Learning how to become an electrician can be one of the most-exciting and rewarding things you’ll ever do. Not only will your training allow you to join a brotherhood of skilled tradesmen whose skills are always in demand, but you’ll also be able to acquire the know-how required to go into business for yourself, if that is your goal!
Although the process of becoming licensed takes years, it is not overly complicated. As a matter of fact, the entire journey can really be summed-up in just four steps.
The Four Steps to Becoming an Electrician
We’ve broken down each of the four steps required to become an electrician below. While some of these steps do contain additional processes that will need to be completed along the way, the four steps shown are the main ones required to become licensed and begin working.
To review each step, simply click on the appropriate tab.
Step One – High School Prerequisites
If you’re still in high school, and think that you’re interested in a career as an electrician, there are three things you can do that will help your chances:
- Be sure to graduate with your diploma
- Take at least one year of algebra
- Take geometry and basic physics classes
As for the math requirements, your training as an electrician will require you to perform numerous calculations using a variety of math skills. Not only that, but you’ll continue to use these skills everyday throughout your career. Take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in these classes in high school so you’ll be prepared for this material down the road!
Step Two – Choose a Trade School or Apprenticeship
After you’ve decided to pursue a career in the electrical industry, the next decision you’ll have to make is whether to pursue your electrician training through a traditional apprenticeship, or a trade school. There are reasons to consider both approaches, and determining which one is better is usually just a matter of personal preference.
Reasons to Consider an Apprenticeship
Completing an apprenticeship is a required part of becoming an electrician – whether you decide to go to a trade school first or not. For this reason, many of those currently working in the industry chose to bypass school and get their start through an apprenticeship. There are also several other reasons to consider an apprenticeship program:
- You get paid for your work while learning
- Nothing beats on-the-job training
- You’ll have the opportunity to network with potential employers
- You have to finish an apprenticeship anyways, so why wait?
Reasons to Consider a Trade School
Choosing to attend a vocational school before finishing the required apprenticeship is becoming more common in recent years. Consider some of the reasons for this trend when you make your decision:
- If you’re not sure which type of electrician you want to be, you can get training in multiple fields
- You’ll be exposed to electrical theory and other concepts in greater detail than you would during an apprenticeship
- Training with simulators, etc. will help prepare you for a quicker transition into the work required during the apprenticeship
- Having additional education and credentials will separate you from other job seekers in the workplace
Step Three – Complete Your Apprenticeship
As discussed in Step Two, regardless of whether you decide to go to school first or not, you’ll eventually be required to complete an apprenticeship. The experience you acquire will prepare you for the all-important licensing exam, and will also provide the other benefits previously mentioned.
What to Expect
Apprentice programs typically last either four or five years, and require their apprentices to complete no less than 144 hours in the classroom and 2,000 hours of supervised, hands-on training. During this time, you can expect to learn the following skills:
- Safety procedures
- Tools and techniques for using them
- Mathematics required on the job
- Electrical theory application
How to Find Them
Electrician apprenticeship programs are offered through a variety of sources. Below are a few of the largest ones to help you begin your search.
- Trade schools – if you attended one, they’ll probably have a program for you
- The Electrical Training ALLIANCE – one of the nation’s largest electrician educators
- State organizations supporting the electrical industry
- Community colleges
- Trade unions and other organizations
Step Four – Get Licensed
The last step in becoming an electrician, and the one most-likely to cause you anxiety and sleepless nights throughout your training, is getting licensed. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so be sure to check on yours as early as possible.
Check out this handy guide from the National Electrical Contractors Association to find the specific requirements in your state!
The Licensing Exam
Regardless of which state you live in, the crucial step in earning your license will be passing the licensing exam. These exams may vary slightly in format and presentation, but they will generally all consist of the same basic material:
- The National Electrical Code – learn more here
- State electrical codes
- Local electrical codes in your area
A Final Word on Becoming an Electrician
These four steps do tell you how to become an electrician, but you shouldn’t assume that the process will be easy. Your ultimate success will depend on your willingness to meet the challenges of working in this fast-paced, sometimes-dangerous field.
Working as an electrician is certainly rewarding and exciting, but you should fully understand the risks involved as well as its demands before deciding to pursue it as your career. With that said, we wish you all the best of luck!