How to Become an Electrician and How Long It Will Take
Becoming an electrician is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice that offers a wide range of opportunities. Electricians play a crucial role in ensuring that homes, businesses, and other structures have safe and functional electrical systems. If you are interested in pursuing a career as an electrician, there are several steps you need to take, and it's essential to understand the time commitment involved.
The path to becoming an electrician typically involves a combination of formal education, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. The length of time it takes to become an electrician can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of program you choose, your level of dedication and commitment, and your prior experience.
Account Manager Collin Cressler has over seven years of experience helping companies find the right electricians and other skilled trades professionals. He explains what electricians do and provides some details around the skill set and career path.
What does an electrician do?
An electrician is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems. They work in a variety of settings, from residential homes to commercial buildings, and may also be employed by utility companies to maintain power grids. Electricians must have a strong understanding of electrical codes and safety procedures, as they often work with live electrical currents that can be dangerous if not handled properly. They may install wiring, circuit breakers, and other components of electrical systems, as well as diagnose and repair problems that may arise. Additionally, electricians may also be responsible for reading blueprints, designing electrical systems, and communicating with clients to determine their needs and preferences. Overall, electricians play a critical role in ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are equipped with safe and reliable electrical systems.
“Electricians will need to be skilled at reading blueprints and installing wiring. They’ll also need to hook up receptacles, lighting fixtures and control devices and may be asked to install and bend conduit,” says Cressler.
What is a journeyman electrician?
A journeyman electrician is an electrician who has completed an apprenticeship program and has earned a professional license. Typically, the apprenticeship program takes several years to complete, during which time the apprentice learns the trade through a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Once the apprenticeship is complete, the electrician can take a licensing exam to become a journeyman electrician. Journeyman electricians have a high level of skill and expertise in their field and are qualified to work on a variety of electrical systems. They can install, maintain, and repair electrical systems, and can also design and plan electrical projects. Journeyman electricians often work independently or may supervise apprentices or other electricians. They are knowledgeable about electrical codes and safety regulations and ensure that all work they perform meets these standards.
“In Pennsylvania, it usually takes on average four years working as a licensed apprentice to achieve journeyman level. The most common option is a trade school with an accredited apprenticeship program with 8,000 hours of field work. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) are a great option for exploring trade programs,” says Cressler.
He goes on to explain the biggest differences between being an apprentice and a journeyman.
“Most journeymen are allowed to do tasks independently along with the ability to train apprentices – journeymen are also allowed to work on certain projects and usually has an increase in pay,” says Cressler.
Is being an electrician hard?
Becoming an electrician is a career that can present many challenges. It demands an extensive knowledge of electrical physics, hand tools, and infrastructure. To become a qualified electrician, several years of trade school are required, followed by an apprenticeship, which is usually a paid position. The work itself can also be physically demanding, requiring a high level of proficiency with tools and equipment that may require physical strength. Additionally, electricians must be comfortable working with electricity and understand how to work with it safely. Some projects may involve working in confined or hot spaces, adding further challenges to the job. Despite the challenges, however, the career of an electrician can be highly rewarding and offer opportunities for growth and advancement.
“It can be both physically and mentally taxing. Physically, the work can be under or above ground and the range in conduit and wire size can make it very labor intensive. Mentally, the role can require problem solving and troubleshooting that can be difficult to handle in the heat and cold,” says Cressler.
Is an electrician a good career?
Being an electrician can be a great career choice for those who enjoy working with their hands and solving technical problems. In addition to being a challenging and fulfilling career, being an electrician also has promising job prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for electricians is projected to increase by 7% each year, which is as fast as average. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for electricians to work on new construction projects and to upgrade existing electrical systems. Moreover, the demand for electricians is expected to continue to grow as more businesses and households seek to improve their energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy sources. Therefore, if you are interested in becoming an electrician, you can expect to have plenty of job opportunities and a stable career outlook in the years to come.
“It’s one of the fastest growing jobs in America and there are multiple concentrations or career paths to explore. Whether you want to work on commercial, residential, industrial, solar or security projects, the opportunities are there, and the pay is competitive,” says Cressler.
How to become an electrician?
Shadow experienced electricians and make sure the career is a good fit for you. Many high schools have programs for getting exposure to trades, so if you’re still a student, try and see if you can get some facetime with the career.
Attend electrician school. This can take about three years. Some of it is in the classroom, where you’ll learn the physics and mechanics of the career. Other skill components are in person, where you’ll apply what you learned.
Apprenticeship. Once you graduate from trade school, and pass your exams, you’ll be following a master electrician and learning from them. Usually, this is paid, although you’re not a certified electrician yet.
In total, between high school, trade school, and apprenticeship, you can expect about seven to eight years to become an electrician. It could take longer if you take gap years or pursue more specialized electrician training.
When you’re ready to find your first or next job as an electrician, search for job openings in your area.