Electrician training blends theory and practice of electrical systems. People interested in this field may choose from several academic and career avenues. For example, electrician schools and apprenticeships both train students to become electricians. This page covers electrician certification programs, apprenticeships, and job outlook.
Electricians have important, specialized skills. They can expect strong job growth and high salaries. Electricians earn a median annual salary of $56,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much higher than the national median annual wage. The BLS projects fast job growth for electricians from 2019-2029.
Electricians earn above-average salaries. They also spend less time and money on training than many other professionals. Prospective electricians gain their skills through college, trade school, and apprenticeships. Electricians do not need a four-year college degree. Still, completing a college program may lead to increased career opportunities.
Many schools offer online degrees for students interested in pursuing a trade. Read on to learn about ways to become a licensed electrician. This page covers online electrician programs, how to choose the right one, and covers electrician job and salary outlook. There is also an interview with a real licensed electrician.
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How to Become an Electrician: Education and Training
Prospective electricians learn the trade through electrician trade school or college. They may also pursue paid apprenticeships. Electricians do not need a four-year degree. Still, electrician programs and schools can kickstart careers in the industry. Many colleges offer certificates or two-year associate degrees in electrical technology.
Electricians must complete apprenticeships before gaining licensure. Apprenticeships are prerequisite for many state licensing exams. College and trade school students may earn credits toward their apprenticeship. Some students can complete part of the apprenticeship while still in school.
- Electrician Trade School or College
Electrician trade schools and programs introduce students to the field. They also offer a path to more formal instruction in the trade. Electrical technology programs offer courses in safety practices, circuitry, and basic electrical information. Instruction also covers residential and construction electrical, electrical theory, and blueprint reading.
Electrician trade school programs offer technical certificates. They might also confer associate of science degrees in electrical technology. Associate students must take general education classes and electrical technology courses. Some learners may choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Electrical contractors must hold this degree. They may also complete seven years of work experience, on top of the experience required to become a master electrician.
Electrician trade school graduates usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship. This reduces the time it takes to become a licensed electrician. It also gives graduates a head start on their apprenticeship. Many trade school and community college programs also incorporate apprenticeships into their curricula.
- Electrician Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are critical to the process of becoming a licensed electrician. These experiences provide technical instruction and hands-on training for future electricians. To receive an electrician license from a state, county, or town, applicants must complete supervised training. Apprenticeships offer this training. Many college and trade school electrician programs include an apprenticeship component. Students in trade school or community college may earn credit toward their apprenticeship.
Prospective electricians who do not want to enroll in a college or technical school can start with an apprenticeship. Some start after working as an electrician's helper. But most begin their apprenticeship right away. Contractor associations, unions, and other groups sponsor electrician apprenticeships. Apprentices earn a wage. The wage is less than licensed electricians make. Still, apprentices receive free training and instruction from experienced electricians.
Electrician apprenticeships last 4-5 years. They include technical instruction and paid, hands-on field training. Apprentices learn about electrical theory, electrical code requirements, and blueprint reading. They also learn safety practices and mathematics through hands-on practice and supervised training. After completing their apprenticeship, electricians become journeyman workers. They can then start performing electrical work on their own.
School vs. Apprenticeship: Choosing an Electrician Training Program
Electrician schools and apprenticeships can both lead to an electrician career. Choosing an electrician training program is a personal decision. The right program for you might depend on what you hope to achieve. This choice may also hinge on your budget and whether you need a certain type of schedule. You should also consider your learning style and work history. Factor in your related experience and electrical knowledge as well.
- Electrician School
Electrical trade school or college is the first step for many aspiring electricians. Students take electrical technology courses to learn the craft from experienced teachers. Trade school offers a structured curriculum and classroom learning. It also comes with support from teachers and classmates. Tuition varies among schools and programs. Still, certificates cost much less than associate degrees.
Learners who attend school to become electricians also develop soft skills. These include communication, budgeting, and time management. Formal schooling also provides access to support services, like career development centers. These can help graduates find jobs and connect with potential employers. Most programs also offer flexible schedules. This allows students to work part time while in school.
