What Do Electricians Do?
Are you good at problem-solving and love working with your hands? Consider becoming an electrician. It’s a career that offers day-to-day variety, a good salary and room to grow.
Electricians install and repair wiring in all kinds of buildings, from homes to commercial buildings to industrial factories. (Most electricians choose a specialty.) They identify problems and test equipment, learning new skills as they go. In fact, the drive to learn new skills is a must-have quality in this line of work.
It’s a career with many stages and opportunities to earn while you learn. For example, in a typical five-year apprenticeship program, trainees receive around 2,000 hours of paid training each year. (We describe the process in more detail below.)
And did we mention there’s a need for electricians? Companies are actively looking for employees. It will take time to earn a journeyman license — four to five years — but that effort will reward you. Stay focused and your hard work will pay off!
Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare for this in-demand job.
- Install, maintain and repair wiring
- Troubleshoot electrical issues
- Plan electrical systems
- Inspect and maintain circuit breakers and transformers
- Translate circuit diagrams and blueprints
- Test systems
- Maintain safety and follow all laws and building codes
How To Become an Electrician: FAQs
What steps should I take to start this career?
First, you’ll need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent. If you are still in high school, take math classes (especially algebra and trigonometry), basic physics, shop classes and mechanical drawing classes, if available.
Start learning at a trade, vocational or technical school to learn electrical basics through classroom and hands-on training. You can often earn credits towards an apprenticeship. Some schools and states have formulas, such as one year of school equals 1,000 hours of on-the-job experience. In addition, some schools set up entry-level programs that are part of a journeyman track.
Next, find an electrician apprenticeship through a trade school, union or electrical contractor organization, such as the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Some states require apprentices to register before they start training.
Ex-military personnel or those with previous construction experience may qualify for fast-track apprenticeships.
Courses and training will cover reading blueprints, safety regulations, electrical safety, basic math (trigonometry), electrical power distribution, electrical components, tool and material management, grounding systems and problem-solving.
Get started and learn as you work.
After completing your training, you’ll need to pass the exams to get your electrician's license or certification. The requirements vary by state and city, but the exam will test your knowledge of local codes (building and electric), the National Electrical Code and electrical theory. Check out SkillPointe’s licensing tool to get an idea.
Once you've become a journeyman, you will be able to work independently.
Create job opportunities by continuing your training. After you gain two years of experience (in most states), you can pass an exam and become a licensed master electrician or an independent contractor.
A master electrician can train apprentices, lead a job and supervise teams. An independent contractor is a small business owner who has earned master electrician status or has one on staff. The owner hires individual electricians or teams of electricians for jobs.
Are there any qualifications to consider?
You’ll need a driver’s license to get to jobs easily. You may also need to take a drug test and meet specific physical requirements.
How long does it take to become an electrician?
The bulk of an electrician’s training is the apprenticeship, which typically takes four or five years. Licensing requirements range from 576 to 1,000 hours in the classroom and 8,000 to 10,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Because the requirements vary so widely, be sure to check your state and city requirements early in the process.
Is there a demand for electricians?
Yes, there’s always a demand for electricians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 79,900 job openings each year from 2021 to 2031. That works out to about 7% growth.
There are also new opportunities for electricians in emerging industries. For example, as clean energy jobs grow, so do jobs for electricians because they are needed to connect renewable energy sites to the grid.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful electricians tend to share these traits:
- Good communication and listening skills
- Basic math knowledge
- Able to handle heavy materials and tools
- Stamina and flexibility
- Not color blind (because wire colors matter!)
As we’ve spelled out, becoming an electrician takes several years of focused training, but once you’ve learned the trade, the sky’s the limit. Electricians use their hands and their minds at a job that offers new situations and problems to solve. You certainly won’t be bored, and you’ll always be learning. If this sounds like a good fit for you, check below for training opportunities near you.