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How to Become an Electrician

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How to Become an Electrician

What electricians do

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012), electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining wiring and lighting systems. This may entail reading blueprints, schematics and technical documents; installing electrical components; troubleshooting electrical issues using testing devices such as ammeters and voltmeters; collaborating with architects, building engineers and other building professionals; and understanding and adhering to building and electrical codes. Electricians perform their jobs in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings and should have the physical stamina required to work overtime as needed and stand, lift and kneel on a regular basis.

How to become an electrician

The BLS reports most electricians train for the job through a formal apprenticeship lasting four years and some attend technical school. Apprenticeships are sponsored through trade associations and unions, and apprenticeship candidates are usually required to be a minimum of 18 years old and be a high-school graduate with at least one year of algebra.  They may also be required to have a passing grade on an aptitude test and pass a drug test (BLS).

Electrician apprenticeships usually require 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of technical training for each year of the program. Classroom technical training may include instruction on electrical theory, math, code requirements, and safety and first aid. Those who opt to attend technical school for training customarily receive credit toward the apprenticeship requirements (BLS).

While the steps required to become an electrician may vary by jurisdiction and other factors, the traditional method to become an electrician may include some or all of the following:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Earn a high-school diploma or equivalent
  • Attend a technical school and/or
  • Be accepted to and perform a four-year apprenticeship
  • Become licensed (requirements vary by state)
  • Become a journey worker
  • Apply for employment
  • Take continuing education courses and manufacturer training as required

Additional training, certification or licensing may be required for employment and no employment is guaranteed by completing the above mentioned steps.

Career outlook for electricians

The BLS projects up to 23 percent national employment growth for electricians from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS attributes this increase to the growth of the construction industry and the need to maintain and replace old electrical equipment in the manufacturing sector. Additionally, electricians may have the opportunity to install alternative power source equipment such as solar and wind and create links between buildings and power grids (BLS).

According to the BLS, electricians earned a national annual median wage of $49,320 in 2011. The lowest-paid 10-percent earned up to $30,390 and the highest-paid 10-percent earned up to $82,68 nationally in 2011. Industries that employed the most electricians in 2011 include building equipment contractors; local government; employment services; nonresidential building construction; and electric power generation, transmission and distribution. States with the highest level of employment for electricians include Texas, California, New York, Florida and Illinois (BLS).

Quick Facts: Electricians

*All facts from BLS.gov*

2011 Median Pay    $49,320 per year
$23.71 per hour
Entry-Level Education   High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training    Apprenticeship
Number of Jobs, 2011  512,290
Job Outlook, 2010-20        23% nationally (Faster than national average)
Employment Change, 2010-20  133,700


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Electricians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 47-2111 Electricians, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes472111.htm



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