In this guide from Same Day Pros, you’ll learn everything you need to know about becoming an electrician, and what exactly you are paying for when you opt for the licensed and experienced professional over the general handyman.
Why Become an Electrician?
Understanding why your electrician chose the field can be an important factor for you when deciding which electrician to use for your home or business electricity needs.
People become electricians for many reasons. Often, it’s the draw of a career that contains a lot of variation and technical, in-depth knowledge. For others, it’s the salary and the job security. (1) In either case, an electrician is a respectable skill that never goes out of style.
Since electricity problems often require a licensed professional to fix, unscrupulous contractors can prey on a homeowner’s lack of knowledge.
For some people, they get into electric work because it’s what pays well. Others get into the field because it’s what their family has always done, or what they are interested in and passionate about. Becoming an electrician gets an engineer’s mind thinking through problems creatively while allowing them to work hands-on with problems, providing a balanced work life that never gets old.
Residential and commercial clients alike have a variety of problems and needs that an electrician must work on. Whether the present wiring needs to be re-done, or if new wiring needs to be connected to a circuit, there is always a puzzle for the electrician to solve.
Requirements to Become an Electrician
An electrician is given a long list of requirements before they are allowed to become licensed and begin legally practicing any kind of electrical work.
For an electrician to become a journeyman electrician in Massachusetts, for example, they must complete 600 hours of approved coursework into the state, as well as 8,000 trade work experience.
This is typically done in a specialized technical school or official apprenticeship program which the electrician can enroll in once they decide on their field. The coursework alone typically takes four years of classes to complete.
Fortunately, electricians are always in demand, and there is even an increased demand for the role in major tech areas and large cities where the demands for updating wiring and new technologies are the greatest.
Once an electrician earns their journeyman license, they may then begin working on their master electrician certificate, which is just as rigorous to obtain and requires more on-the-job experience. Once they have obtained their masters license, it is common for an electrician to either specialize in a specific type of electrical work or start their own business and begin employing other electricians who can help them keep up with the client demand of the area.
What are the Different Types of Electrical Licenses?
No matter the problem, it’s important to hire the right contractor for the job. For many homeowners, DIY is an acceptable option until it comes to electrical work, which is always best handled by the experienced professionals. (2)
There are quite a few different types of electrical licenses that an electrician can obtain. The first two are the main, most basic licenses available to electricians. That is the journeyman license and the masters license, both of which are difficult to receive and require a mixture of both coursework and on-the-job training to ensure the electrician knows what they are doing.
Before the electrician can obtain their journeyman license, they are considered an apprentice and must always be supervised by a licensed electrician when on the job. This type of arrangement is typically made through a trades school or official apprenticeship program.
Electrical problems can vary greatly, ranging from quick fixes, such as, replacing switches to more complex repairs like a whole home rewiring.
Once the electrician has obtained their masters license, they can then specialize in a more niche type of electrical work, such as systems contracting, fire warning electrician, security systems electrician work, and much more.
These specialty licenses require the electrician to have a masters license as a pre-requisite but can help them specialize further in a field that they find interesting. Electricians can obtain as many specialty licenses as they wish and can hold them only if they are valid.
How to Get an Electrical License
Getting an electrical license is easy on paper, and some states don’t require a license to practice at all.
First, the aspiring electrician must enroll in a certified trades school that has an electrician’s apprenticeship program. Once they have found a mentor to apprentice them on-the-job, they will begin fulfilling their work hours quota for the next four years.
Additional coursework may also be required, such as classroom-oriented quizzes, testing, and curriculum to ensure that the electrician-to-be is ready for the graduating test.
Once the coursework and necessary hands-on training has been completed, they must pass a state-issued test to prove that they have learned sufficiently enough in the program to graduate to a journeyman.
From journeyman, to master, to specialist, a new electrician is born into the field with plenty of their career ahead of them.
How Often Do Electricians’ Licenses Need to Be Renewed?
In states with licensing requirements, it might not be clear how often and whether electricians need to renew their licenses. Again, the regulations vary between states, so it is always important to check state boards for the most up-to-date and proper information.
In many states, however, an electrician’s license doesn’t need to be renewed very often, only every three or four years depending on how quickly new codes and regulations come out.
If new housing or commercial regulations come out, there may be additional curriculum available that the state may push, but whether it is required is on a case-by-case basis.
Which States Require Electricians to Be Licensed?
It is important to consider the state that the electrician will be doing business in. In most states, they operate on the basis of where their client is located; so a New Jersey electrician might not be able to service someone in New York if the licenses are not valid in that state, even if its just a short drive for them.
