring Electricians right out of high school.

Q. How long does it take to become an Electrician?

It’s possible to start a career as an Electrician straight out of high school.

The only problem with that is that many employers won’t hire those without at least a bit of experience.

That’s why many Electricians choose to enter a trade school program, community college program, or become an apprentice.

Depending on the type of program you enter into, it can take anywhere from 1 year to 4 years to become an Electrician.

Trade programs take about one year, while community college programs take about two.

An apprenticeship can take between 1 and 4 years.

Q. How much does it cost to become an Electrician?

The cost of the program also depends on which type of program you choose to begin.

A trade school program can cost around $3,000, while an Associate’s degree can range from $10,000 to $15,000.

Apprenticeships are typically free, in fact, you may even get paid to work an apprenticeship.

With no educational program, most fees will come from gaining certification and purchasing equipment to use while working.

All in all, the cost to become an Electrician can be anywhere from $500-$15,000.


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