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How to Become an Electrician | A Complete Guide

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Becoming an electrician is a rewarding career choice. They are in high demand and can make a good wage. But what does it take to become an electrician? What skills and training do you need?

We will explain:

  • What electricians do
  • Education and training requirements
  • Necessary skills
  • Types of jobs available

Moreover, we’ll cover the work environment and earnings potential for electricians.

What Is An Electrician?

An electrician, considered a tradesman, installs and maintains electrical systems. Electricians fall into three categories:

  • Construction,
  • Maintenance, and
  • Factory Electricians.

Construction electricians install wiring in new buildings while maintenance electricians repair or replace faulty equipment installed by other electricians.

Factory electricians inspect and maintain machines within factories to ensure they are working correctly at all times. They may also help fix problems with the electricity supply, which could affect production lines if left unattended for long periods.

An electrician’s job involves working in various environments, from residential houses to commercial offices and factories. They keep buildings safe by ensuring all electrical equipment goes through the proper installation channels.

They also test electronics before being used again after undergoing maintenance – this ensures everything works perfectly every time!

What Do Electricians Do?

Electricians perform several different tasks. These tasks range from installations to inspections to repairs. We detail these tasks below:

Electrical Installations

Electricians install electrical wiring in homes, offices, factories, and other buildings. They install new fixtures and equipment, connect appliances and machines to the power supply, and ensure that everything is up to code.

Inspect Electrical Systems

Electricians inspect and maintain electrical systems in residential and commercial buildings. They ensure that all wiring is up to code and safe for use. In addition, they may need to investigate the cause of an electrical outage or malfunction.

Repair or Troubleshoot Electrical Malfunctions

Electricians are often called upon to repair or troubleshoot electrical malfunctions. Such repairs may include:

  • Fixing a light switch that doesn’t work
  • Repairing a circuit breaker
  • Diagnosing and fixing an electrical issue in a home or business

Electrical repairs can be tricky and sometimes hazardous. Therefore, electricians need the proper knowledge and skills to complete these jobs safely.

Install Lighting and Control Systems

Lighting and control systems are essential electrical systems in modern homes. Electricians specializing in this area are responsible for installing new light fixtures, replacing old ones, maintaining existing systems, etc.

They also need to know how different lighting types work with other electrical components such as switches and outlets. Lighting and control systems electricians usually work closely with architects, interior decorators, and home builders.

Read and Interpret Wiring and Technical Diagrams – Blueprints Included

Reading and interpreting drawings, wiring diagrams, and technical drawings are an integral part of this job. Electricians must understand how circuits work to complete their tasks correctly without any mistakes or errors. They also need to read and understand blueprints. Blueprints show the location of all the electrical wiring, lighting, outlets, and other equipment. Overall, reading and interpreting blueprints and wiring diagrams is essential for electricians. It ensures trained electricians install, repair, and maintain electrical wiring correctly.

How to Become an Electrician — A Step-by-Step Guide

As with most professionals, becoming an electrician takes a concerted effort. The first step is proper education. Below is an in-depth look at how to become an electrician:

Step 1. Earn a High School Diploma or the Equivalent

An essential step is to have a high school diploma or equivalent. This will be the starting point for many electrician careers. Some positions may require an associate’s degree in electrical engineering technology, but this is not always necessary.

Some vocational schools offer certificate programs which can also lead to a career as an electrician. These shorter programs usually last around two years and teach students about wiring, blueprint interpretation, safety procedures, and more.

A high school diploma or equivalent can lead you to an entry-level job as an electrician. This is a great way to learn more about the industry and see if this is the right career.

Step 2. Attend a Vocational/Trade School

Many vocational or trade schools offer electrician programs. Attending a vocational or trade school program is often the best way to become an electrician.

These schools provide hands-on training, which is essential for becoming a successful electrician. They also allow students to learn from experienced professionals in the industry.

Vocational and trade schools can be expensive, but they often offer financial assistance options, such as scholarships and loans. Additionally, many employers will reimburse employees who attend a vocational or trade school after being hired.

Therefore, attending a vocational or trade school makes electricians more likely to find a job.

