How To Get Licensed as an Electrician

Electricians work with wiring systems, ensuring that equipment, lights, and computers run properly. Learn how to become a licensed electrician.
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Juliann Scholl, Ph.D., was a tenured professor at Texas Tech University for several years, where she taught undergraduates and graduate students and served as a graduate admissions director. She also worked as a social scientist for the CDC. Juliann ...
Updated on September 15, 2023
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Giselle M. Cancio is an editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on a variety of topics including subject-specific content, DEI, and career-related content. She previously worked in higher education, managing social media and digital communications...
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  • Electricians install, repair, maintain, and inspect wiring and other systems.
  • Becoming a licensed electrician requires several years of training and apprenticeship.
  • Most electricians work as contractors, while some work as supervisors or sole proprietors.
  • Electricians can get certifications in specializations like green energy.

Most people take electricity for granted, and they might not give much thought to the electricians who ensure that lights, computers, and appliances work correctly. As licensed professionals, electricians install, repair, and inspect wiring systems. These individuals also read wiring diagrams and blueprints and troubleshoot various electrical problems.

As of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that about 65% of electricians work as electrical or wiring contractors. Other professionals hold positions in government, employment services, and manufacturing. Some electricians work for themselves.

The BLS projects that jobs for electricians will grow 9% between 2020-2030, slightly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations. The increase in alternative power generation will drive some demand for electricians. However, job growth might depend on government policy and regulations about solar, wind, and other new power sources.

Before Licensure

Becoming a licensed electrician starts with earning a high school or GED diploma. A secondary school curriculum that includes algebra, English, physics, and shop drawing classes can help prepare aspiring electricians.

When learning how to become an electrician, individuals should take note of an electrician's typical work environment. The job may involve long-distance travel to many job sites, requiring reliable transportation. Many electricians also spend long hours kneeling, reaching overhead, and working in extreme temperatures. In addition, this career usually involves time in cramped spaces and exposure to fumes, dust, and dirt.

Step 1: Attend Trade School

Vocational training prepares people for earning an electrician license. Although not all jobs require it, aspiring electricians can enhance their earnings and expand their employment opportunities by attending trade school or enrolling in community college. Some trade school certificate programs require about four months. An associate degree can take up to two years.

Electrician training exposes students to electrical fundamentals, wiring diagrams and blueprints, and AC circuitry. Training also covers electrical motors and safety requirements. Students learn about the National Electrical Code. This code is the standard in all 50 states for proper and safe installation, handling, and repair of wiring systems.

Tuition varies widely by program length, location, and a school's public or private status. According to theNational Center for Education Statistics, training at a public two-year school cost an average of $3,800 in 2019-2020. Some trade school graduates can reduce their time in an apprenticeship but not wholly eliminate this requirement. Many schools offer online classes, which may reduce education costs.

Step 2: Apply for an Apprenticeship

An electrician apprenticeship provides the primary training to become a licensed professional. Learners must apply for apprenticeships, which they can find through the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). People can also find apprenticeship opportunities through Associated Builders and Contractors, Independent Electrical Contractors, and trade school programs.

Apprentices receive classroom instruction, onsite job training, and mentoring from master electricians. Depending on the specialization, most electrical apprenticeships take 3-5 years and include 6,000-10,000 hours. Individuals with relevant experience in construction or the military might reduce their apprenticeship time. After fulfilling their requirements, apprentices can apply for a journeyperson license.

Step 3: Look Up State Requirements

Electricians should research the state licensing requirements where they work. Most states require journeypersons to hold electrician licenses. States that do not typically mandate electrician licenses still require contractor licensure.

States vary in their requirements for journeyperson and master electrician licenses, and certification levels vary. Aspiring electricians should find out how many apprenticeship hours they need. States also differ in the number of training hours that individuals can apply toward their licensure.

Step 4: Study for the License

After completing their apprenticeships and state-mandated training hours, electricians often need to get a journeyperson license or certification. Licensing typically requires taking an exam that tests applicants' knowledge of the National Electric Code and other job aspects. The National Electrical Contractors Association lists state licensing and testing requirements.

Many states require license renewal, including continuing education involving electrical code changes, updated safety practices, and training on specific products. In addition to licensure, electricians can obtain a certification in a specialized area like green energy or lighting systems. Most electricians must also hold a driver's license.

People preparing for the electrician license exam should begin studying as soon as they schedule their testing date. Some individuals might not find the National Electrical Code easy to navigate or understand. Test-takers should spend time familiarizing themselves with each section and chapter to find an answer to each exam question quickly.

Step 5: Become an Electrician

After earning a journeyperson license, most electricians work for about two years. But they often become master electricians after 5-9 years of experience. After acquiring the necessary electrician skills and about 12,000 work hours, professionals can take a master electrical exam according to state or municipality requirements.

Master electricians supervise other workers, often serving as forepersons or taking on project management roles. They can also start their own business in most states.

Frequently Asked Questions About Electricians

What is the difference between a certified and licensed electrician?

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Working electricians hold state licenses to handle, inspect, install, and repair electrical and wiring systems. They also work with equipment like panels and industrial systems. While most states require licenses for electricians to work, some professionals seek certification to expand their job prospects.

With additional certification, state-licensed electricians can pursue more specialized career paths or work in specific industries. For example, electricians can earn certification in electrical safety compliance, green energy, cable splicing, or instrumentation.

How long does it take to become an electrician?

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The steps to becoming a licensed electrician usually take many years. The process typically includes two years of postsecondary training in a trade school or community college. After instruction, individuals spend 4-5 years in apprenticeship learning job-specific skills, benefitting from mentorship, and gaining supervised work experience. Each year of apprenticeship includes about 2,000 hours of paid work experience and technical instruction.

How much money does an electrician make?

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The BLS reports that electricians earned a median wage of $56,900 in 2020, surpassing the median pay of $41,950 for all occupations in the same year. Annual median salaries vary between $33,810-$98,720 depending on work experience, location, employer, and training. Licensed electricians working in government or manufacturing made a median pay of $64,490 and $61,510 in 2020, respectively.

Apprentices do not make as much as licensed professionals, but their salaries typically increase as they learn and apply more on-the-job skills. Many electricians employed by contractors work overtime, which supplements full-time pay.

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