What Does It Take to Become an Electrician? The Education and Certification Process

electricianeducationBeing an electrician can offer a hands-on occupation with good wages and a high level of job security. Licensed electricians, known in the industry as journeymen electricians, can take on most electrical projects and may decide to work for a company or to be self-employed.

Becoming a journeyman electrician can take anywhere from two to seven years. In this blog, we list the steps required or recommended in becoming an electrician.

High School Diploma or Equivalent

The minimum level of education required to become an electrician is a high school diploma or equivalency degree, like the General Education Diploma (GED). This educational step is important on the journey to becoming an electrician because the high school curriculum covers the basic principles used on the job.

If you’re still in high school, choose courses that will better prepare you for your future vocational program and apprenticeship. Focus on the following:

  • Math fundamentals. In most states, you must take and pass at least one year of high school algebra to become an electrician. You may need to earn at least a “C” in your algebra class to qualify. Learn more about math requirements in our previous blog, “Practical Application: 3 Ways Electricians Use Math on the Job.”
  • Physical science. You must have an understanding of physics, particularly the physics of electrical currents, to work as an electrician. High school physics courses can provide the theoretical and mathematical foundation for your future education.
  • Practical courses. If your school offers practical courses like electronics, automotive mechanics, or woodshop, sign up. Even practical courses that don’t necessarily contribute directly to your electronics knowledge, like woodshop, can help you become confident working with your hands.

In addition to obtaining your diploma, you will need to reach the age of 18 before you can take the next step toward becoming an electrician.

Vocational Program

After you receive your high school diploma or GED, in most states you have the option to seek out an apprenticeship directly or to start a vocational program. Most professionals recommend starting with a reputable electrical training course or with an apprenticeship program that combines classroom and jobsite experience.

Not only is it easier to qualify for a school than for an apprenticeship without prior experience, but a school also teaches you the practical knowledge you’ll need every day on the job. Vocational school can also help you get a better apprenticeship afterward.

During vocational training, you learn the theories, calculations, skills, and information you’ll use when working as an electrician. Most courses include units on electricity basics, technical math, relevant skilled labor tasks, and the national and local electrical codes.

Once you complete your training, your vocational school can connect you to local electricians who work in your chosen sector who are willing to take on apprentices. Your vocational training may even include courses on applying and interviewing for jobs so that you’re adequately prepared for your employment future.

Apprenticeship

As an apprentice, you’ll work with one or more journeymen electricians on real jobsites. You’ll learn and practice electrician skills directly from these professionals.

Your state may have a requirement for the length of time you must work as an apprentice before you can become a journeyman electrician yourself. In most cases, this time frame ranges from two to seven years.

If you choose to pursue an apprenticeship with a professional electrician without a vocational training program, you may be required to take a course on the National Electrical Code (NEC) and on relevant state codes.

License

Once you have completed all your training and apprenticeship requirements, you can test to get your state license. The licensing process typically requires:

  • Proof of your apprenticeship completion
  • Proof that you have the required amount of experience in the electrical trade
  • Relevant fees
  • Test scores that demonstrate a knowledge of the NEC and of state building codes

You may need to submit an application with your fees and proof of work experience before you can schedule a testing date.

Once you pass your exam, you will receive a state license and be able to officially begin work as a journeyman electrician.

Ongoing Code Training

In addition to your initial education, you will likely need to return to the classroom periodically for a refresher on relevant electrical codes. These training courses are required annually at the most but are generally required every few years.

You may want to study the code on your own time, especially if you frequently work on projects with innovative new electrical work. This ongoing training is particularly important for today’s electrician because changes in personal and residential electronics have changed the way buildings are wired.

Ready to begin your journey toward a career as an electrician? Talk to electricians and educators to find out more about the reputable opportunities for training, education, apprenticeship, and certification in your area.