Step 3. Apply for Electrical Apprenticeship

Aspiring candidates must register with a local electrical union or apprenticeship program to operate as licensed electricians.
Most electricians work their way through the ranks by starting as registered apprentices in training programs approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and state, county, or city governments.

Apprentices undergo safety procedures, electrical theory, first aid practices, and mathematics essential to working in this field. They must also complete a certain number of hours of on-the-job training under supervision from more experienced electricians.

Apprenticeship programs seek a few essential traits in their applicants. Some of them include:

  • A strong math foundation as electricians regularly work with voltage, resistance, and current calculations
  • Good hand-eye coordination and balance as electricians are often on ladders or scaffolds
  • Ability to read blueprints to understand the layout of electrical systems

Most apprenticeship programs require candidates to be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or equivalent. Other programs may even require college credits in specific areas related to electricity or engineering.

It is important to note that most apprenticeship programs require a drug test. Afterward, random tests may occur while the apprentice works on the job.

This is because safety is of utmost importance in this line of work. Therefore, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts oneself and other people at risk for injury.

Apprenticeships take three to five years, depending on where you live.

Step 4. Register as an Electrician Apprentice

Once electricians are through with their apprenticeship program, the next step is registering as electrician apprentices. The International Board of Certified Trainers and Educators, or the IBCTE, handles all apprenticeship programs in most of the United States.

The U.S. Department of Labor recognizes the IBECE through its Office of Apprenticeship Training (OAT). This means that once you register with them, they will make your training more accessible. They help employers find new trainees and connect apprentices to potential job opportunities by matching their skills with what’s available in the market.

Step 5. Complete the Apprenticeship Program

After registering as apprentices, electricians can now complete their training in the field. Electricians usually go through a four-year apprenticeship, where they receive hands-on training and education at the same time.

The electrician’s apprentice should expect to learn:

  • Electrical theory and applications, including basic formulas used to calculate electrical load requirements for a building or structure
  • National Electrical Code (NEC), which is necessary to pass state examinations on electrical knowledge
  • How to work safely and comply with local codes and other applicable regulations

After completing the apprenticeship program, those who pass the Electrical Journeyman Exam become journeyman electricians. Most employers prefer to hire journeyman electricians. These professionals can work unsupervised on many jobs but still need to be supervised by a master electrician in some states.

To become a licensed master electrician, one needs to have several years of experience as a journeyman and pass another exam. The licensing requirements vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s crucial to check what your state requires.

Step 6. Become a Certified or Licensed Electrician

The last step in becoming an electrician is to earn a license or certification. Not all states require you to have a license, but it’s crucial to gain knowledge and skills before applying for one. If your state requires licensing, you will need to pass an exam administered by your state licensing board or agency.

To become certified, you will need to pass an exam from a certification organization like the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). Certification shows that you have the knowledge and skills required to work safely and effectively in the electrical industry.

Important Skills for Electricians

Electricians need to think on their feet, solve problems, and accurately diagnose electrical issues. They should also have excellent customer service skills as they will be dealing with customers every day.

Here are more essential skills for electricians:

Technical Abilities

Electricians need to understand the physics of electricity and how they can utilize it. They also need to know how to read electrical schematics, blueprints, and diagrams for various projects.

They must understand the different types of wiring and techniques used in residential, commercial, or industrial spaces. In addition, they should be able to use tools efficiently while working with electricity.

Good Problem-Solving Skills

Electricians constantly face challenges. They need to think on their feet and develop creative solutions to problems. This often means being able to work under pressure and make quick decisions.

If you have strong problem-solving skills, this could be an excellent career for you. Electricians must be able to adapt quickly to keep the job running smoothly.

Communication Skills

Most electricians work as a team, communicating effectively with their co-workers. They also need excellent communication skills to talk customers through repair or maintenance procedures.

Physical Stamina

Electricians spend a lot of time on their feet and may need to lift heavy objects. They must also have the stamina to work in all weather conditions.

If you are physically fit, have good stamina, and don’t mind working outdoors in all weather conditions, then this may be the trade for you. Electricians typically work long hours.

It’s also essential to have a strong safety awareness when working with electricity.

Troubleshooting Skills

Electricians are often called upon to troubleshoot electrical problems. They need to identify the source of the problem and fix it quickly. This requires a combination of skill, experience, and intuition. Electricians must also be able to work safely in dangerous environments.

