Let’s be honest!
Starting a new career can be confusing at times, and perhaps a bit scary. Don’t worry. We are going to show you everything you need to know about how to become an electrician in our complete 5 step guide.
You’ll get details such as:
What is the Electrician Salary?
What is the Electrician Job Description?
What are the General Requirements to be an Electrician?
How to apply for Electrician Apprenticeship Training
How to Study the National Electrical Code and Become a Licensed Electrician
Test-taking Tips to Pass Your Exam
What is the Electrician’s Salary and Wages?
Let me give you a brief run-down of the electrician’s salary and wages.
Want the full scoop? We spill the beans in our Electrician’s Salary and Wage Guide.
Not only does the electrician enjoy steady and satisfying work, the electrician’s salary and wages are the highest paid of the skilled trades due to the technical knowledge and diverse skills that are required to perform a broad range of tasks. This is good news when learning how to become an electrician.
Keep in mind that electricians are typically paid an hourly wage as opposed to a yearly salary. An electrician apprentice usually starts at a percentage of the prevailing wage which increases incrementally as experience is gained.
Not to mention the job outlook for this field is expected to grow by 9% from 2016 to 2026 according to the United States Department of Labor.
Employers are reporting that it’s difficult to find qualified electricians, so the job outlook is very good.
Apprentice Electrician Wages
The starting wage of an apprentice is usually 40% of a fully trained electrician’s wage. Your pay should increase along with your skills and value to your employer.
Electricians in manufacturing, and power generation and transmission, usually have higher wages than those in construction.
Most electricians work full-time, which may include evenings and weekends. Of course, work schedules can change during bad weather or unpredictable delays. On the other hand, during scheduled maintenance or on construction sites with a looming deadline, you can expect to work overtime.
Now let’s look at our 5-step Guide:
How to Become an Electrician
Divided into 5 easy to understand steps, this guide about how to become an electrician is right below.
Once you’ve finished reading, you will feel confident to get started in your career as an electrician.
Step 1: Consider the Electrician Job Description
It can be challenging deciding on a vocation. Without a clear picture of what you’re getting yourself into, you might feel unsettled or indecisive.
The first step in learning how to become an electrician is to make sure you understand what the job entails. With this in mind, take an in-depth look into the electrician job description. It will reveal whether or not a career in the electrical career is a good fit for you.
Do I have the Skills and Abilities Electricians Need?
Let’s kick off with simple abilities and personal likes/dislikes that can affect your contentment in the electrical trade.
Can you say YES to the following?
- have good eyesight and can see colors clearly
- don’t mind driving to various locations during the day
- will be able to work in heat, cold, rain, or snow
- can grasp, manipulate, and assemble small objects
- don’t mind heights and can work on a ladder or aerial lift
- am comfortable enough in tight places such as attics or crawl spaces
- can lift and move heavy objects
- have a mechanical aptitude
- can work both independently and as part of a team
Working as an electrician requires a strong work ethic and positive attitude to be successful. The work can be strenuous with long days on your feet.
Because there’s a risk of burns, cuts, electrical shocks, and falls from ladders or scaffolding, you will be required to comply with strict safety guidelines.
What does an Electrician do all Day?
Well – it depends! But you can be sure it will fall into one or more of these categories:
- Varied Work: The skills and duties can vary from day to day and job site to job site. It’s hard to get bored in this career. One day you may be on top of a building, the next under a house. Here digging a trench by hand, there running conduit through an attic. One moment helping a client decide between LED or florescent lights – next fixing a broken conduit in the middle of a parking lot. Today climbing 50 feet up scaffolding, tomorrow under a sink installing power to a disposal.
- Physically Demanding Tasks: There will be times you are up and down many times on a ladder or scaffolding. Oftentimes a trench may need to be hand-dug to bring power to a home or office. The need for standing or kneeling for long stretches can be tiring as well.
- Wiring: A big part of the day will be connecting wires to circuit breakers, transformers, or other components. This is where your manual dexterity comes into play. But that’s the easy part. Knowing what type, size and quantity of wire to use is the real trick.
- Being Social: You will be meeting a lot of people including homeowners, entrepreneurs, and contractors. Many times workers from other trades are all striving together to complete a project. Because of this, you will need good written and verbal communication skills.
- Detective Reasoning: You may need to identify defects and hazards, locate the cause of malfunctioning equipment systems, or just answer the question, “why is there no power in this room?” If you like a good mystery then you will enjoy this type of troubleshooting.
- Preparing and Reading Blueprints: These show the location of wiring, equipment, outlets, fixtures, and more. Being able to prepare and read blueprints effectively will ensure that you meet building and safety codes.
- Using Critical Thinking Skills: Logic and reasoning will be crucial in order to pinpoint the best way to approach a problem and implement a solution.
- Making Decisions: You will look at the costs and benefits of different options and choose the most appropriate one for a given situation.
Official Job Details of Electricians
Put simply, electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems for home and buildings. Specific job details of electricians will, of course, vary depending on your employer.
What does that mean, really?
