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How to Become an Electrician: A Career Guide

Do you enjoy figuring out how electrical systems like lights and appliances work? If an electrical system or unit fails, do your instincts tell you to try to determine the cause and figure out how to repair it? If so, pursuing an electrician degree could be the right path for you.

Use this guide to learn what an electrician does, why becoming an electrician could be the right career choice for you, what electrician requirements you will need to fulfill, what courses you need to take and more. 

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What Does an Electrician Do?

When pursuing an electrician education, you might initially be curious about the basics, such as “what does an electrician do?” The answer to this can vary depending on the type of job you accept or the company you work at.

What is an electrician? In general, an electrician designs, installs, maintains and repairs the electrical system in residential homes or commercial properties.1 This can include lights, appliances, equipment, motors and control systems. Electricians can work inside and outside of properties depending on what systems need repairs, or where they are located.

Some responsibilities can include:

  • Plan electrical systems for new buildings or homes.
  • Interpret blueprints, circuit programs and other technical documents to best be able to install and repair systems.
  • Install wiring, lighting and control systems according to local codes.
  • Connect wiring to components and fixtures to create electrical circuits.
  • Install electrical control equipment such as switches, circuit breaker panels and relays.
  • Install hangers and brackets to support electrical products.
  • Perform maintenance and tune-ups to keep wiring, lighting and control systems working properly.
  • Inspect circuit breakers, transformers and other electrical components.
  • Performs tests with devices to determine why systems are not working properly.
  • Repair, replace and upgrade faulty or outdated wiring, fixtures and equipment.

Why Become an Electrician?

When determining why you should become an electrician, look no further than the projected electrician job growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,2 electrician job outlook is projected to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029. The reason for this increase – which is higher than the national average for all occupations – is due to construction spending and the need for alternative energy sources.

Electrician Salary

With the need for electricians growing, the pay is also increasing. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for electricians was $56,180 in May 2019.3 This is higher than construction trade workers, which averaged $46,340.

Electrician salaries can vary depending on the industry, such as:

  • Government jobs average $62,940
  • Manufacturing jobs average $62,000
  • Electrical contractors and wiring contractors average $54,630
  • Employment services jobs average $49,140

Best States to Work in as an Electrician

When determining where to work and train to be an electrician, look at which states have the most job opportunities for electricians, and which locations pay electricians the most.4

States with the highest electrician employment rates as of May 2019, according to the BLS:4

State Employment
California 72,870
Texas 63,750
New York 43,890
Florida 41,410
Illinois 25,400

 
Areas with the highest average annual salaries for electricians as of May 2019, per the BLS:4

Location Average Annual Salary
District of Columbia $79,870
New York $79,480
Illinois $78,790
Hawaii $77,530
Alaska $75,350

 

Start Your Career in Electrical Technology

Carrington College focuses on small class sizes and hands-on training. Here you’re more than a face in a room. Take the first step on your way to a new career in electrical technology.

Electrician Career Pros and Cons

Like any career, there are advantages and disadvantages to being an electrician. View some of the pros and cons below.

Pro: Ability to Solve Complex Problems

Working as an electrician can provide a sense of accomplishment. Electricians can solve problems that are causing inconveniences and even dangers to people. Making repairs to an appliance or a system can be satisfying as it lets you use multiple skills to make the repair and you can see how your work benefits others.

Pro: Meet People

Electricians can meet a variety of people on each job. Depending on where you work, it can allow you to meet new people each day on smaller projects, or you can spend an extended period of time working side-by-side others on a large project.

Pro: Good Pay

Earning a good income is always a pro, in any profession. As mentioned above, electricians can earn a solid salary – more than construction trade workers — making it an enticing career option.4

Con: Differing Job Locations

If you like routine jobs where you show up to the same place of work each day, being an electrician might not be the right choice for you. Electricians often work on remote sites5 for a long period of time – which can range from a few days to a few months. At times, these job sites can require travel.

Con: Varying Schedule

An electrician’s schedule can vary, depending on the job he or she is working on. At times electricians might be required to work evenings or weekends to complete a job.6

How to Become an Electrician

Becoming an electrician requires education, on-the-job training and certification. The requirements can vary by state, but some of the typical steps are outlined below. There may be additional requirements for how to become a licensed electrician or how to become a certified electrician depending on your state and the training program you attend. 

Step 1: Electrician Education Requirements 

According to the BLS, a high school diploma or an equivalent is required to become an electrician.8 Many also pursue a degree through a technical school. Electrician trade schools can teach important skills on circuitry, safety and basic electrical information. These electrician courses can typically be used towards credits needed for your apprenticeship, the BLS states. 

Step 2: Electrician Training 

In addition to meeting electrician education requirements, on-the-job training is also typically required through an electrical apprenticeship program. The BLS states that during a 4 to 5-year program, each year an apprentice should receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training, in addition to technical instruction.9 This technical education can include electrical theory, reading blueprints, learning electrical code requirements, practicing safety and first-aid procedures, and more.

The length of an apprenticeship program can vary by state. They can be reduced in certain circumstances, such as if apprentices gained electrical experience in the military or during construction jobs, according to the BLS.