Electricians need to have a strong understanding of electricity. They need to know how circuits work, motors operate, and adequately size wires and cables. This knowledge allows them to diagnose problems and find solutions quickly.

Color Vision Skills

Electricians need to distinguish colors to identify the different wires and cables used in the industry. They also need good vision in general, as many tasks involve working with small components or in tight spaces.

Vision screening is often part of the electrician certification process, so make sure you can see well enough to do the job before enrolling in a program. If you have any concerns about seeing correctly, consult an optometrist for more information.

Business Knowledge

If you want to be a successful electrician, you must have some business knowledge. This includes knowing how to run your own business, market yourself, and find new customers—self-employed electricians need to be knowledgeable in this area.

Electricians also need to know about safety regulations and electrical codes. This information is necessary to work safely and stay up-to-date with the latest changes in the industry.

You can get started on your business knowledge by taking online courses or attending workshops. Many trade organizations offer educational resources for electricians.

What Degrees are Beneficial to Electricians?

Education lays the foundation for a technical trade such as electricians. Students should look for ABET-accredited engineering programs, which ensures that graduates are prepared to enter STEM careers after completing their degree. Some degrees that benefit electricians include:

Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering can provide students with a strong foundation of knowledge in the field. This type of degree will give students the ability to design, build, and test electrical systems.

While not required, many employers prefer to hire electricians with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. The degree offers a variety of subjects, including electrical design and theory, control systems engineering, and circuit analysis.

Students will also benefit from a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering because it provides a strong understanding of how electricity works and how to use it safely. Students who graduate with this degree can work as electricians or technical engineers across various industries.

Associate’s Degree in Electrical Technology

Another degree that can help electricians is an associate’s degree in electrical technology. This program teaches students to install, maintain, and repair large electrical systems for commercial buildings or residential homes.

Students will also learn about circuit theory, motors, transformers, and generators. With this knowledge, they can work as apprentices under licensed electricians until they become licensed themselves.

Online colleges and technical schools offer associate’s degrees in electrical technology. This makes them more accessible than other types of degree programs.

The program typically takes two years to complete full-time. Still, students can also work part-time while earning their associate’s degree online or through a distance learning program.

6 Best Electrician Certifications

The best electricians in the world have undergone rigorous training to be certified by an accredited institution. They possess a great deal of knowledge and experience in their field, making them highly qualified for any job they take on.

The following list contains some of the most popular electrician certifications available today:

Certified Electrical Inspector (CEI)

The Certified Electrical Inspector is among the highest certifications available for electricians. It requires three years of experience.

The CEI allows electricians to inspect electrical installations at any location where electricity is present.

To become a certified electrical inspector, candidates must complete a two-year training program at an accredited program.

Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP)

If you want to become a certified electrician, the Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP) certification is a great option.

This certification, offered through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), focuses on electrical safety compliance. To become a CESCP, you must pass an exam. The exam covers inspection, testing, and maintenance.

The CESCP certification is an excellent option for electricians specializing in electrical safety compliance. It can also help you stand out from the competition and make it easier to find jobs.

Certified Electrical Safety Technician (CEST)

Certified Electrical Safety Technicians are experts in electrical safety. This certification is for those who want to become highly skilled and qualified electricians.

They have to meet all the requirements of becoming a Certified Electrician, such as:

  • Having an electrical certificate from their college or university
  • Passing the National Electrical Code (NEC) test, and
  • Having two years of work experience.

As the name implies, they are highly skilled in electrical safety. They can work with live wires and conductors without getting shocked or electrocuted. They also know how to use various tools for electrical installations and repairs.

Certified Electrical Safety Worker (CESW)

The CESW is for those who want to specialize in electrical safety. This certification proves that the electrician can create and maintain a safe electrical work environment.

To become a CESW, an electrician must pass the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) exam. The exam covers topics such as:

  • Accident prevention
  • Electrical theory
  • Code requirements
  • Hazard identification and control
  • Emergency procedures

The ESA offers a variety of resources to help electricians prepare for the exam, including practice questions and an exam preparation guide.

Becoming a CESW is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in electrical safety. It can also lead to career opportunities in safety management or consulting.

