How to Become an Electrician?

What Are the Different Types of Electricians? 

Let’s start with the basics: there is more than one type of electrician, and each type requires a different kind of training and licensing.

Electricians must obtain a license in nearly every state before working on electrical projects. However, some states, such as Arizona and New York, delegate licensing to county and city governments rather than having a state-level license.

The process of electrician licensing typically involves a progression based on education, experience, and passing exams. Most states have three main stages of licensing: apprentice, journeyman, and master:

Electrician Apprentice

Apprenticeships for becoming electricians generally involve both classroom instruction and significant on-the-job training. While only a few states mandate electrician apprentices to hold a license, there are prerequisites before candidates are considered for apprenticeships. Typically, candidates must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED, pass an aptitude test like the IBEW, and undergo an interview process. Once you obtain an apprentice license or are accepted into an apprentice program, you can perform limited duties under the supervision of a journeyman or master electrician.

Journeyman Electrician

A journeyman electrician is the basic level of an electrician. You receive this qualification after you finish your apprenticeship and obtain your electrician license. As a journeyman electrician, you can work independently but can't train apprentices, lead projects, or get permits for electrical work.

Master Electrician

After two years of experience as a journeyman electrician, you can apply to become a master electrician, although specific requirements vary by state.

Typically, to become a master electrician, you will need to pass a licensing exam. With this qualification, you gain the authority to lead projects, train apprentices, and manage teams. You can also become independent electrical contractors, run your own small businesses, and be required to carry a certain level of insurance.

Being a master electrician or having one on staff is necessary for electrical contractors. As a master electrician, you can choose to either generalize your skills or specialize in areas such as residential, commercial, or industrial electrical work –

  • Residential electrician specializes in installing, repairing, and maintaining wiring and electrical systems in homes and small apartment buildings.
  • Commercial electrician specializes in wiring and installing equipment in hospitals, warehouses, factories, and manufacturing plants, often dealing with high-voltage needs. You will be trained to tackle electrical issues unique to commercial buildings, which can differ from residential ones regarding power requirements. During your apprenticeship, you undergo specific training tailored to commercial settings.
  • Industrial electrician specializes in large facilities with extensive machinery and equipment, such as manufacturing plants, power plants, and chemical plants. These buildings have substantial electrical needs compared to residential and commercial properties. To become an industrial electrician, you will need to train under a licensed industrial electrician, either as an apprentice or a journeyman.
  • Low-voltage technician specializes in security systems, data networks, and telecommunication systems.
  • Linemen specialize in working on high-voltage transmission lines.

 How to Become an Electrician?

To become a licensed electrician, you will need to follow these steps:

Step 1 – Obtain a High School Diploma or Ged

Before embarking on the way to becoming an electrician, you will need to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent (GED). While hands-on skills are central to the job, there are key academic concepts vital to the profession.

Subjects like algebra and trigonometry are critical for calculating wiring lengths, current forces, and circuit angles. Basic physics knowledge is also necessary. Proficiency in English is essential for comprehending technical documents, and shop and mechanical drawing classes can aid in learning to design electrical systems. Therefore, it's advisable to have a foundation in math, science, and practical courses such as electronics.

Step 2 – Enroll in a Trade or Vocational-Technical School

While attending an electrician trade school or vocational-technical school isn't mandatory to become an electrician, it can provide valuable training and greatly assist in obtaining your certification and finding employment. Whether you choose a four-year university program in electrical technology or pursue a career diploma at a trade school, you'll gain comprehensive training in labs and classrooms.

This experience equips you with foundational tools and introduces you to basic electrical principles, giving you an advantage when seeking apprenticeships. Additionally, many states and licensing regions allow students to substitute some formal education hours for the on-the-job experience required for journeyman licensing. Typically, one year of education equals 1,000 hours of experience, with a maximum of two years or 2,000 hours. Some vocational-technical schools offer complete journeyman programs tailored to local licensing requirements, providing around 4,000 hours of on-the-job experience, approximately half of what's needed to become a licensed journeyman.

