People need electricity for just about every aspect of modern life, and electricians are the specialists that make it possible.
The cost to become an electrician varies according to the path you take, but it usually averages between $1,000 and $11,000.
An electrician uses basic and specialized tools to install and repair wiring. If you are interested in becoming an electrician, you can specialize in one of several areas. In a residential setting, you read and interpret blueprints. You need to know current state electrical codes and ensure they are met on the job. Your work on a commercial site is similar but on a larger scale, requiring advanced knowledge of cabling and circuit systems. As an industrial electrician, you work with large motors and computers that are designed to control automated processes. As a lineman for a power or communications company, you make installations and repairs, sometimes at great heights.
You need roughly four years to become a fully licensed journeyman electrician. There are three ways to get there:
- Take a job as an electrician's helper. You are paid while gaining experience, and it does not cost you anything to get started. The position could lead to an apprenticeship, although there are no guarantees.
- Apply for an apprenticeship through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or Association Building Contractors (ABC). You have to take an entrance exam, usually at a cost of around $50, and pass a drug test. You also need a personal interview. Union apprenticeships are competitive. Applicants are typically accepted once or twice a year, so check with your local branch for requirements and application deadlines.
- Enroll in a certificate or diploma program offered through a vocational school, community college or for-profit trade school. Electrician school length can be as short as several months or as long as two years for an associate degree. Electrician school costs vary by the institution and the length of the program. Higher electrician course fees do not necessarily mean you get a better job or make more money. You can pay anywhere from $3,000 at a community college to $20,000 or more for a private school. A certificate or degree is an asset in your job search, and you'll likely find it easier to get an apprenticeship with one.
An apprenticeship is four years of paid, on-the-job training plus additional coursework. Classes are offered through community colleges and local IBEW offices. To become a master electrician, you'll need to be on the job at least seven years or earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or a related field.
Electricians are licensed by the state where they work. To renew their licenses, electricians must be able to demonstrate active employment in the field for a period prior to renewal or successful completion of relevant coursework.
Depending on the jobs they do, electricians work in a variety of settings, including residential, commercial and industrial. They may be employed directly by a business or organization, or they may work for an electrical company or general contractor. Some electricians are self-employed. The work is physically demanding, requiring good eyesight and manual dexterity. Electricians work indoors and outdoors. They are at risk from injury due to shock, burns and falls. Although opportunities exist for women, they hold only 3 percent of the jobs in this male-dominated profession. Electricians who are self-employed set their own hours. Most electricians employed by others work full time.
Years of Experience and Salary
The median wage for an electrician is approximately $52,720 per year. The median wage is the figure at which half in the profession earn more, while half earn less. Pay varies widely according to geographic location, nature of employment and years of experience. The highest paid electricians make more than $90,000 per year. An apprentice usually makes between 30 and 50 percent less than a trained and licensed electrician.
Job Growth Trend
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for electricians will be at 9 percent through 2026, which is average growth compared to all other jobs.