Certified Emergency Power Systems Specialist (CEPSS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers

CEPSS-HC is a professional certification for health care facility managers who supervise or manage emergency power systems. The CEPSS-HC program provides the required knowledge and skills to effectively manage, operate, and maintain an emergency power system.

For both new and experienced Emergency Medical Service (EMS) administrators, this course can help advance careers in the emergency power industry.

After completing this course, students can:

  • Describe the features and components of an emergency power system
  • Identify when and how to use each type of backup generator
  • Select appropriate transfer switches for their facility
  • Develop a maintenance schedule for their emergency power system
  • Manage a power outage in a health care facility

Certified Emergency Power Systems Specialist (CEPSS) for Facility Managers

The last important certificate in this list is the Certified Emergency Power Systems Specialist (CEPSS) for Facility Managers. This certificate covers the highlights about electrical power systems that a facility manager should know. This includes:

  • Transformer operation and maintenance
  • Grounding principles and equipment
  • Battery bank design/operation/testing
  • UPS installation and testing
  • Generator sizing/selection/operation
  • Designing a backup power system

A CEPSS certification can help you advance your career in facility management or even become a lead engineer on electrical projects.

Work Environment for Electricians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electricians had about 729,600 employment opportunities in 2020.

Electricians operate in both residential and commercial settings. They can be found at construction sites as well. They also work inside and outside houses, businesses, factories, and construction sites.

Most electricians must move from one job site to another; thus, local or long-distance commuting is common.

Electrical maintenance may expose electricians to dirt, dust, debris, or gases. Those who work outside are vulnerable to hot and cold temperatures and inclement weather. Noise from industrial equipment is widespread among workers in factories.

As an electrician, you will need to take precautions to avoid electrical shocks and other injuries. Basic safety precautions are necessary when working with electricity. These include wearing gloves, boots, and other protective gear.

Electrician Working Hours

Electricians are almost always full-time employees. Work hours may be variable, with the possibility of late nights and weekends, and extra work is typical. However, those who are self-employed may have more control over their work hours.

Average Electrician Salary

According to the BLS, electricians earned a median of $56,900 per year in May 2020.

The top 10 percent earned more than $98,720, and the bottom 10% made less than $33,810. The highest-paid electricians worked for the federal government and in manufacturing.

Benefits of Being an Electrician

There are many benefits of becoming an electrician. Some of these benefits include:

  • Great pay
  • Job security
  • Flexible hours
  • Variety of work

Challenges of Being an Electrician

Being an electrician is not all fun and games. It has its drawbacks, which you should know before taking on the job. Here are some of them:

  • Working in harsh conditions
  • Long hours of work
  • Strenuous work involving climbing ladders and poles
  • Dangerous conditions, at times

Despite some issues, being an electrician is a gratifying career. You get to work with your hands, help people in their time of need, and make a good living while doing it.

Advancement Opportunities for Electricians

Electricians have a lot of opportunities for advancement. They can become foremen, superintendents, construction managers, and more. There are also options to start their own businesses. Those willing to work hard and continue learning new things can go very far in this field.

To advance in this electrical industry, the following is necessary:

Specializing in Specific Electrical Work

There are many different types of electrical systems, and each one has its specialties. Becoming an expert in just one can make you more marketable for advancement opportunities.

Certification is also available in some specialty areas of electrical work. This can show an employer that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to do a specific type of job.

Earning an Electrical Engineering Degree

An electrical engineering degree will open up many doors for you in the electrical field. With this advanced education, you can become an engineer or even start your own business.

Electrical engineers design and create systems that meet all safety codes and requirements. They also supervise teams of electricians.

Having a master's degree in electrical engineering can also make you more marketable for advancement opportunities. Employers will see that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do higher-level jobs.

Conclusion

Becoming an electrician is a wise career choice for those interested in working with their hands and helping others. It’s a challenging field that requires a lot of training, but it can be rewarding.

If you’re interested in this career path, make sure to do your research and find the right school for you. You can become a skilled electrician and have a long and successful career in this field with the proper training.

Fortunately, GetEducated simplifies the process of finding the best online degree programs for electrician training.

We help students compare and choose the right program for their needs to get started on their careers as an electrician. With our help, you can find the perfect program and get started on your new career today!

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