Depending on the state, the requirements to obtain a license can vary greatly, and not all states will recognize out-of-state licenses for this reason. If an electrician were to move their business to another state, they may be required to fulfill additional work hours or take a new state test to ensure that they meet the new state’s requirements.
Additionally, some states like Alabama or Indiana have no licensing requirements, meaning the electrician does not need to obtain a license to practice.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Electrician?
Electricians are one of the most undervalued technicians today, helping the world keep technology and innovation going at a fast pace. (3) This level of expertise, however, comes only in time.
Electricians offer a vital skill set that is necessary for modern life to function efficiently. The technical knowledge required and risk involved with this profession make extensive training and strict qualifications necessary.
Aspiring electricians may find that their dreams are a few years away. For many people, a journeyman electricians license takes a minimum of four years to obtain, with some states requiring 8,000 on-the-job hours completed before they can take the test.
Even though it is one of the more basic licenses you can obtain, acquiring a journeyman license requires a lot of in-depth training and knowledge. Becoming an electrician is a serious matter as it can directly affect the safety of others in a commercial or residential environment.
At a rigorous pace, an apprentice electrician can obtain their journeyman license and begin work as a journeyman electrician within four years.
This requires a mixture of approved coursework, several thousand hours of on-the-job experience under the watchful eye of their mentor, and a final test to ensure that they are ready even after all the instruction they have received.
A master electrician has truly dedicated themselves to their trade and has no regrets in the field that they have chosen. Once an electrician has obtained their masters license, they are also fit to take on an apprentice of their own or start and operate their own business independently.
In most cases, becoming a master electrician requires more approved coursework, as well as on the job experience as a journeyman electrician. Once those hours have been fulfilled and the coursework is complete, the state will provide another test to ensure that the electrician is ready to become a master in their field.
After obtaining the status of master electrician, the only greater licensing option is to specialize in a niche field. While this is not required, it can help with employment bonuses and marketing for self-employed electricians.
Specializing in a certain field can help the electrician learn about the technical requirements of a field in greater depth, allowing them to take on more complex projects or acquire larger government and industrial contracts.
Often, electricians choose to either specialize in residential or commercial electrical work, but there is special training available for a wide range of electrical systems that can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete individually.
Becoming an Electrician for Commercial VS Residential Buildings
At a certain point, an electrician must make a decision to specialize in commercial or residential electricity work. Some opt to do the additional coursework and licensing to ensure that they can work on both, but this is a lot of time and training hours for little additional benefit.
The choice primarily relies on what the electrician finds to be meaningful at the end of the day, as both fields are popular and profitable.
While the commercial electricity work is often more difficult and hazardous, it can be fulfilling to help fix industrial problems and ensure that businesses are running at peak efficiency based on their needs.
Likewise, residential work has its own niche, where the electrician can see families secured from fire hazards or helping update wiring for a new home renovation that will change someone’s life.
Residential jobs are often small in both demand and profit, but there are more of them to go around, whereas commercial jobs are larger but harder to come by.
For many electricians, it even depends on the where they get hired as they will use that opportunity in the market to inform their career trajectory. For some people, they may get hired at a large electrical firm where they have the chance to try out one field or another under the watchful eye of a master electrician before committing to it full-time. Others find an opportunity at an industrial plant that pays well with plenty of benefits and pursue specialization for additional incentives with the company.
Is Being an Electrician Hard on Your Body?
Yes, being an electrician is often hard on the body. Contrary to what many people may think, however, it’s not the long hours or exposure to electrical hazards that affects the workers bodies the most.
Instead, it’s the potential for accidents and injuries such as falling off ladders, mis-stepping when walking over rocky terrain, and enduring hours of sun and heat exposure during difficult outdoors jobs.
In commercial or industrial electrical work, another challenge that can be hard on an electrician’s body is the exposure to hazardous materials and substances that might be in production or used in manufacturing. No matter what the jobsite brings, electricians have a job to do.
While a lot of people who get into the field love what they do, the conditions that you do the job in can be difficult. Like many jobs that are physically demanding, there is little recourse when you are out of commission and unable to do the work, no matter how technically skilled you are. This is the main danger that electricians face is the inability to work after an accident, after years of training and hard work to get to the level of skill and professional achievement that they have obtained.
Are Electrician Happy?
While the level of happiness will vary from individual to individual, many electricians are happy with their choice of career, if not their job. A recent survey from mid-2022 recently reported that an astonishing 77% of electricians surveyed reported being happy and satisfied with their careers.
With one of the highest job satisfaction rates of most careers in the United States, it’s no wonder that more electricians aren’t joining the field, especially with an ever-increasingly technological world that has a constant demand for electrical repair and updating.