Step 3: Determining if You Need to Be Certified to Work as an Electrician

After completing your required education and apprenticeship, you may also need to become certified before working as an electrician. This requirement varies by state. You should contact your local or state electrical licensing board. There may be additional electrician certification classes if your trade school does not teach to a certain program’s standards. 

In Arizona, you will need to be certified as a contractor. There are certain exemptions if you work below a certain project size.

You should refer to the National Electrical Contractors Association’s website to determine what you will need to know to pass the certification test and obtain a license.10 Test questions can include topics related to safety practices, the electrical code, training of specific products and more.

Where Can I Work as an Electrician?

When looking for electrician jobs, there are many options to consider, such as if you will work as a contractor, and if you want to pursue a career at a union or a non-union company.

Union Vs. Non-Union Jobs

Determining whether to join a union or become a non-union electrician can be a difficult choice. Becoming a trade school electrician should not affect if you can join a union. While the work you will do is the same whether you join a union, there are differences in how you begin your career. Some of the biggest items to consider are:

  • Apprenticeship: If you join a union apprenticeship you will need to apply. Your acceptance can depend on availability and your qualifications. A union apprenticeship includes job experience and classroom instruction hours. Beginning a non-union job or apprenticeship is handled more like a typical job process, where you obtain training, apply for the job and interview for the position.
  • Salaries: At a union job, your pay rate is negotiated by union representatives. Because of this, union jobs may pay more. At non-union positions, the job market determines the rate of pay. While companies may pay what other shops offer to help keep employees, they will likely not pay more than union jobs.
  • Job Stability: As a union member, if work slows down in your sector or community, the union can help you find a job at a different location, or even in a different city or state if you want to relocate. Non-union workers could be laid-off – without any safeguards to fall back on – if the demand for work slows.

In Arizona, and other “right to work” states, employers are not limited to only hiring unions. This means you can work as an independent contractor without undergoing union apprenticeship and journeyman training.

Electrician Specialties

When seeking electrician jobs, there are many specialties you can pursue. Some of these can include:11

  • Residential Electricians: The most common type of electrician, residential electricians work in homes to plan and install new wiring, lighting, sockets and more. These electricians can work independently or for an electrical contractor.
  • Commercial Electricians: These electricians work on the electrical systems found in offices, stores and other commercial buildings. The projects commercial electricians work on – including installation, upgrades and troubleshooting – can be larger than residential projects. These electricians typically work for private or electrical companies.
  • Industrial Electricians: Like commercial electricians, industrial electricians also work on large projects. They work with machinery and manufacturing systems at factories and processing plants.
  • Installation Electricians: These electricians – also referred to as construction electricians – install electrical systems in new buildings. They are typically responsible for setting up the electrical equipment and wiring in buildings for lighting, HVAC, security systems and more. Installation electricians can work on various types of projects, from residential to commercial.
  • Maintenance Electricians: These electricians work on repairing and upgrading existing electrical systems. Like installation electricians, they can work in any area, from residential to commercial properties. Maintenance electricians can work at private companies to ensure the electrical systems at their building are working properly.

Discover Your Career as a Electrician

Carrington College’s Electrical Technology Program offers you the hands-on training you need for a job as electrician. Take the first step on your way to a new career.

What Will I Learn in an Electrician Trades School?

At an electrical trade school, you can expect to take classes that will give you extensive knowledge of electrical systems while pursuing your associate degree. Some classes you may take to fulfill electrician degree requirements can include:12

  • Blueprints Reading for Electricians
  • Electrical Conduit Bending
  • Technical Math and Electric Circuits
  • Commercial Wiring
  • Residential Wiring
  • Industrial Wiring
  • Programmable Logic Controllers / Industrial Electronics
  • OSHA Standards for the Construction Industry

When you complete the Electrical Technology program at Carrington College, you will leave with the expertise to seek employment as an electrician, including the ability to:

  • Discuss theories of electrical circuitry and relate these concepts to practical applications.
  • Apply proper procedures for the installation, operation, maintenance and repair of residential, commercial, and light industrial wiring, electrical equipment, and systems.
  • Demonstrate proper usage of the basic tools of the trade.
  • Show the basic use and application of the National Electrical Code. 
  • Create effective reports and documents, electronically and in writing.
  • Apply advanced electrical concepts and critical thinking skills to interpret and create blueprint drawings for residential, commercial, and light industrial facilities.
  • Adhere to national, state, and local safety practices used by technicians working in the electrical industry.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Electrician?

When pursuing a career as an electrician, there are different paths you can take, but the quickest way to become an electrician is a certificate completion from a qualified trade school.

How long is electrician training? Each school’s program requirements can vary. At Carrington College, you can obtain a certificate in as few as 10 months and get an associate degree in as few as 15 months.

Can I Obtain Electrician Training Online?

While there are many online programs available for various degrees, obtaining an electrician certification online is not likely. Because electrical technology is a hands-on skill, while some testing may be available online, there may not be an electrician degree online as it may require in-person training to learn the skills.

Get Electrician Training with Carrington College

If you are ready to pursue a career as an electrician, sign up to get more information about Carrington College’s program today. Conveniently available at the Trades Education Center in Phoenix, you can obtain a certificate in as few at 10 months, and an associate degree in as few as 15 months.

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