From wiring a whole building to replacing wires and circuit breakers, the work of an electrician is crucial for construction projects—and an electrician license is required to get started. Read on to learn all about becoming an electrician in this step-by-step guide.
The Job of the Electrician
Electricians perform different tasks for both residential and commercial buildings, such as:
- Reading and working on the technical diagrams of a building’s electrical wiring
- Adding and connecting wires, circuit breakers, fuses and outlets
- Repairing and maintaining power generation and distribution systems
You’ll need to use specialized equipment and comply with building codes, and you’ll most likely be working with small components that have to be handled carefully. You’ll also need to operate in different and sometimes challenging settings, such as high or very narrow places. As maintenance may be necessary at any time of the day, you may work odd hours to address emergencies.
How Much Do Electricians Earn?
According to Payscale, the median hourly rate of an electrician is $22.40. Pay rates vary between $14.80 and $35.85 per hour, depending on the person’s experience, licensing, and location.
The total yearly pay for electricians can range from $31,000 to $82,000, including bonuses, commissions, and profit-sharing.
#1. Make Sure You Have the Right Education
The basic education necessary to become an electrician is a high school diploma or GED.
Then you can apply to an electrical trade school or vocational school to learn the basics about the trade.
The typical curriculum includes:
- Electrical Theory
- Electrical Engineering Basics
- Electrical Installations
You can choose a college or university program, or seek a training program at a vocational school. In either case, you will get the necessary foundation for advancing your career.
Some educational programs require both classroom instruction and an apprenticeship to get the certificate or degree.
#2. Find an Apprenticeship Program
An apprenticeship is essential for your professional development. You may need to pass an aptitude test and an interview to get accepted as someone’s apprentice.
An apprenticeship allows you to learn necessary skills in a hands-on environment. You’ll work with a master electrician or a licensed electrician who can teach you the practical side of the job. You’ll typically need two to four years of an apprenticeship to qualify for a license.
Some states require apprentices to get a license or register. The apprentice license is required in Maine and West Virginia. In Idaho, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and North Dakota, you’ll need to register as an electrical apprentice. The registration process is easier than licensing because you only need to declare with the relevant authorities that you’re working as an apprentice.
You can seek an apprenticeship through trade organizations. They can help you find a program or may run apprenticeships themselves. Some of the organizations you can check include:
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- National Electrical Contractors Association
- Independent Electrical Contractors Association
- Associated Builders and Contractors
#3. Find Out the Licensing Requirements in Your State
The licensing rules for electricians vary across the U.S. In most states, you’ll need an electrical license on the state level.
In some states, cities or municipalities require licensing. They include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania.
After you complete the necessary apprenticeship and work experience, you can get a journeyman license. Once you have worked a certain number of years as a journeyman, you can become a licensed master. License classifications are also different in each state.
Some states have additional types of licenses, such as residential electrical installer, commercial installation electrician, specialty electrician, residential electrician, residential journeyman, residential master electrician, and limited classifications.
The typical state license requirements include:
- Register business entity in your state
- Provide information about business owners and managers
- Show proof of completed apprenticeship program with sufficient practice hours and length
- Get general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance (if applicable)
- Get a surety bond
#4. Complete the State Exam
Most states require you to pass a trade exam to get a journeyman electrician license. You’ll have to prove you have apprenticeship experience to qualify for the exam.
There is no unified system for electrician licensing exams across the U.S. The exams are different in each state. Their content typically includes the National Electrical Code, and local electrical and building codes.
#5. Get Your Electrician License as a Journeyman
Once you pass the state exam, you can apply for your journeyman license, which will allow you to work on projects without the supervision of a master electrician.
You’ll have to meet all the requirements set by the licensing authority, which typically is a special state board of electricians. You’ll have to pay a license and/or application fee as well. Submit the completed application form together with all paperwork via mail or online to the electrical board.
Your license will be active for one or two years. If you wish to continue your operations, you’ll have to renew your license before the expiration date. You may need to get some hours of continuing education to keep your knowledge up to date.
#6. Become a Master Electrician
After some years of experience in the trade, your natural next step is to become a master electrician. Your role then is to handle complex projects, take part in the planning and design of systems, and teach and supervise apprentices.
In most states, you’ll have to get a new type of license—a master electrician license. You’ll need to pass an exam and meet the state criteria for master electricians.
Many states require a master electrician license if you want to open your own business.
Time Tracking and Payroll for Your Electrical Business
Electrical contractors juggle a ton of tasks, and this includes administrative work as well. Tracking the hours of employees and handling payroll are some of the major projects they take on.
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