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty! When it comes to A/C power – whether it’s power outlets, lighting, equipment, appliances, machines, overhead/underground service, inside or outside – electricians are involved.
Power is supplied to the structure by the local utility company. It comes overhead or underground and typically ends up at a meter.
After that, practically everything falls under the purview of an electrical contractor. Everything from A to Z is installed, wired, and tested by an electrician. I’m talking service feeder, panel(s), branch circuits, power outlets, lighting systems, and controls.
You will learn to read schematics and blueprints (which are almost never blue) so that you can bid a job, purchase the right equipment, or just be up to speed on what goes where on a project.
Electricians are required to make sure all is done correctly, safely, and to code. That means knowing the code.
Hungry for more? Read the job description of an electrician on the United States Department of Labor website. They have done an excellent job of explaining this career choice.
Step 2: General Requirements to Become an Electrician?
The second step to become an electrician is short and sweet. Simply double-check that you meet the following requirements.
- Be at least 18-years old
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Possess general math and algebra skills
- Maintain good physical condition
- Have reliable transportation to school and job sites
- Be able to work independently and as part of a team
Keep in mind that requirements may vary slightly from state to state or jurisdiction.
Step 3: Apply for Electrician Apprenticeship Training
Now we come to the nuts and bolts of how to become an electrician.
It’s time to choose an electrician apprenticeship training program or trade school. More than anything, your apprenticeship is where you will learn the electrician trade and run with it.
An electrician apprentice works under the direct supervision of a licensed electrician while also taking approved classes. As a result, you will be able to get your hands dirty by applying what you learn in the classroom. We call this on-the-job training or OJT.
A significant benefit is getting paid while you learn.
How long does it take to become an electrician?
Expect your apprenticeship to take a total of 4-5 years to become a licensed electrician. To clarify, that includes close to 8,000 hours OJT and at least 288 hours of classroom instruction and labs. (Each states’ requirements may vary.)
Be aware that you may need to take a few weeks or months finding an apprenticeship spot with a local company that is hiring. This varies with region.
Apprenticeships are the optimal way to train to become an electrician; you will be well prepared to test for your journeyman’s license upon completion.
Top 3 Electrician Apprenticeships
The most popular electrician apprenticeship programs are:
- Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
My advice is to choose an electrician apprenticeship program that combines classroom study with actual hands-on learning as an apprentice.
Find one that best fits your needs and personality. Online or distance learning should be only a last resort.
We have prepared full guides for each of the top 3 apprenticeship programs.
Choose a number below to read more:
Each guide lays out the:
- Application Process
- Helpful Tips
Local contractors and local community colleges are also a good choice to become an electrician apprentice. You will receive valuable hands-on training and well-rounded classroom training to prepare you for this high-demand field.
In fact, many community colleges work with local contractors, as well as, established national apprenticeship programs.
With the IEC apprenticeship, for example, you may also earn 40 hours of college credit.
What is Merit Shop Philosophy vs. Union?
Be aware that each apprenticeship follows either an open or closed shop philosophy.
Merit Shop is a relatively new term that expresses a philosophy that awards work to the most qualified and lowest bidder regardless of labor affiliation. It encourages open competition and a free-enterprise approach based on merit.
You may have heard the term, Open Shop, which is another term for Merit Shop. Merit Shop = Open Shop = Non-union.
Anyone in the industry should be evaluated, judged, awarded, and rewarded based on his or her merit. Owners should be able to select the most economical and best bidder regardless of that bidder’s status.Associated Builders and Contractors
A Union Shop is divided into two types: Pre-entry closed shop and post-entry closed shop.
Pre-entry closed shop is simply called closed shop. It means than an employer will only hire union members and those employees must remain in the union.
Post-entry closed shop is commonly known as union shop in the U.S. In a union shop, all employees must join the union if they have not already done so. Those hired by the employer are required to be accepted as a member of the union.
Union shop = closed shop = union.
You can read more about union shops at Wikipedia.
Again, here are the links to our full apprenticeship guides.
Step 4: Study the National Electrical Code
The standard for electrical safety around the world is the National Electrical Code (NEC). Additions and updates are continually made to it. Studying the NEC is step 4 in knowing how to become an electrician.
Your exam for your journeyman’s electrician license will test your knowledge of this code, and of electrical theory. The format and content may vary from state to state. The test may include questions specific to your own state’s laws and regulations.
Even if you don’t like to study (and who does, really?) there is just no way of getting around this one. This is a big step to the question, “How do I become an electrician?”
Study Tips to Pass the Journeyman’s License Exam
Need some study tips centered around grasping the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Mastering the NEC codebook is the surefire way to pass your electrician journeyman’s license exam.
Since people learn in different ways, it’s important to learn what works for you!
Are you a visual learner? Aural? Verbal? Kinesthetic? Knowing your preferred learning style might help you study more efficiently. You may prefer a quiet room while others prefer music or background noise. Find out what helps you concentrate.
We won’t cover general study and concentration tips, because plenty of resources already exist for those topics.
