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Construction: Educational Requirements for the Electrician Trades

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an electrician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about apprenticeship programs, areas of training, and necessary job skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Electricians are skilled construction professionals who work with electrical wiring either indoors or outdoors. They typically get their training through paid apprenticeship programs linked to the electricians' union. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required, along with a driver's license and passing a physical examination.

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Essential Information

Electricians install, modify, inspect, repair and maintain indoor and outdoor electrical power and distribution systems. They generally receive their education as apprentices under union-sponsored programs that enable them to become fully practicing electrical journeymen.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Apprenticeship and state licensure
Projected Job Growth 14% from 2014-2024*
Median Annual Wage (2015) $51,880*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Electrical Technician Education Requirements

Each state sets its own regulations for construction workers and electricians. Typically, formal training is necessary and the only educational requirements relate to those outlined by a relevant apprenticeship program or trade school. Most states recognize the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) joint apprenticeship certificate program. It's dually linked to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). An applicant enters a NJATC program by meeting minimum qualifications that may include:

  • Being 18 years of age
  • Having high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Taking one year of high school algebra
  • Passing a physical examination, aptitude test and drug test
  • Possessing a driver's license

Areas of Training

The four areas sanctioned by the NJATC cover training for the positions of outside wireman, inside wireman, telecommunication video-data-voice (VDV) installer technician and residential wireman. The training regimens generally fit state certificate requirements for 8,000 hours, or five years, of on-the-job training combined with 400 to 800 hours of classroom instruction. Some of the specialty options, such as residential and telecommunication, may take less time.

Apprenticeship Compensation

Training usually originates from an IBEW facility. Apprentices spend most of their time working on the job with a supervising journeyman or electrical contractor. While being trained, they receive hourly pay based on a percentage of a journeyman's pay. The pay increases for every year of successful training. After completing their training, apprentices must usually past examinations on local or state electrical and construction codes, the National Electrical Code and electrical theory to receive state licenses.

Coursework for Electricians

NJATC candidates can satisfy classroom training by completing a certificate or associate degree program from a technical or trade school. These schools may offer state-sanctioned electrical construction programs that include sufficient on-the-job training to allow the successful student to enter a 6-24 month journeyman program. Coursework may cover:

  • Blueprint reading
  • AC theory and motor control
  • Programmable Logic Controllers
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration
  • Conduit bending
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Communication cabling
  • Safety and first aid courses
  • National Electrical Code
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification

Job Skills and Details

Electricians must be able to work with a wide variety of tools. These include needle-nose pliers, handsaws, wire tongs, wattmeters, optical time domain reflectometers, plumb bobs, coring machines, fiber optic fusion splicers, electric roto hammer drills, back hoes, trenchers and caterpillars. They should also have basic computer training.

The core training prepares electricians to work inside or outside under varied weather conditions. They prepare to scale telephone poles in inclement weather; they may also need to lay wires and data cables around and through residential walls or underground outside. IBEW tree trimmers and line clearance professionals use bucket trucks while emphasizing special safety skills from their Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee programs.

Salaries and Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for electricians was $51,880 in 2015. The BLS predicted 14% employment growth for all electricians from 2014 to 2024.

Electricians require a high school diploma or the equivalent, and usually receive training through an apprenticeship or training program. Certification is available that requires both classroom training and on-the-job experience. Electricians are trained to work in all weather conditions, operate tools and equipment and have basic computer knowledge.

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