- Electrician Apprenticeship Program
Future electricians can begin apprenticeships without ever going to school. One benefit of this is that apprentices earn money while receiving their training. Apprentices make low salaries, but they can still count on a consistent income. Students at technical schools and college must pay tuition to learn the trade.
Individuals who choose apprenticeship programs receive immediate hands-on training and real-world experience. They learn what it takes to become an electrician. Apprentices may also receive a job offer from their supervisor at the end of their training.
Students may still need to complete some type of apprenticeship or hands-on training. Electrician licenses have on-the-job training and professional experience requirements. Most college and technical school programs in electrical technology entail a partial apprenticeship. At other schools, students may earn credit toward their apprenticeship.
Both routes offer the right training and skills to become a licensed electrician.
Electrician Job and Salary Outlook
Becoming an electrician can lead to a comfortable salary without a four-year degree. In fact, electricians get paid while receiving their training through an apprenticeship program. Most people in other fields must pay a lot to learn their profession and qualify for jobs.
Licensed electricians make high salaries. They earn a median wage of $55,190 per year, according to the BLS. Construction and extraction workers make a median annual wage of $47,430. In comparison, Americans make a median annual wage of $39,810.
Top-paying industries for electricians include government, where electricians earn a median of $62,940 per year. Manufacturing comes second, paying electricians a median annual salary of $60,000. New electricians and apprentices start out making lower salaries. But they earn more as they gain experience. The top 10% of electricians make more than $96,580 a year.
Electricians can expect an excellent job outlook. The BLS projects faster-than-average growth for this trade. Electrician jobs should grow by 8% from 2019-2029. This adds about 62,200 electrician job openings each year.
Unlike some other tradespeople, electricians are difficult to replace with technology. Businesses and homes need electrical wiring installed and maintained by experienced, skilled electricians. Electricians enjoy strong demand thanks to ongoing construction projects. Alternative energy sources also contribute.
Another benefit of becoming an electrician is the freedom and flexibility to work whenever and wherever you want. Electricians are essential all over the world and can often set their own hours and start their own businesses.
Licenses and Certifications For Electricians
In the United States, electricians do not receive a national license. Instead, most states regulate the industry and oversee electrician licensure. Most states mandate that electricians hold a license. In other states, individual counties, cities, or towns may stipulate a license. States and localities hold different licensure requirements. Contact your state or local electrical licensing board for more information. The National Electrical Contractors Association provides information about licensing requirements.
To receive a state license, electricians must pass their state test. This test assesses knowledge of local electrical codes and the National Electrical Code. Passing the licensing test shows that an individual can install electrical equipment and wiring. After earning a license, electricians in some places must complete continuing education. These courses cover issues like electrical code changes and safety. Plus, because electricians often drive to job sites, they usually need a driver's license.
In Colorado, for example, electricians apply for one of three electrician licenses from the state electrical board. These include residential wireman, journeyman electrician, and master electrician. To qualify for a residential wireman license, applicants must pass an exam. They must also submit documentation of at least 4,000 hours of residential electrical experience over at least two years. Journeyman and master electrician licenses need more experience.
Colorado and many other states also offer electrician licensure by reciprocity. This process recognizes journeyman or master electrician licenses from other states. These states must be part of the National Electrical Reciprocal Alliance.
Electricians can pursue voluntary certifications. These prove knowledge in specialized areas. Such specialized areas may include lighting systems, solar photovoltaic, and electrical generating. To receive certification, electricians must meet experience requirements. They must also pass a multiple-choice certification test. A variety of organizations offer certifications. For example, the National Fire Protection Association offers the certified electrical safety compliance professional, certified electrical safety worker, and certified electrical safety technician designations.
Expert Advice From a Licensed Electrician
Marc Nowak is a licensed journeyman electrician and an instructor at Lincoln Technical Institute.
