How to Become an Electrician

To become an electrician requires a lot of training. An electrician's job is based on a service that is both in high demand and universal. Upward job mobility is common within this line of work and there are many growth opportunities as well.

Education and training

Electricians are required to serve paid apprenticeships for four years. Apprentices are usually required to have a high school diploma. The apprenticeships comprise on the job practical training and classroom work. The on the job training is conducted under the supervision of experienced electricians. This is a thorough progressive process, providing valuable experience at all stages of the apprenticeship. It starts with basic work, moving systematically through to more complex tasks step by step. Classroom work involves electrical theory. Apprentices are required to successfully complete all stages of training prior to qualification. This work includes:

  • Learning to read, write and use circuit diagrams, the "written language" of the electrician's trade.
  • Blueprint reading
  • Power systems
  • Electrical code (The electrical code is the rules governing the operations and installation of electrical equipment, devices, and wiring.)
  • Safety procedures (also involves practical training in first aid)
  • Diagnostics
  • Soldering
  • Communications
  • Systems (like fire alarm systems)

Licensing

In the US, electricians are licensed under state law. The requirements vary between states, but electricians must pass a written exam which tests their knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local electrical and building codes. Some states also require certification of master electricians. The usual requirement for certification is 7 years experience, and in some instances a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering or related degree.

Skills

Electricians, because of the nature of their work, require a range of personal skills and aptitudes:

  • Communications skills: Electricians need to be able to communicate issues and information effectively.
  • Attention to detail: Electrical systems may contain large amounts of information, and require careful attention.
  • Analytical skills: An electrician must be able to analyze issues and apply analyses to working situations. 
  • Organizational skills: Like their work, electricians use systematic approaches and organization for efficiency.
  • Problem solving: A lot of the electrician's work is fixing problems with wiring and power systems. 

Specializations

Many electricians develop high levels of skills in particular fields, and these specializations create a range of job and career options. In many cases advanced training and certification is involved in specialization. Areas of specialization include:

  • Power systems
  • Industrial systems
  • Motors and generator systems
  • Power grid systems
  • Mechanical systems
  • Advanced electrical systems like robotics, aerospace, and other high technology areas

There are no real limits to the options for electricians after qualification. Career options are available at all stages of an electrician's working life.