Considering a career as an electrician and wondering, how hard is it to become an electrician? We'll tell you. A career as an electrician can be a lucrative one if you understand the path to get there. Here's everything you need to know about electricians, how to get a job as an electrician and what you can expect while working as an electrician.
1. Ask yourself, what is an electrician?
What do electricians do, after all? That's a nuanced question, as electricians are responsible for all things electrical. Electricians are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems. Their job is to bring power to residences, industrial complexes and commercial areas. While most electricians tend to specialize in one area (like construction or repair), they can typically perform all functions.
"Electricians are skilled at reading blueprints and technical diagrams, figuring out the best methods for installing new wiring, replacing old systems, identifying problems through the use of the proper devices, and following all state and local building and safety codes," according to Learn How to Become. "They often work alone, though sometimes they work in teams, especially when designing and implementing electrical systems for new home or commercial construction."
2. Find out where electricians work (and where you'll want to work).
Electricians generally work in a multitude of different environments — from people's homes to office buildings or industrial complexes to commercial buildings to any type of space that requires electricity.
3. Figure out what qualifications you need to be an electrician.
What do you need to be a qualified electrician? Most states do indeed require electricians to be licensed. In order to obtain a license to become an electrician, you'll need to undergo career training through an apprenticeship program.
If you hold a high school diploma or the equivalent, you can apply for apprenticeship programs through several different unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or the National Electrical Contractors Association. These are four-year programs that allow you to go on to work on construction and repair projects upon completion.
4. Get training and experience
What experience do you need to be an electrician?
While some start out by attending a technical school, you don't need a college degree in order to become an electrician. Rather, most electricians learn their trade through an apprenticeship, where they learn in-class and hands-on instruction.
Apprentices typically receive about 600 hours of in-class instruction on topics like safety principles and blueprint reading, as well as receive on-the-job training practicing things like wiring outlets and soldering electrical components under experienced electricians' supervision.
So, yes, many electricians begin with a classroom-based vocational program while others begin by helping out an already professional electrician by tagging along on the job.
You need experience with a hands-on job to become an electrician. That's why many electricians start out at a technical school and go through an apprenticeship program in order to learn the skills and gain the experience necessary to become an electrician. Fortunately, the employment of electricians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations across the board, as homes and businesses alike require wiring that only electricians have the know-how to install, maintain and repair, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Determine how much you want to make.
You might be wondering, do electricians get paid well? Electricians do indeed get paid well. The median average salary for electricians is $55,190 per year or $26.53 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, in May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that electricians in the 90th percentile or higher earned $94,620 or more per year, whereas the bottom tenth percentile earned $32,940 or less per year. So, regardless of either side of the scale you fall on, you're looking at a nice salary.
Of course, an electrician's salary depends on a variety of factors, such as where they work and for whom they work (i.e. their employer). An electrician might work for a utility company, a construction firm or a service provider, or they might be self-employed and work for themselves, promoting their own business. Therefore, depending on the type of business they get into and the breadth of their projects, their income will vary.
6. Determine what hours you will work.
What hours are you willing to work? What are typical electrician hours? Electricians don't have any "typical" hours because they work on so many different projects. For example, if an electrician works mostly in homes, it's likely that they'll come during regular, day-time business hours while homeowners are out of the house and the electrician won't be in their way. If an electrician is working on an office building, however, they might come after typical day-time business hours when most employees won't be affected by their electrical work. Many electricians, tend to start early in the morning, around 6 or 7 a.m. for these reasons. And many other electricians tend to work overtime and on the weekends.
7. Determine what benefits you'll need and/or want.
Your benefits as an electrician will depend on your employer (and many electricians become self-employed!). Some employers will offer both part- and full-time electricians benefits like paid time off, paid sick leave and paid parental leave, for example. Others may only offer these benefits to full-time employees. And others may not offer paid time off at all. It's important to ask questions about what benefits would be available to you if you were to take a job as an electrician.
8. Apply for a job that suits your needs.
How hard is it to become an electrician? As mentioned, the job outlook for electricians is good. Electricians find themselves in a good position to find work, as there will always be a demand for their work.
According to Learn How to Become, electricians who are "well-versed in solar power and other alternative power sources" will likely be in higher demand, as well as electricians who have honed their skills in the military.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.