If you’re looking to enter a trade instead of going to college, becoming an electrician is a great decision. Electricians are always in demand and the trade is also one of the highest paying trades out there.
Electricians have the important job of making sure buildings are up to code with electrical standards; they install electrical wiring, maintain and check wiring for any faults or broken wires, and plan the layouts of electrical systems. If you are looking to start your electrician career, read on for more information you should know before starting.
Electrician Trade Schools vs Apprenticeships
To start, a person looking into this career would need a high school diploma or their GED. Although it is not required for someone to go to a vocational or trade school to become an electrician, some people may want to so they can learn in a more formal setting.
If you choose not to attend school, you must complete an electrician apprenticeship program to gain job experience and hours before you take a state-licensed exam. An apprenticeship program lets you gain hands-on experience in the field while being paid to learn. It takes about four years to complete an apprenticeship program. Find an apprenticeship in your area.
During an apprenticeship program, you will be in a classroom for about 144 hours and have hands-on work experience for 2,000 hours. During your time as an apprentice, you will learn a wide variety of things that every electrician is required to know. Some of the things you will learn about during your apprenticeship are mathematics, electrical theory, learning how to read blueprints, different electrical code requirements, and more.
If you decide to go to trade school, an apprenticeship comes along with it and your classes can count as credit toward your work hours. If you prefer a more structured classroom setting, then this would be a great fit for you. You’ll learn the basics of being an electrician, what it entails, and more.
While learning, you can also put your credits toward an apprenticeship program and continue to work and gain experience while still in school. Trade school is not free and tuition varies depending on which school you decide to go to. A benefit of going to a trade school is that schools have job boards and networking opportunities for you to find a job or apprenticeship.
Your Electrician Career Journey
After you finish your four-year apprenticeship, you’ll take a state-licensed exam to be an official electrician in your state depending on its standards. Becoming a journeyman is the second part of starting your electrical career.
During your journeyman process, you will be able to work on jobs by yourself without any direct supervision except from a master electrician. A journeyman position can last about three to six years. As a journeyman, you will be planning blueprints, installing wiring, and repairing and maintaining electrical systems.
After your three to six years as a journeyman, you’ll receive your master certification and you’ll finally become a master electrician. A master electrician is the highest rank in this field. As a master electrician, you’ll become a supervisor and be able to oversee apprentices and journeymen.
After receiving your master electrician certificate, you can become an independent electrical contractor and start your own electrical company. As a master-licensed electrician, you’ll have the experience to do things on your own. If you do not want to work for a small company or a large corporation, start your own business and pick what industry you would want to serve while following state and local guidelines.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is the largest electrician union in North America. If you are looking for fair pay, training, and opportunities to advance your career, then a union might be the right fit for you. To join a union, you must pay an initiation fee and dues.
There are two different types of union dues and fees. There is the “A” membership that is for people who want to work on construction sites and so on. Those fees are $39 per month. The “BA” membership in the union is for people who do not want to work in construction. Those fees are $20 per month.
By joining a union, you’ll be able to complete all of your electrical training starting from your apprenticeship and ending when you become a master electrician. Joining a union can be very beneficial because it gives you a sense of security within your job field. Some reasons joining a union can be beneficial are:
- Benefits and Money
- Union jobs typically pay more than non-union jobs, so joining the union means you will start at a higher rate and already have an advantage over non-union workers. Benefits are another reason to join a union. They offer a pension, sick pay, holidays, and many more great benefits.
Along with benefits, you know that you are going to work in a safe environment that does not go against state and local safety guidelines because the union does everything correctly and does not want to put their workers at any kind of risk.
- Job Security
- Being in a union gives you job security because you cannot be let go from your job for any random reason. There must be an actual reason for a union boss to dismiss you from your contract. If you feel that you have been unfairly dismissed, then you have the right to contact union lawyers to open an investigation on your wrongful termination.
How Much Does an Electrician Make
Electricians are one of the highest-earning tradesmen right now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $56,180 per year. During your electrical career, starting from an apprentice to master electrician, you will always make good money.
Your salary will range depending on which level you are at. These are the average salaries for an electrician in the United States for non-union workers.
- Apprenticeship – $49,000
- Journeyman – $60,000
- Master Electrician – $63,000
When you are in the union, these are the average salaries you can expect:
- Apprentice – $43,888
- Journeyman – $62,000
- Master Electrician – $76,000
The more years of experience you continue to add on, the more your salary will be. Electricians make a lot of money and will continue to be in demand. Whether you are part of a union or not, you will be taken care of.
Different Electrician Jobs
There is a magnitude of jobs that you can do as an electrician. Whether it is working in residential, commercial, or industrial settings, you will always have something to do with new challenges every day. While you are learning and starting your career, you will find out which electrician work path you want to take.
As a residential electrician, you will be doing small electrical work around a home. Some of those jobs include running wires, programming security systems and fire alarms, testing voltages of the house, and installing electrical boxes and light systems.
As a commercial electrician, you will be working in places such as office buildings, businesses, restaurants, and so on. Duties here include hooking up wiring for heating and air conditioning, making sure that safety codes are up to date, hooking up electrical systems that work with the lights, power, and any other electrical work within the building to make it run smoothly.
As an industrial electrician, you will be working on large factory buildings, power plants, and so on. Duties here include installing and repairing motors, gears, and other industrial factors, reading complex blueprints and plans, programming robots, and much more.
Your path on how to become an electrician is completely up to you based on what you think is the most beneficial way for you to learn. Each way has its own benefits and teaching styles, but in the end, you become a certified electrician and able to start your career.
Just remember that electricians are high in demand and jobs are expected to rise by 10 percent by 2028. Start your electrician career when you are ready and know there will always be a job for you.