Let’s delve into the best ways to study the National Electrical Code in order to pass the journeyman electrician’s license exam.
Specific Tips for Studying the NEC
- Start by getting your own copy of the most recent handbook of the NEC. You can get these in hardbound, softcover, spiral or loose-leaf form.
- Learn how to navigate the NEC code book. Study how the chapters and sections are laid out. Master the Table of Contents and/or Index to quickly find the right code for a given scenario. There are tabs available for help but some states restrict their use during the exam.
- Review a code-a-day with a unique calendar. It may not seem like much, but learning some code every day really adds up.
- Use flashcards. Although you may find them boring, flashcards are an effective way to learn.
- View free video clips with instructions about the NEC.
- Take an exam prep course. The $$ invested will pay off. Mike Holt’s program has helped many pass the exam. He is a gifted and interesting teacher with a well-developed program.
- Study with a friend. You can benefit from new explanations and approaches. It helps you to stay committed knowing someone is depending on you.
- Practice with quizzes or simulated exams. I prefer these quizzes and tests by Mike Holt. You could also check out EC&M quizzes.
- During a simulated exam, it’s useful to practice looking up information in the code book – even if you know the answer. This will help you familiarize yourself with the book.
The thing is – the exam is timed. If you don’t know the material or where to quickly find it, you’re sunk.
But, I have no doubt, that with proper preparation, you can pass the exam to become a Journeyman Electrician. Choose the study tips and resources that make the most sense for you.
Study Resources for NEC Journeyman Electrician License Exam
2017 National Electrical Code Handbook
This is the newest addition and will have all the updates and additions. It’s the hardcover edition.
Now, here’s a little trick to help you organize all that data in your handbook and make it easier to find. It’s an inexpensive tool I highly suggest I strongly suggest you purchase to save yourself a lot of headaches.
Grab this set of 48 adhesive tabs to organize your handbook. This will limit your time searching for key information. They are durable and come with a placement guide.
NEC Illustrated Guide
Visual learners, you may want to invest in this illustrated guide as a supplement. Do not use it as your main handbook. It is a tool to better understand the code.
NEC Quick Card
Use this reference guide to study. This 6-page, water-resistant card, has NEC essentials and will also come in handy for on-the-job code checks.
At this point, you are now well informed about how to become an electrician. There is only one more step!
Step 5: Pass the Exam to Become a Licensed Electrician
You’re in the home stretch of our guide, How to Become an Electrician. The final step is to pass the exam to become a licensed electrician.
Read on for valuable tips and exam strategies!
NEC Exam Prep Tips
You would be a rare individual if you’re not at least a little nervous on exam day. We’re giving you NEC exam prep tips to make that day smoother.
So take a deep breath and realize that a normal level of stress can actually help you think faster and more effectively.
Make sure you know the testing guidelines for your state and are fully prepared:
- Have your supplies ready early, including pencils and a calculator with fresh batteries. Don’t wait until the day of the exam to gather your supplies.
- Eat a light meal before the test. Brain-boosting food is a good choice. Know what to eat – and not to eat – before an exam.
- Water is key. Make sure you are well hydrated.
- Do you know where to go? Arrive early so you don’t feel rushed, which can add additional stress.
- Bring your ID and confirmation papers
NEC Test-Taking Strategies
Knowing the following test-taking strategies can be a huge help when taking the NEC exam.
Remember to pace yourself. The exam is timed. The last thing you want to do is spend too much time on only one question.
At the same time, you don’t want to rush. Read the questions carefully. Even one word can change the substance of the question.
- Start by calmly going through the test and answering all the questions you know. Limit it to 30 seconds for each.
- Start over and work on the questions you have not yet answered. If you can’t answer it within 1 minute, move on to the next.
- Go through your test one more time to answer any remaining questions. Do not leave a question unanswered. If you must, make an informed guess. Usually, your first instinct is the correct one, so try not to second guess yourself.
- Make sure to round your numbers if needed. Match the number of places as the exam answers. For example: If your answer is 1.13 (and your choice of answers is 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4) the correct answer would be 1.1. You might also need to round to tens. If your answer is 42 (and your choices are 30, 40, 50), the correct answer would be 40.
- Make sure you leave enough time to transfer your answers to the answer key. It is imperative that you are extremely careful. You don’t want to fail because you transcribed wrongly.
If you follow the above NEC study and test-taking tips, you will have a good shot at passing your exam the first time.
If not, don’t give up. It’s not uncommon for electricians to take the test more than once. Each time will give you more experience and understanding of the process which makes it that much easier the next round.
If you’ve already passed your NEC exam, please comment with your own test-taking tips to help others!
Final Thoughts on How to Become an Electrician
Now that you have the complete picture on how to become an electrician and an electrician apprentice, I hope you feel well-prepared to pursue a career in this fascinating field of electricity.
Remember, your first years as a licensed journeyman electrician will be full of continued learning and of developing skills and knowledge.
Prove yourself a valuable employee and you will have plenty of opportunities to advance in the electrical trade. Check out Electrician’s Career Path for guidance.