Most electricians learn their trade through electrician apprenticeship programs. These apprentice programs combine on-the-job electrician training with in depth classroom instruction on the duties of an electrician. Electrician apprenticeship programs may be sponsored by joint training committees made up of local electrician unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and local union chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association; company management committees of individual electrical contracting companies; or local chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association. Because of the comprehensive training received during the electrician apprentice program, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both maintenance and construction work as electricians.
Those who apply for electrician apprenticeships must be at least 18 years old in most cases and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. Applicants should have good math and English skills, since most electrician instruction manuals are written in English. They also could have to pass a test and meet other requirements prior to acceptance. Electrician apprenticeship programs can last 4 years with each year including a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job electrician training. In the classroom, electrician apprentices learn electrical theory as well as methods of installing and maintaining electrical systems. Apprentices also take classes in mathematics, blueprint reading, electrical code rules, and electrical safety practices. Apprentice electricians also could receive specialized training in soldering, communications, alarm systems, and heavy equipment. During on-the-job training, electrical apprentices work under the supervision of experienced electricians. To start, they drill holes, set anchors, and attach conduit as well as performing other low level duties. Later, they measure, prepare, and install conduit, as well as install, connect, and test electrical wiring, outlets, and electrical switches. Apprentices also learn to lay out and draw circuit diagrams for entire electrical systems. To successfully complete the electrician apprenticeship program become electricians, apprentices must demonstrate mastery of the electrician’s tools and work practices.
Some applicants seeking how to become an electrician choose to obtain their electrician classroom training before seeking an apprentice electrician job. Training to become an electrician is offered by a number of technical schools and training academies in affiliation with local electrician unions and contractor organizations. Electrician employers often hire students who complete these electrician training programs and pass an electrician apprentice aptitude test and start them at a more advanced level than those without the electrician training. A few persons become electricians by first working as electrician helpers, assisting electricians by setting up job sites, gathering materials, and doing other non electrical work, before entering an apprentice electrician program.
Some of the skills needed to become an electrician apprentice include above average manual dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, physical fitness, and an excellent sense of balance. The ability to solve math problems quickly and accurately also is required by those seeking to become an electrician. Color vision is another factor that must be good because electricians frequently must identify electrical wires by color. Also, a good work history or military service is viewed favorably by electrician apprentice resume committees and electrician apprentice employers.
Most localities require electricians to be licensed. Although electrician licensing requirements vary from area to area, electricians usually must pass an location specific examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local electric and building codes. Continuing education is recommended for experienced electricians to keep informed of changes in the National Electrical Code and new materials or methods of electrical installation. For example, specialized classes on installing and maintaining low voltage video systems have recently become common as these systems have become more prevalent in voice and data applications.
Experienced electricians can advance to jobs as electrician supervisors. In construction they also may become project managers or construction superintendents. Electricians with sufficient capital and management skills may start their own contracting business, although this may require an electrical contractor’s license in many states. Some electricians also become electrical inspectors for city, county or state government. Electricians who become supervisors and contractors should be able to identify and estimate the correct type and amount of construction materials needed to complete a job, and accurately estimate how long a specific job will take to finish. This will allow an accurate cost estimate to be developed.
For electricians who seek to advance, it is becoming important to be able to communicate in both Spanish and English in order to provide instructions and electrical safety precautions to workers with limited understanding of English; Spanish speaking workers make up a large part of the construction workforce in many states.