Step 3 –Apply for an Apprenticeship

Whether you choose trade school training or not, completing an apprenticeship is mandatory to becoming a licensed electrician. Apprenticeships can be found through various avenues: trade schools often offer apprenticeship programs and job placement services; unions like the Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees (JATC) place apprentices with local union employers and provide technical training. Joining a union apprenticeship requires membership in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); or non-union options such as the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), both offering apprenticeship placements with non-union electrical contractors.

Unlike careers requiring extensive schooling, electricians learn on the job during apprenticeships, immediately earning a wage. Apprenticeships typically last about four years, comprising 8,000 hours of hands-on and classroom learning, without incurring student loan debt.

Step 4 – Take an Aptitude Test

When applying to become an apprentice, you may need to undergo an aptitude assessment, like the IBEW test, to evaluate your reading comprehension and mathematics skills. Additionally, you will probably have to attend a job interview, undergo a drug test, and meet specific physical requirements.

What is the IBEW Aptitude Test?

IBEW and NECA, forming the NJATC (National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee), require you to pass the IBEW aptitude test (also known as the JATC test) to be accepted as an electrician.

The IBEW Aptitude Test is a timed multiple-choice test necessary for anyone aspiring to become an electrician apprentice. Administered by the Electrical Training Alliance in collaboration with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the test comprises two sections: math (including a small portion of mechanical reasoning) and reading comprehension.
You need a passing score of 4 out of 9 to proceed to the next stage, the IBEW interview.

Learn more about the IBEW test
IBEW Aptitude Test | IBEW Test Preparation | Free IBEW Practice Test | IBEW Study Guide |Trade Apprenticeship ExamNJATC Aptitude Test

 Step 5 – Sign up as an Apprentice Electrician

Before starting work as an electrician, research the registration requirements for electrical apprentices in your state. Some states mandate registration before working on job sites.

Step 6 – Complete Your Apprenticeship

Your apprenticeship serves as the cornerstone of your electrician training, combining classroom instruction with hands-on experience under the guidance of a master electrician.

Most states mandate at least four years of apprenticeship before you can take the exam and become an electrician. During your apprenticeship, you will learn various skills, including math, electrical codes, interpreting technical diagrams and blueprints, installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical wiring and equipment, and ensuring compliance with regulations and safety practices. You will also get additional training in soldering, communications, fire alarms, and elevators.

Throughout your apprenticeship, you will learn to conduct tests and inspections and ensure all work meets the National Electrical Code and state and local regulations. Licensure requirements for electricians typically include 576 to 1,000 hours of classroom time and 8,000 to 10,000 hours (approximately four to five years) of on-the-job training.

Step 7 – Obtain Your License

Licensing and certification requirements vary by state and even city, so make sure to research the qualifications needed for working in your area. If your area requires a license, you may also need to pass an electrical exam. This exam assesses your understanding of the National Electric Code, safety protocols, electrical concepts, and building codes. Additionally, you'll need to provide proof of completing your apprenticeship.

 How to Get Started as an Electrician? 

Once you have your electrician's license, you're ready to embark on your career. Here's a step-by-step guide to getting started:

  • Update Your Resume: Ensure your resume reflects your new license and any relevant experience or education.
  • Join a Union or Trade Association: Many electricians join unions or trade associations like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) or the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). These organizations provide training, job opportunities, and support.
  • Network: Reach out to fellow electricians, contractors, and construction companies. Networking can lead to job opportunities and valuable connections.
  • Apply for Jobs: Look for job openings with electrical contractors, construction companies, or maintenance departments. You can find job listings online, on social media, or through networking contacts.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Be ready to discuss your skills, experience, and qualifications in interviews. Highlight your license, apprenticeship, relevant training, and any hands-on experience you have.
  • Stay Updated: Keep up with changes in electrical codes, technology, and safety regulations. Continuing education courses can help you stay current in your field.
  • Consider Specializing: As you gain experience, you may want to specialize in specific areas, such as residential, commercial, or industrial electrical work. Specializing can lead to higher-paying jobs and more opportunities.
  • Get Licensed in Different Areas: Depending on where you live and work, you might need additional licenses for specific types of electrical work, such as HVAC wiring or alarm systems. Look into the requirements for your area and pursue any additional licenses you may need.