Best Electrician Schools and Programs
For this year's college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
- Must be a not-for-profit institution
- Must be regionally or nationally accredited
- Must offer at least one online program1
- Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
- All rankings used data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
- Accreditation information was from ABET and the US Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education
- The Best Online MBA Programs rankings included data on GMAT scores from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Rankings for nursing bridge programs included data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and DiscoverNursing.com
- Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
- A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
- Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
Those interested in enrolling in a program that teaches the industry-specific skills they will need to kick-start a career as an electrician may want to look into electrician schools and programs. Through one of these programs, students will be able to learn how to install, maintain and repair electric power in various settings. To help students find the best program that meets their individual needs, we have ranked the best electrician schools and programs in the country based on our criteria. Explore the top electrician schools and programs below.
Located in Topeka, Kansas, Washburn Tech is part of Washburn University, which serves more than 6,000 students. The university provides career-specific training in a format that fits students' lifestyles. Washburn Tech offers an online electrician degree to help future professionals enter this rewarding, hands-on career field.
Washburn Tech's electrical technology career program prepares students to work in electrical maintenance and construction. Open to high schoolers and adults, the half-day program takes two semesters to complete. Courses include print reading, commercial wiring, residential wiring, national electrical code II, and international residential code. Upon completing the program, students can pursue professional licensure.
Admission to the electrician program requires an applied math score of six and a reading for information score of five on the Accuplacer.
Washburn Tech is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, and the program is accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
A public community college located in Grantsboro, North Carolina, PCC serves about 600 students. The school provides career-ready programs, including an electrician degree.
PCC's electrical systems technology program involves hands-on training in basic wiring practices, conduit bending, and industrial motor controls. Major courses include codes and standards, digital electronics, construction math, and programmable logic controllers.
The 67-credit program can lead to an associate degree along with certification in career readiness, an OSHA-10 card, and an NCCER national registry listing. Applicants need a high school diploma or its equivalent and may need to take a placement test to determine the right math and English course sequence.
PCC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the electrician program is accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
Situated in Salina, Kansas, SATC is a public technical college of about 800 students. The school offers associate degrees along with career preparation certificates, and learners can pursue an electrician degree over two years.
SATC's electrical technology career program equips students with the skills to calculate accurately; use appropriate electrical terminology; and interpret blueprints, diagrams, and schematics. Courses include technical math, commercial wiring, blueprint reading, and tech writing. Upon graduation, students can pursue jobs as journeyman electricians, water plant electricians, or electrical and instrumentation technicians. The 60-credit program leads to an associate degree.
Applicants should hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and earn acceptable scores on the ACT, SAT, or Accuplacer. Prospective students with college credits earned at another accredited school may transfer courses completed with a 2.0 GPA or higher.
SATC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A public community college located in Alexandria, Louisiana, CLTCC provides work-ready education to about 2,000 students across eight campuses. The college's programs include a 45-credit electrician degree.
CLTCC's electrician technology career program provides future electricians with a technical diploma and competency certificates in seven areas, including industrial electrician, solar systems, and commercial wiring. Courses include electrical raceways, blueprint interpretation, technical mathematics for electricians, and introduction to programmable logic controllers. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA to graduate.
The electrician program requires 1,350 hours to complete. By taking 15 credits per semester, students can finish the program in about two years. Admission requires a high school diploma, GED, or HiSET along with ACT, SAT, or Accuplacer scores.
CLTCC is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.
Located in Tampa, Florida, Alterius offers career-focused education for in-demand industries to about 1,200 students. The college's electrician degree features a blend of online and on-campus learning.
Students in the college's electrical construction technician trade program learn to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems. Courses include electrical theory, electric motors, electrical craft skills, and transformers and power distribution. The 58-credit curriculum takes nine months to complete and requires students to attend on-campus learning experiences three days per week. Learners spend 420 hours in the classroom and 260 hours in the lab. By studying an extra three months, learners can add training as industrial electrical technicians.
Alterius is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, and the electrician program is accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.