How to Become an Electrician
Most electricians learn on the job through an apprenticeship.
Although most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required.
Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.
After completing their initial training, electricians may be required to take continuing education courses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.
Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.
In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They also may receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Many apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school education or equivalent
- One year of algebra
- Qualifying score on an aptitude test
- Pass substance abuse screening
Some electrical contractors have their own training programs, which are not recognized apprenticeship programs but include both classroom and on-the-job training. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some electricians enter apprenticeship programs after working as a helper. The Home Builders Institute offers a preapprenticeship certificate training (PACT) program for eight construction trades, including electricians.
After completing an apprenticeship program, electricians are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own, subject to any local or state licensing requirements. Because of this comprehensive training, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both construction and maintenance work.
Some states may require a master electrician to either perform or supervise the work.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most states require electricians to pass a test and be licensed. Requirements vary by state. For more information, contact your local or state electrical licensing board. Many of the requirements can be found on the National Electrical Contractors Association’s website.
The tests have questions related to the National Electrical Code, and state and local electrical codes, all of which set standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment.
Business skills. Self-employed electricians must be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan payroll and work assignments.
Color vision. Electricians must identify electrical wires by color.
Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance to determine the best course of action.
Customer-service skills. Residential electricians work with people on a regular basis. They should be friendly and be able to address customers’ questions.
Physical stamina. Electricians often need to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire.
Physical strength. Electricians need to be strong enough to move heavy components, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.
Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.