How to become a certified electrician?

To become a certified electrician:
Start by earning a high school diploma or GED.
Enroll in an electrician trade school or apprenticeship program to gain hands-on training.
After completing your training and apprenticeship, apply for your electrician's license.
Before starting work, you may need to pass an aptitude test, such as the IBEW test, which assesses math and reading comprehension skills.

Which course is best for electricians?

The best course for becoming an electrician depends on your career goals and the type of electrician you aspire to be. To become an electrician, you typically need to obtain a high school diploma or GED, enroll in a trade or vocational-technical school, complete an apprenticeship, pass an aptitude test like the IBEW test, and obtain a license. Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience and classroom instruction, teaching various skills under the guidance of a master electrician. Finally, getting licensed is crucial to demonstrate qualifications and ensure compliance with safety regulations.

What are the first steps to becoming an electrician?

The first step to becoming an electrician is understanding the different types of electricians and their training requirements. Typically, this involves progressing through three stages: apprentice, journeyman, and master. You'll need a high school diploma or GED, then enroll in a trade school or vocational program.

After that, you can apply for an apprenticeship involving on-the-job training and classroom instruction.

Some apprenticeships, like those offered by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), require passing an aptitude test. Once you complete your apprenticeship and gain enough experience, you can take the licensing exam to become a journeyman electrician and, with more experience, a master electrician. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so research the regulations in your area.

How long does it take to become an electrician?

Becoming an electrician is a time-consuming process that begins with getting a high school diploma or GED. Then, aspiring electricians usually enroll in a trade or vocational-technical school for foundational knowledge.

Following this, they secure a four-year apprenticeship to become journeyman electricians. After gaining experience, they can aim for a master electrician license, which takes about 5-9 years in total. Certificate programs last 4 months to a year, while associate programs take about 2 years.

Apprenticeships typically last 3-5 years, possibly shorter for those who attended trade school.

How to become an electrician apprentice?

To become an electrician's apprentice, you'll need to follow several steps:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED.
  2. Consider enrolling in a trade or vocational-technical school to gain foundational training in electrical principles, although it's not mandatory. Afterward, apply for an apprenticeship program, which typically lasts about four years and combines classroom instruction with hands-on training. Apprenticeships can be found through trade schools, unions like the IBEW, or non-union organizations such as the IEC or ABC.
  3. You may need to pass an aptitude test, like the IBEW test, to assess your reading comprehension and math skills.
  4. Sign up as an apprentice electrician and complete your apprenticeship, which includes gaining 8,000 to 10,000 hours of on-the-job training and passing any necessary licensing exams.
What is the most common type of electrician?

The most common type of electrician is the journeyman electrician. This qualification is achieved after completing an apprenticeship and obtaining an electrician license. Journeyman electricians can work independently but cannot train apprentices, lead projects, or obtain permits for electrical work.

What degree do most electricians have?

Electricians progress through different levels of licensing, starting as apprentices and advancing to journeymen and master electricians. These levels allow for increasing independence and responsibility, with each requiring passing exams and gaining specific experience. While most electricians don't pursue a college degree, the majority hold a high school diploma (32%), with only 30% earning an associate degree.

How Much Does an Electrician Make?

Electricians earn a median annual income of $56,900, with the lowest 10% making less than $33,810 and the highest 10% earning over $98,720, according to the BLS data from May 2020. They typically work full-time and may also work evenings and weekends. Around 65% of electricians are employed by electrical contractors and other wiring installation companies, while 9% are self-employed. With further experience and meeting additional requirements, electricians can advance to become master electricians or take on supervisory roles.

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