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Apprenticeships allow you to earn a living while you learn a trade. This makes them ideal for people who don't have the money to pay for school. While you will still be required to take classroom instruction, most of the time is spent on the job, making this an attractive career path for those who aren't academic types. What you earn during the training period varies widely from one apprenticeship program to another. There are some general guidelines, however.
There are costs associated with becoming an apprentice. Again, differences exist between what you will have to pay for in certain programs. Some require an application fee, while others do not. Some programs require you to pay for basic hand tools and textbooks, while others do not. Any program will require you to pay for your own transportation costs, and apprentices frequently have to go to job sites far from their homes. Lodging is generally not reimbursed for apprentices.
Apprentice wages are factored as a function of the journeyman wages -- wages earned by the bulk of union membership who have completed their apprenticeship. Apprentices often earn less than half what their journeyman counterparts receive to start. However, wages increase regularly as the apprentice completes her training. These increases are based on the number of hours worked, not the mastery of a particular skill or the completion of a special class.
Benefits allotted to apprentices vary from union to union and local to local. Some apprenticeship programs allow you to receive fringe benefits your first day on the job. Other apprenticeships offer benefits only after you have completed a probationary period. Still others do not offer benefits to apprentices at all or have a special set of benefits separate from journeymen for apprentices.
Another factor used to calculate your wages is what trade you enter. Even within a specific union there are different trades that are paid at different rates. For example, in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, trades such as truck drivers, outside linemen and inside wiremen, all pay different wages. You will earn the percentage of the wage journeymen in your trade receive consummate with the amount of on-the-job experience you have.