A minimal amount of formal education is needed to become an electrician. Most aspiring electricians learn the trade through an apprenticeship program. Aspiring electricians may also earn an associate degree in an electrician-related field. Hopeful electricians can get into the field by working with a licensed electrician as an assistant. Prospective electricians should also look into earning certification through one of the various electrical unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) or the National Electrician Contractor’s Association (NECA). This certification improves credibility and helps an electrician candidate stand out.
Aspiring electricians can earn an associate degree. This degree program prepares individuals to be technically skilled and knowledgeable in installing, operating, maintaining and repairing electric apparatuses. Electricians may work with residential, commercial and industrial electric-power wiring systems. Individuals also learn how to work with DC and AC motors, controls and electrical distribution panels. Students in an associate degree program also learn the principles of electrical systems and electronics, as well as safety, wiring and power transmissions. This degree will also teach students how to estimate a job, perform an electrical inspection, perform electrical testing, and work with both industrial and household appliances.
Prospective electricians may also earn certification through apprenticeships or other certification programs. This is a very common route for electricians to learn the necessary knowledge and earn credentials in the field. Both postsecondary degree programs and apprenticeships teach aspiring electricians about grounding, wiring, electrical building code, conduit installation, fire safety and how to read blueprints. Those who have earned degrees or certifications may work as electricians or maintenance electricians, or they may choose to work on installing and repairing electronics.
Most employers require prospective electrician employees to be licensed, the requirements for which vary by state. The criteria may include a specified number of hours working alongside a licensed electrician through an apprenticeship. Other requirements often include on-the-job experience and classroom instruction. An electricians’ union-sponsored apprenticeship program can provide a way to obtain an education and get paid while learning the trade, often over a period of four to five years.
An electrician’s salary varies depending on the number of years in the field. Apprentice-level electricians typically earn $24,000 to $30,000 per year, while entry-level electricians earn an average salary of $39,000, according to the Guide to Online Schools website. An experienced electrician can earn as much as $65,000. Job opportunities in this field are projected to grow about 12 percent through 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.