How Hard Is It To Become An Electrician?
Are you considering career choices and want to know how hard it is to become an electrician? It’s a valid question and we break down the answer to help you make a wise decision.
The good news is that an electrician career has staying power. As long as we are dependent on electricity, there will be a demand for electricians. To put it into perspective, most kitchens today consume more power than an entire home in the 1950’s. We're not shy about using power.
So, to find out how hard it is to become an electrician, I think it's helpful to break down the answer into the following:
What Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
Let's talk about the type of skills and personality you need to make it as an electrician.
- A mechanical aptitude as well as a basic understanding of algebra. Most applicants need to brush up on math skills. Since you will learn and build math and algebra skills as you go, don't let the math aspect intimidate you.
- Being an electrician is more physical than you might think. There'll be times you have to move through crawl spaces on your knees, climb ladders, or dig trenches. Electricians are on their feet most of the day.
- Fine motor skills and good balance are needed since you'll be on ladders and other high places at times.
- Good communication and problem-solving skills will be called upon daily.
You can check out our full guide on becoming an electrician. It gives more detail of the qualifications you need to succeed.
Is It Hard To Become an Electrician?
As you read through the topic of how hard is it to become an electrician, I want to encourage you that if a particular area seems formidable, it helps to focus on taking one step at a time. It's not as hard as you might think.
The best way to learn to become an electrician is through an apprenticeship. Apprentices work full-time for an electrical contractor, plus attend classroom training 2-4 hours per week.
The classroom training sometimes involves labs where you will practice certain aspects of electrical work.
How Can I Find an Electrician Apprenticeship?
Our economy is doing quite well right now, and you should not have too much difficulty in finding a job as an apprentice electrician. In fact, electricians are scarce.
Decide if you want to work for an open shop (non-union) or a closed shop (labor union).
Union Electrician Apprenticeship
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is a closed shop or union organization. IBEW has an excellent training program and also provides a job with an electrical contractor so you don't have to go out and find one on your own.
IBEW is competitive and has a lengthier process that includes an aptitude test, interview process, and placement on an eligibility list. You will remain on the eligibility list for 2 years. Hopefully, you will be chosen for the apprenticeship within that timespan.
Some IBEW locations only accept apprenticeship applications two times per year.
Non-Union Electrician Apprentice
Many electricians have trained through non-union programs. Popular apprenticeships such as ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) and IEC sometimes have contractors with job openings available for apprentices.
If you can not find a job as an electrician apprentice, you could still get a head start by attending classes at a community college or trade school. You will then have an edge in getting a job since you have learned some basic knowledge.
How Can I Find a Job as an Apprentice Electrician?
One of the best ways to find a job as an apprentice electrician is to ask the local coordinators of a training program near you. That could be ABC, IEC, community college or trade school. They have a lot of connections and could give you direction and advice.
I also recommend that you put together a list of electrical contractors in your area, then stop in and ask them in person about the possibility of working as an apprentice for them. Showing initiative and interest will go a long way in expressing your ambition and value as a potential employee.
How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
Becoming a licensed electrician can take some time. Most apprenticeship programs require 4 years to complete. That includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and over 500 hours of classroom instruction. (State and local requirements vary.)
The IBEW apprenticeship takes 5-years to complete. It is an exceptional training program, and you most likely will be making more money during the apprenticeship and beyond.
At the end of your apprenticeship, you'll need to pass a state licensure exam to become a Journeyman electrician.
Studying is important so I suggest you follow these tips. The exam will be tough as it tests your knowledge of the National Electrical Code (NEC), which is a thick volume. There are classes and practice tests available that can help you prepare. You don't need to have everything memorized. It's basically a test to see if you know how to find the information you need within the code book.
Is an Electrician Apprenticeship Hard?
Your life will be full during your electrician apprenticeship. But, it will not be any harder than learning other trades or getting a college degree.
In fact, for most people an apprenticeship is easier than a 4-year college degree. Hands-on training is an optimum way to learn! You will be learning on the job, as well as applying what you learned in the classroom portion of training.
You'll be busy working full-time, plus going to school, and studying. A new apprentice may get plenty of ribbing and handed the most menial work. You might start out digging trenches. But stick to it and be thick-skinned. It won't last forever.
You'll learn skills and knowledge of the trade gradually so it will not be too difficult to progress. In a nutshell you will learn to:
Plenty of people will be available to help and answer questions- from classroom instructors to the journeyman electricians you work with.
If you are a serious and dedicated student and employee, you will not find your electrician apprenticeship too difficult. Read an apprenticeship story for inspiration.
How Much Does it Cost to Become An Electrician?
The cost to become an electrician is very reasonable. You should be able to become a licensed electrician without incurring much or any debt.
- As an apprentice electrician, you earn while you learn.
- Tuition is nominal compared to a 4-year college degree.
- Employers may pay for your school tuition.
- Scholarships are available for some apprenticeships.
Many apprentices with IBEW are awarded scholarships or have their tuition paid for by "the Labor/Management relationship between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association." source
You may be able to find other employers that are willing to pay part or all of your school tuition as well. They are out there. Ask around.
The cost of books varies by year, but you may be able to find used books online or from prior apprentices.
Tool costs can add up. But you will not need everything at once. Start small and work gradually to build up your collection. Birthdays and Christmas are a great opportunity to add tools to your belt.
Scholarships for Electrician Apprenticeships
Various foundations give scholarships to qualified individuals to help pay for an electrician apprenticeship.
The skilled trades are in need of dedicated craftsman. I hope more scholarships will open up in the future.
Is Becoming an Electrician Worth It?
There are thousands of electricians that enjoy their trade and the challenge of solving problems.
Because there is an increasing demand for electricians, you can expect the hourly rate to rise.
Becoming an electrician is well worth the 4-year apprenticeship. You can make a good living. In fact, electricians are the highest paid of the skilled trades with plumbers a close second. (In some areas, plumbers may have a higher wage.)
Electricians enjoy varied work with less chance for boredom. In addition, there is plenty of room for advancement.
I hope you seriously consider the electrical trade. It is well worth your time.