How to Become an Electrician
Most electricians learn on the job through an apprenticeship.
Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but 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 to become an electrician.
Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates of these programs usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.
Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training as well as some technical instruction.
Workers who gained electrical experience in the military or in the construction industry may qualify for a shortened apprenticeship based on their experience and testing.
Technical instruction for apprentices includes electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They may also receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship requirements vary by state and locality.
Some electrical contractors have their own training programs, which are not recognized apprenticeship programs but include both technical 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 local or state licensing requirements.
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.
Electricians may be required to take continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.
Electricians may obtain additional certifications, which demonstrate competency in areas such as solar photovoltaic, electrical generating, or lighting systems.
Electricians may be required to have a driver’s license.
After meeting additional requirements and working as a qualified electrician, journey workers may advance to become master electricians. Electricians may also find opportunities to advance to supervisor or to other roles in project management.
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 in order to determine the best course of action.
Customer-service skills. 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.