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What is an Electrician?
An electrician is responsible for the installation and maintenance of wiring and lighting systems. Individuals in this field will identify problems and provide solutions for shorts, and wiring problems and other issues that may arise. Individuals should be able to read schematics and blueprints as well as maintain state standards regarding such systems. Though electricians primarily work alone, they may work with others during construction in order to devise special layouts or schematics per customer demand.
What Does an Electrician Do?
Electricians are a critical trade in our modern world as they repair, install, and maintain electric power in industries near and far. An electrician can work in disparate industries such as telecommunications, residential control system, commercial lighting, airplane factories, and clinical research labs. In fact, they can work indoors or outdoors across every sector imaginable across the United States. While the industries may vary along with the areas of specialization, a core set of job duties typically include:
- Maintaining a safe work environment
- Understanding and applying proper electrical codes for each situation
- Working with cross-functional teams to properly design and install electric systems
- Assembling, installing, and testing electrical equipment and appurtenances
- Installation of replacement or new electrical components
- Repairing and maintaining existing electrical infrastructures
- Inspecting existing electrical systems, components, and equipment to safeguard against hazards and ensure code compliance
- Mastering electrical systems associated with circuit breakers, j-boxes, and transformers
- Manipulating a variety of tools to repair electrical equipment or motors
- Understanding the basics of wiring, voltage, wattage, and fixtures
- Testing electric systems through the use of voltmeters, ohmmeters, and oscilloscopes
How to Find the Best Electrician School?
Finding the best electrician school requires the right tools. The ready-access to top electrician schools and the best electrician schools for you starts with knowing your priorities. Having performed an analysis of your strengths, proclivities, learning style, and schedule will help you narrow down your options. Using MatchCollege to help gather information from accredited schools is a wise choice as you get unbiased, comprehensive tools to help you get properly matched. In addition to prioritizing personal elements specific to you, consider the following set of questions to help find the right electrician school for you:
- Consider placing schools with an apprenticeship program at the top of your list. These schools provide you with the education and real-world experience needed for career minded, long-term employment opportunities.
- Balance your career aspirations with the program you select. In other words, choosing between a certificate program and an associate’s degree comes down to your career objectives.
- After performing your self-analysis, make sure to include any/all disciplines that interest you most. If you desire to become a marine electrician, engage schools that provide this area of specialty instead of a program for construction electricians.
- A certificate program that offers students the benefit of completion inside a year may be appealing but make sure not to sacrifice content if your area of specialty is outside the scope of a certificate program.
Certificate versus Associate’s Degree
As with most things in life, there are overt and covert tradeoffs with virtually everything. Some tradeoffs are consequential while others are less impactful. When considering if an electrician certificate program or associate’s degree make the most sense for you, consider the following aspects of each track as part of your research.
The electrician certificate programs consist of three primary types of tracks for students to consider pursuing. These certificate programs include a general certificate program, a specialized track, and an apprenticeship program. We will tackle each in succession to give you a better understanding of what is involved in each type of certificate alternative.
- General Electrician Certificate – The general certificate track provides students with a set of shorter courses in an effort to provide a broad overview of the field. These courses are specifically designed to ensure students have the foundational knowledge and active learning opportunities to step into an entry-level position as an electrician.
- Specialized Electrician Certificate – A specialized certificate provides a special set of skills and working knowledge not typically found in other programs. Growing demand from employers has helped redefine these specialized certificate programs as graduates were spending months getting up to speed and employers were investing substantial resources training students for a specific trade. Today, students pursuing a specialized certificate program can receive training for a technical craft within the electrical field such as data cabling, mechatronics, or process control implementation specialist.
- Electrician Apprenticeship – An apprenticeship certificate programs are designed to be completed inside two years’ time with the apprenticeship portion of the program lasting around 5 years. Much like other apprentice programs, graduates are paid to work alongside experienced electricians, known as journeyman, to gain proper experience in the field. A number of apprenticeships are administered by state agencies or local unions to help strengthen the pool of qualified candidates. In addition, a number of private companies hire and sponsor apprentices thus providing another means to help with the transition from student to working professional. It is worth noting that some certificate programs allow students to begin an apprenticeship program at a higher level so make sure to ask how this works during your admissions process.
Electrician Associate’s Degree
The associate degree track for a prospective electrician is designed for students looking for a more comprehensive set of academic exposure and training. Students pursuing an associate’s degree receive substantive classroom time plus a series of hands-on labs or workshops. By blending both learning modalities together, students receive trade-specific information by learning and doing. An associate’s degree is often a two-year program with an Associates of Applied Science (AAS) as the degree conferred.
Though not necessary to enter the field, electrician programs generally take two years to complete and are offered through community colleges or trade schools. Certified programs offer credit toward the four year apprenticeship necessary to become a licensed professional. Upon completion of an apprenticeship under a qualified electrician, individuals are considered journey workers capable of taking on tasks on their own. Licensure requirements will vary by state and should be researched by interested individuals.
A curriculum may include:
- Electrical Codes
How Do I Become a Master Electrician?
After you have successfully moved from an undergraduate program through the apprenticeship program and become a licensed journeyman electrician, the next rung in the ladder may be to earn a master electrician designation. The path to earning a designation for a master electrician varies by state and/or municipality so further research will be needed by contacting your local licensing board. Generally speaking, you will need to have four to seven years of work experience as a licensed journeyman electrician prior to taking the examination. That being said, there are states that allow electricians to bypass part of the field work with a bachelor’s degree in a related field like electrical engineering. Upon successful completion of the master electrician certificate examination, you will be qualified to participate in more advanced projects and potentially step into a managerial role.
Employment Opportunities and Job Growth
Individuals in this field will work in buildings and other locales requiring electrical and lighting systems to be put in place or maintained. Individuals with additional training and skills in alarm systems, soldering, communications or other specialties will be able to find consistent work. Overall job growth is expected to increase due to the high demand for wiring installation and the need for newer and more efficient systems to be placed or replaced, though opportunities may be limited based on region or area. Ten percent of employed electricians work independently and are able to set their own schedules rather than adhering to established full time positions. The median electrician pay is $52,720 annually which equates to $25.35 per hour. 14% growth through 2024 and adding 85,900 jobs during that time.
States Employing the Most Electricians
- California $60,620
- Texas $57,540
- New York $40,300
- Florida $35,080
- Ohio $22,650
Top 5 Best Paying States for an Electrician
- New York
- District of Columbia
Salary and Related Fields
Electricians earn approximately $48,000 annually, though experienced electricians can earn as high as $80,000 per year. Most electricians work full time, and may be required to work overtime, particularly on jobs requiring strict adherence to deadlines. Apprentices will typically earn between 30-50% less than licensed professionals during the years of their apprenticeship.
Individuals interested in becoming electricians may also be interested in a career as a lineworker, information technology, or electrical and power transmission installation.