How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
Electricians are essential.
They are skilled professionals who provide necessary and important services for all of us. Without them, we’d have no one to power our lights, refrigerators, televisions or cell phones.
Electricians don’t just power our homes; they work in high-rises, commercial buildings, and industrial factories. They play a vital role in keeping every aspect of our lives running smoothly, even if we don’t always realize it.
If you’ve made the decision to become an electrician -- congratulations -- it’s a wise choice.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians earned a median annual wage of $56,180 in 2019. Furthermore, top electricians can earn six figures - with the industry expected to grow by 10% over the next ten years.
This guide will help you understand the various types of electricians, what it takes to become one, and the educational/cost requirements needed to do so.
Let’s get right into the step by step process of how to become an electrician.
- Earn your high school diploma. This is mandatory, as you may not be able to pursue your career until you have one. This can be a diploma or a high school equivalency, such as a GED.
For those still in high school, consider taking these courses to better prepare yourself:
- Math - to determine wire lengths, voltage requirements, and electrical currents
- Physics - electrical circuit theory is part of most high school physics courses
- English - while most of an electrician’s work is hands-on, they’re also expected to be able to write reports and communicate effectively with other professionals
- Electronics - this will introduce you to the basics of electrical current, building circuit boards and soldering wires
If you’re an adult who didn’t finish high school, it’s possible to earn your diploma online within a few months.
- Pursue a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree through a college or trade school. Although this step isn’t required, it can help separate you from other apprentice applicants.
Electrician schooling provides a foundation of knowledge in electrical theory, wiring techniques, safety practices, and the national electrical code. Most courses will also include hands-on training. You can expect to pay anywhere from $4-20k depending on the school, and it usually takes 1-2 years to complete.
- Register as an apprentice or trainee (if required). Some states, such as California and Texas, require aspiring electricians to be registered before they’re allowed to work on a job site. This is usually a quick and easy process where you fill out a form and pay a small fee. Check with your local labor authorities to determine the requirements in your area.
- Find and Complete an Apprenticeship. It’s time to seek out an apprenticeship, which will gradually round out your skills and have you performing the tasks of a licensed electrician. You’ll be paid for your time and trained by either a master or journeyman electrician.
This phase takes about four years to complete, with 2000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom lessons required to finish.
In terms of where to look, The U.S. Department of Labor offers a search tool to find apprenticeships close to you. You can also try searching online and contacting these organizations:
- Obtain an Electrician License. Most states require electricians to be licensed and you’ll have to contact local officials in your district to find how and where you need to apply.
Applicants must pass an exam to show an understanding of:
- The National Electrical Code
- Basic electrical concepts
- Electrical knowledge and theory
- Electrical safety
- Local laws and building codes
Once you pass your exam, you’ll be a fully-certified journeyman electrician.
What is a Master Electrician?
Master Electrician is the most coveted title an electrician can have, but it doesn’t come easy. So, how long does it take to be an electrician?
You’ll first need to pass your apprenticeship and become a journeyman electrician. 12,000 hours of on-the-job experience are needed before progressing to the master electrician exam, where you’ll need to prove your knowledge of specialized electrical codes and advanced procedures.
Master electricians are able to become contractors, start their own companies, and hire other electricians to work for them.
Use the following section as a quick reference guide:
How long does it take to become a journeyman electrician?
It takes about 5-6 years to become a fully-certified (journeyman) electrician.
How much does it cost to become an electrician?
The total cost varies significantly, as college/trade school courses run anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000. Consider financial aid to help cover academic costs.
You may also have to pay a small yearly apprenticeship fee, but sometimes the cost is covered by your employer. Not to mention you’ll be earning a decent wage, making this fee minimal.
How long is electrician school?
Schooling for electricians can be done through a college or trade school. Certificate programs can be completed in a year or less, while an associate’s degree will take about 2 years.
How long is an electrician apprenticeship?
The bulk of your training will be done during your apprenticeship, which can take around 4 years to finish.
What if I want to become a commercial electrician?
Electrical schooling typically covers both residential and commercial concepts, but you’ll want to look for someone who works specifically on commercial jobs to do your apprenticeship with.
Commercial electricians use different power supplies than residential electricians, so this is an important step which starts at the apprentice level.
What if I want to become an industrial electrician?
If you’d like to become an industrial electrician, look for an industrial-specific program. Not all schools offer this, so your options may be limited.
You’ll also need to learn from an experienced industrial electrician when you’re ready to start your apprenticeship before you become a licensed electrician.
Finding Work as a New Electrician
If you’ve recently finished an apprenticeship and are struggling to find work, consider applying to a staffing agency. The work may only be temporary, but it’s a great way to gain experience and get your foot in the door.
Elite Force is America’s premier construction staffing company, with a hyper-focus on placing electricians and skilled trades workers in the commercial and industrial space. When it comes to your future, it’s important to place your trust in a staffing company that has the network, expertise, and decades of experience to find you work as an electrician.