How to Become an Electrician
A licensed electrician has the skills and experience to work on a wide range of electrical projects. They also help to keep homes, businesses and public buildings safe by repairing or replacing any electrical systems that may have broken down.
There are several routes to becoming an electrician, and it is important to do your research before making a final decision on which one will suit you best. For example, there are apprenticeships, trade schools or college courses that can lead to an electrician’s license and the opportunity to gain industry-recognised qualifications such as those from City & Guilds or EAL.
The fastest and most economical way to become an electrician is to enter an apprenticeship program that combines paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction. The program is typically four to five years in length and requires a high school diploma or equivalent for admission.
Alternatively, an associate degree can be earned from a technical college. This can take two years and provides an additional credential that will boost your job and earnings prospects.
Once you have completed your apprenticeship, most states require you to pass a licensing test to become a licensed journeyman electrician. The exam will cover your state’s specific requirements, and you should make sure to study for it thoroughly so that you can pass with confidence.
Most employers want certified electricians to ensure safety. The license will allow you to work as an electrician without direct supervision, although some states have restrictions on how many hours or years of verified work experience you need before you can be allowed to work independently.
Electricians are often called upon to install new systems and wiring in buildings that haven’t been updated for decades. This includes rewiring and replacing old systems that don’t meet the current standards, installing solar panels on roofs or replacing older electric appliances with energy-efficient ones.
As the climate change debate heats up, the demand for electricians is projected to increase. As Americans upgrade their heating, cooling and cooking systems to be powered by electricity, they’ll need technicians to wire their homes and add more solar panels or electric vehicle chargers to accommodate the increased power demands.
But despite this growing need, there are still obstacles that can get in the way of hiring and keeping technicians. In Berkeley, California, for instance, a shortage of technicians and an overbooked schedule has meant that Rith, the owner of a rental apartment complex, had to wait eight months before hiring a contractor to install electric-vehicle charging stations.
Another problem facing the Bay Area is that a surge in electrification is driving up the costs of maintaining and upgrading existing electrical systems. The price tag on this sort of project can run as high as $40,000 or more, according to Rewiring America, a nonprofit that works to electrify the nation’s buildings.
In addition to the cost of repairing or replacing an existing electrical system, the time it takes to complete the project can be expensive. That’s especially true in areas like Oakland, where the burgeoning movement to “electrify everything” has made it more difficult for residential electricians to find jobs.