How to Become an Electrician: 6 Basic Steps to Journeyman Status

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Here’s a general overview of how to become an electrician when you’re starting from scratch: First, make sure that you’ve earned a high school diploma (or the equivalent such as a GED). Next, take the optional (but recommended) step of completing a pre-apprenticeship electrician-training program at a local trade, technical, or vocational school. After that, apply for an electrician apprenticeship and, if required, register as an electrician apprentice or trainee in your state. Complete your four- or five-year apprenticeship under the guidance of a master or journeyperson * electrician. Finally, if required, get your electrician license or become certified in your state and/or municipality, which may involve passing an exam.

Those are the basic steps to becoming an electrician. Of course, it’s wise to look into each of those steps in more detail so that you know exactly what to expect. After all, confidence is an important trait to develop, especially while you’re learning how to be an electrician. The more you know, the greater your confidence will be as you move forward. And electrician careers are definitely worth all of the attention. They often provide reliable and meaningful ways to earn good wages and benefits.

So check out what the following steps involve. And explore the whole article in order to learn the answers to additional questions like:

– How long does it take to become an electrician?
– What education do you need to become an electrician?
– How do you get an electrician’s license?
– How hard it is to become an electrician?
– What does it cost to become an electrician?
– What is a typical electrician salary?

1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent

This step is essential. You may not be able to progress any further until you can show that you’ve successfully completed high school or earned a GED or other type of equivalency certification. It’s one of the most basic educational requirements that you’ll need to meet before you can become an electrician.
If you’re still in high school, choose your courses carefully. Algebra and trigonometry are important since such math is used by electricians to measure wiring lengths, determine the angle of a circuit, and calculate the force of an electrical current. In addition, you may want to pay special attention to subjects like physics and English. Shop and mechanical drawing classes are also helpful. After all, being an electrician requires knowing how to read technical documents and understand basic scientific concepts.
If you are an adult who didn’t complete high school, it’s possible to earn your high school diploma online. This is a convenient way to take care of this important first step.

2. Consider getting pre-apprenticeship training at a trade school or vocational college

Increasingly, this step is vital for making you stand out among your competition. Learning the basic fundamentals of electrical work is often easier when you aren’t yet employed as an apprentice and worried about pleasing your boss. Electrician programs at trade schools, technical institutes, and career colleges provide a more comfortable introduction to this trade and can help you gain the foundational expertise that you’ll need going forward.

You’ll be able to learn about the National Electric Code, workplace safety, electrical theory, and many other things that can give you a head start on other people who may apply for the same apprenticeships. Most trade-school programs even include hands-on training in addition to regular classroom instruction. That way, you’ll have solid footing when you pursue the next step of the process.

3. Apply for an apprenticeship

You can get an apprenticeship as an electrician by researching opportunities and applying as soon as you’re ready. After all, you never know how many other people might be applying for the same apprentice jobs, so it’s good to get a jump on them if you can. In fact, having a sense of urgency may be one of the most essential aspects of knowing how to become an electrician apprentice.

You may be able to find a local apprenticeship through the United States Department of Labor or by exploring newspaper classifieds and online job boards. In addition, electrical apprenticeship openings periodically become available through organizations such as:

– The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
– The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
– Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).

As part of the application process, you may need to pass a basic aptitude exam. In most cases, the exam will test your reading comprehension and ability to perform simple arithmetic and first-year algebra. In addition, you will need to pass a job interview. And you may need to meet specific physical requirements, pass a drug test, and be able to demonstrate a certain level of mechanical aptitude.

That’s why a lot of employers recommend getting some basic electrical training before applying for the apprenticeships that they sponsor. Trade and vocational schools specialize in helping students get up to speed on what they’ll need to know in order to succeed during the application process.

4. Register as an electrician trainee or apprentice in your state (if required).

Some states, such as California and Texas, require electrical apprentices to register before being allowed to work on actual job sites. It’s generally a very easy step since it only involves filling out a form and potentially paying a small fee. But every state has its own requirements, so be sure to check with your state’s department of licensing, labor, or consumer affairs.

5. Complete your apprenticeship.

This step is the heart of the whole process. Your apprenticeship will combine on-the-job training with courses online and/or in the classroom. You’ll be mentored and supervised by a master or journeyperson electrician throughout four to five years of training. And you’ll get paid an hourly wage.
Along the way, you’ll study important concepts and receive practical job-site experiences that are related to a typical electrician job description. For example, you’ll get the opportunity to practice and learn about aspects of the trade such as:
– Reading construction blueprints and technical diagrams for electrical plans.
– Installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical wiring, lighting fixtures, electricity-distribution equipment, and various control systems.
– Making sure that all work complies with the National Electric Code as well as state and local regulations.
– Testing and inspecting electrical systems and components for problems by using special devices.
At the beginning of your apprenticeship, you’ll be performing very basic tasks. But you will gradually get to carry out more and more complex tasks as you refine your skills and practical understanding of relevant concepts. By the end of your apprenticeship, you will likely be capable of performing a full range of construction- and maintenance-related electrical work at the journeyperson level.

6. Get licensed or certified in your state and/or municipality (if required).

One of the most important things to understand when exploring how to become a licensed electrician is that every state sets its own standards. In most states, you need a license to be a qualified electrician. Some states (such as Illinois and Pennsylvania) don’t license electricians at the state level; however, some towns and cities within those states do have licensing requirements.

So it’s important to contact your state as well the municipalities that you plan to work in. Ask them if you need a license to perform electrical work. In some cases, you may need a license in order to work as an employee of an electrician. In other cases, you may not need a license unless you plan on starting your own electrical business.

In locations that do require a license, you may have to pass an exam that tests your understanding of the National Electric Code, various electrical concepts, safety practices, and local laws and building codes. You will probably also have to prove that you have completed a certain amount of relevant classroom instruction and practical training under the supervision of a licensed journeyperson or master electrician.

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