Without electricity, the life you know would not exist. Electricity is an essential facet in many aspects of daily life, and economists are urging young people to learn a trade. Before considering how to become an electrician, it’s important to know why the vocation is necessary and important. Electricians install, maintain and repair lighting, electrical power, communications and control systems in factories, business and homes. They install distribution and transmission lines, troubleshoot power problems, and keep factories running. Because of booming construction, advances in alternative power generation and the large number of “baby boomers” retiring, employment in the field will grow by 14 percent by 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate is faster than construction trade workers and twice as fast as all occupations combined.
Why Millennials Should Pursue a Trade Career
The expectation of many high school students is to pursue a college degree upon graduation. However, economists advise that this is not the only educational and vocational path available. The reality is that there are millions of jobs in trade careers and some pay better than a college graduate’s average salary. In 2015, electricians earned a median wage of $51,880 per year. This is about $10,000 more than construction trade workers and $15,000 more than all occupations combined. The pay for electrical apprentices is 40 to 50 percent of what trained, licensed electricians earn.
The cost of a college education is about $24,000 per year at a public college and $50,000 at a private institution. The cost of training to be an electrician varies by the path you choose. A two-year degree or technical certification in electricity can cost just over $1,000 per year, depending on the school you choose. It is important to note that becoming an electrical engineer will cost more in educational expenses than earning a technical certification because the profession requires a four-year degree.
Many four- or five-year apprenticeship programs offer paid training. This means that an employer pays you to learn. In an apprenticeship program, you complete 144 hours of technical training annually and 2,000 hours of paid training while on the job. Many power companies and unions offer apprenticeship programs.
The need for electricians will never cease. The current demand for electricians is high and there are plenty of jobs in this field now. Electricians in factory settings tend to experience the most stability. However, those who specialize in niche areas, such as solar photovoltaic installations or system repairs, will have access to some of the best employment opportunities.
How to Become an Electrician
After passing the initial criteria—such as being at least 18 years old, passing drug screens and having a high school diploma or equivalent—you enter a training program at a college or an apprenticeship program. The programs offer extensive classroom and hands-on training that prepare you for the state’s licensing exam, which has questions about state and local electrical codes, as well as the National Electrical Code. The best programs offer training with the top digital software platforms, like 360e, as more electricians are using the apps in their own firms to boost business and save money. Each state has different requirements regarding the licensing of electricians, which the National Electrical Contractors Association outlines on its site.
After completing a training or apprenticeship program, you will be a journey worker who may be able to complete some duties without supervision. Depending on your state, you may need to become a master electrician to perform work independently.
Electricians work in a diverse field that offers an abundance of vocational opportunities. Get in touch with your local utility company or trade union to learn more about how to become an electrician and get connected to the resources you need to begin a fulfilling career.