How to Get an Electrician Apprenticeship
The route to become an electrician most commonly starts with an electrician apprenticeship. Every state has its own guidelines and laws for the training and licensing of electricians. If you are considering becoming an electrician, make sure you know what your state requires. Generally, you can expect to go through some kind of apprenticeship to start your career in electrical work. There may also be a requirement for classroom learning, but the hands-on guided training as an apprentice is an essential part of learning how to do this work safely and effectively.
Electrician Apprenticeship Program Admission Requirements
Electrical apprenticeship positions can be highly competitive, and you will want to ensure you have the qualifications to stand out prior to applying. First of all, applicants for apprenticeship need to show a willingness to work and should be 18 years of age or older. You will also need to establish a basic aptitude for the trade and may need to take an exam to prove it. Apprentices often need to travel to job site locations, so a valid driver’s license is preferred. In addition, a high school diploma or equivalent is a required prerequisite.
In some cases, you can increase your potential to become an apprentice by acquiring training at a local trade school or community college. These programs may even match students with an apprenticeship position as a part of the program itself or upon graduation. If an apprenticeship is a part of the training, you may be able to continue with the same company once you have graduated, if you have shown an ability to learn and provide appropriate assistance on the job site. It should also be noted that even if the program you are considering does not include an apprenticeship, having knowledge of the trade before applying will accelerate your options.
How an Electrical Apprenticeship Works
An apprenticeship is a kind of training used in several types of careers, including electrical work. There are many skills, as well as foundational knowledge, that you need in order to do this job. Because there are potentially dangerous consequences of not being prepared to do electrical work, being taught in a hands-on way by experts is the best way to learn how to be an electrician.
To become an electrical apprentice, you will need to either apply to a union or non-union apprentice program or find a master electrician willing to hire you for training. Applying to a program is the most popular way to access and complete an apprenticeship. Most programs last four to five years, but you will be earning a salary while you train and learn. Electrician apprenticeship programs include full-time work and training as well as several hours per week of classroom learning.
Authorized Duties of an Electrical Apprentice
So, what types of tasks should an electrical apprentice expect to perform on the job? Because an apprenticeship is four to five years of continuous learning, you should expect your job duties to evolve. A good apprentice should expect to gain more and more responsibility as their training progresses.
As you begin working as an apprentice, you will be learning the basics of the trade and, as such, may spend a good portion of the day hauling equipment and fetching tools while you assist a master electrician or journeyperson on the job. Each job will be an opportunity to gain new skills, which you will eventually be able to perform more independently once you have shown an appropriate level of competence. As your skills and knowledge base grows, your supervisors will assign you more tasks and allow you to learn more advanced skills.
As an apprentice, it is your responsibility to learn as quickly as possible to help the master or journeyperson complete the jobs for which they are being paid. It is essential to remember that you are being paid to provide assistance as you learn your trade. Therefore, you will need to be diligent in your studies and become proficient with the basics of the job. These include being competent with the tools of the trade, understanding the terminology that’s used, producing work that meets code, complying with company policy, providing a sufficient quantity of work and maintaining professionalism at all times.
The specific duties of an apprentice electrician can include:
- Assisting the master electrician or journeyperson in any task
- Installing circuits and conduits
- Installing electrical panels
- Reading blueprints and schematics
- Knowing and applying knowledge of local building codes
- Installing and repairing all parts of residential and commercial electrical systems including wiring, conduits, receptacles, switch boxes, lighting and any alternative electrical parts
- Testing electrical equipment, which will require knowledge of continuity, voltage, resistance and current
- Installing, repairing and replacing motors, transformers, AC/DC motors and drives, relays, starters, hydraulic electric controls and gas-electric controls
- Performing preventative maintenance of electrical systems
The above-listed duties can vary depending on where you become employed. For instance, some companies may specialize in residential construction, while others work primarily in commercial construction. In addition, companies may have specific niches in which they work, like solar power. If you are able to, you should choose an employer whose specialties will help you meet your career goals.
The Electrical Training Alliance, a collaboration between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association, sponsors local Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs). To find a union apprenticeship, you have to apply with a JATC. Most states have several of these, and once you complete a program you will become a union member, responsible for paying dues and benefitting from collective bargaining.
Electrical JATCs can be competitive, and the requirements for being accepted usually include a high school diploma or GED, a passing grade in algebra, a driver’s license and a passing score on a basic skills exam. Union apprenticeships usually include between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of job training and experience and 500 to 1,000 hours of classroom time.
If you are not interested in a union job, you can apply for a non-union electrical apprenticeship offered through a trade or professional organization: the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). There may be more variation in these programs, but generally they have similar admittance requirements, including a high school diploma, a passing score on a math and reading test, and a driver’s license. The hours spent training and working and in the classroom are similar to those for union apprenticeships.
Post-Secondary Electrician Programs
Many young people hoping to become electricians go straight from high school to an apprenticeship program, but there is an alternative: You can choose instead to complete a certificate or two-year degree program in electrical technology at a community or technical college. This can give you the foundational knowledge and help you decide if a career as an electrician is something you really want to pursue.
If you do want to go ahead with it, you’ll still need to find an apprenticeship. With a degree or certificate and your classroom learning done, it may be easier to find a master electrician to apprentice with, without going through a union, IEC or ABC program.
Electricians are in high demand right now and will continue to be for years to come. It takes a lot of skills to be able to do this job safely, which is why the apprenticeship process is so important. Before you take the step to secure one, make sure you understand what it entails and that you are ready to commit to the four to five years the apprenticeship will take to complete.