Furthermore, the job security that an electrician has plays an important role in this happiness. Even in times of low demand, electricians always have another place they can apply to if they are unhappy with company-specific policies or environments.
This type of flexibility is not common in many other job marketplaces. Because of the rising demand, it is expected that the job satisfaction and pay rates for electricians will rise as well, unless a significant amount of new electricians join the industry to compensate for the gap in demand.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like for an Electrician?
The typical day of an electrician varies based on the specialty they might have and the type of company they work for, or if they own their own company.
Still, the average electrician that works within a company will have a schedule that looks familiar to many people. At the start of the day, which begins around 7 AM for many electricians, they clock in after breakfast. Once clocked in, they will be able to review the day’s work as they put on their protective equipment and gather any necessary tools they will need.
Wherever they are stationed that day, they will have a list of tasks that must be completed before the day is out at around 3 or 4 PM; a lunch break is typically included somewhere in this timeframe to allow them to rest and have a bite to eat.
Depending on the day and job, an electrician might visit multiple residential buildings for quick fixes throughout the day, or they may be assigned to a single job site for more extensive electrical work.
Likewise, on larger renovations and commercial projects, multiple electricians may be employed or contracted for the job. Some electricians may oversee repairing or dismantling old electrical installations, while others might oversee installing brand new circuits and electrical systems.
Once the electrician is finished with their work for the day, a supervisor or foreman must review the work and ensure that the project is progressing according to plan. If there is a problem or defect in the work, they will need to stay late to fix the issue before clocking out.
What are the Dangers of Being an Electrician?
Contrary to what many people may believe, being an electrician isn’t always a walk in the park – there are a lot of hazards on the job that they must contend with. Electricians must be able-bodied and be able to fit themselves safely into tight spaces, balance on ladders, and work in various outdoor conditions that can be hazardous to their health.
Some electricians must crawl into crawlspaces, attics, or fit themselves into small openings within walls, which makes it a nightmare for individuals with claustrophobia. Any wildlife lying in wait such as venomous spiders and snakes are also common hazards that electricians must face as they open up dusty crawlspaces or work in outdoor corners that are rarely ventured into.
Being an electrician is hard on the body. Not only are these conditions that you must work in almost every day, but it can be difficult to plan for an accident.
No one means to fall from a ladder or get shocked by a mishap with wiring, but electricians are at the forefront of it all. They are also more likely to be exposed to toxic materials or have to work in hazardous conditions when a building is in the middle of construction or renovation.
Not to mention the primary risk involved in their job is their above-average exposure to electrical shock and other electricity-related hazards, especially when handling high-voltage industrial or commercial electricity needs.
Being an electrician isn’t for everyone, but a lot of people who choose the field love their job, and that supersedes the dangers of being an electrician.
How Much Do Electricians Make a Year?
How much an electrician makes in a year depends on a few factors such as experience, skill level, location, and position.
On average, a journeyman electrician is going to make less than a master electrician because of the experience gap, however, even a journeyman electrician can make anywhere from $42,000 to $93,000 per year based on figures from Glass Door.
An electrician’s salary may also vary with the city and state’s average cost of living as well. States with lower cost of living will pay less than a state with a higher cost of living. Furthermore, the salary rate may change whether the electrician is working with a large company or not, and whether they specialize in commercial or residential electricity work, as these have big changes in the types of jobs they will be expected to perform, as well as the budget their average client is working with.
Electricians are in one of the most necessary and secure job roles in the country, as there is always a need for an electrician’s skills no matter if it’s a new construction, a remodel, or routine repairs.
Need to Hire an Electrician? We Can Help.
As we have learned in this article, becoming an electrician is no laughing matter. Electricians are highly skilled individuals who go through years of training to ensure they can do the job correctly without any flaws in their work, because simple mistakes can become a big problem.
The right type of wiring is important, they must be able to envision the usages for each circuit and must be able to route everything to the proper area within the home safely and out of sight or reach.
Calling the local handyman might be easier, but it’s important to get the job done right so that there are no future fire hazards or safety risks in the building.
Next time you are looking for a professional, certified electrician to help you with something on your home or business, whether it’s an electrical emergency or a remodeling project, search using Same Day Pros.
On our platform, you’ll find electricians near you who are available to take on new projects, both commercial and residential.
- HuffPost, Home Electrical Upgrades and Costs, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/home-electrical-upgrades_b_12959748
- Forbes, How to Find the Best Electricians Near You, https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/home/best-electrician-near-me/
- Indeed, How to Become an Electrician, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-become-an-electrician