Electrician Schools & Programs Hands-On Training to Power Your Career
Electrician training is a unique blend of theory and practice, bringing together conceptual study of electrical systems and practical instruction under a certified electrician. Individuals interested in the field may choose from multiple academic and career prep avenues, attending either an electrician school or completing a formal apprenticeship through a professional association. Through both forms of training, students gain the technical and mechanical skills required to become an electrician or certified electrical technician. Learn more about how to become an electrician, program curriculum, apprenticeships, and the career outlook.
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Best Electrician Programs 2018-2019
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.
Electrician Training at a Glance
Becoming an electrician requires multiple years of study, including thousands of hours of training in an apprenticeship. Technical training allows prospective electricians to pursue a range of professional opportunities, as an outside lineman, inside lineman, installer technician, or residential wireman. This training is comprehensive, bringing together classroom-based instruction and hands-on training. During electrician training students can expect to:
- Learn the fundamentals of the field
- Practice installing insulators
- Learn how to install underground power circuits
- Gain familiarity with the National Electrical Code
- Prepare for a state licensing examination
With increasing job opportunities, completing formal electrician training is well worth the investment.
According to IBISWorld Market Research, the electrician industry is a $155 billion dollar industry in the U.S.
Although the national median wage is in the $50,000 range, experienced electricians can bring home upwards of $86,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The employment outlook for electricians is bright, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 14 percent industry growth nationally between 2014 and 2024.
Between 2012 and 2022, 19 states are expected to have 20 percent or greater employment gains for electricians, according to Projections Central.
For as many things in our trade that you must learn "in the field," there are too many things about our trade that can't be learned just there. This makes formal training a necessity, and is why states require class hours for licensing and not just on the job training. You can't lose an education. You may get a job, but if there is no more work, you lose that job. But if you get an education, you can take that to any job you ever go to.
How to Become an Electrician: Education & Training
The process to becoming an electrician is comprehensive and can take several years to complete. The practice is regulated at the state level, with most states requiring electricians to complete an approved technical training and apprenticeship program. Different types of training and degrees are available from technical or trade schools, community colleges, and association-based apprenticeship programs. Below is an overview of the different education and training options of how to become an electrician.
Career & Technical School
12 to 18 months
Associate degree or certificate, depending on program
These programs provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills required to install, maintain and repair electrical systems and electronic equipment in commercial and residential buildings. Students may select from a range of specializations, preparing them to work with both high- and low-voltage electronics or move into emerging industries, such as renewable energy.
Although it varies by school, the curriculum of electricity and electrical technology typically requires approximately 45 credit hours of study to complete. Divided between classroom and laboratory, hands-on instruction, this curriculum prepares graduates for entry-level employment opportunities in a range of electrical-related trades. Once completed, students are traditionally allowed to register for their state’s electrician’s certification examination.
Electrician certificate and diploma programs follow a progressive sequence of courses that introduce students to the principles of the trade, allowing them to develop career-specific skills required for entry-level employment. Below is a sample list of common courses offered in certificate programs.
|Principles of Electrical Wiring||This course provides students with an understanding of the fundamentals of the electronic and electrical trade. Topics of study range from lighting fixtures to motor controls, electrical conductors to fuses and circuit breakers.|
|Electrical Controls||Students gain familiarity with the functions of motor control systems, including an overview of maintenance and troubleshooting. The course discusses guidelines from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and teaches students about the structural features of electrical equipment.|
|Introduction to Electricity||Students are introduced to the central principles of the electrical trade, covering subjects including the National Electrical Code (NEC), NEC regulations, electrical safety and working with residential electrical services.|
|Material Applications||Students study the structural concepts of residential and commercial buildings and learn about their respective electrical and electronic system environments. Students develop skills to use blueprints, and install hardware and electrical systems safely.|
Associate degree programs are designed to prepare students for entry-level electrician positions in residential, commercial, and industrial industries. Depending on the college, students may select from an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) or Associate of Science (AS) degree program. The AAS is a professional degree, one that has limited general education courses. The AS is an academic transfer degree, one that can be used to enter the workforce or transition into a four-year program of study.
Curriculum includes approximately 60 to 66 credit hours of study. It blends theory and practical, laboratory-based instruction, through the hands-on use of contemporary electrical technologies. Some colleges issue students a state-based electrical apprentice identification card, allowing them to complete professional experience and classroom hours that meet the state’s electrical apprenticeship requirements.
Courses in associate degree programs can be leveraged to meet apprenticeship requirements, prepare for state licensing examinations, to develop additional career skills. Below is a sample of courses commonly offered at the community college level.
|Electrical Installations||This course covers the basics of wiring in residential buildings, aligning with regulations set by the National Electrical Code, and teaching students how to install various electrical systems safely.|
|Electrical Maintenance||Students gain an introduction to the electrical maintenance of industrial, residential and commercial buildings. Topics of study covers electrical code, safety, electrical controls and systems, and the use of electrical testing and installation equipment.|
|National Electric Code||This course reviews the National Electrical Code and provides students with a comprehensive review of the code's requirements, use of equipment, and wiring methods.|
|AC and DC Electricity||Students develop an understanding of AC and DC circuits, including voltage, current and resistance, preparing them to use electrical instruments to analyze, maintain, install and repair electrical systems.|
2 to 5 years
Licensed General Electrician
Apprenticeships are sponsored by the Electrical Training Alliance and other trade associations, such as the Independent Electrical Conductors. Apprenticeships typically fall into one of four categories: Outside Linemen, Inside Wiremen, VDV Installer Technician, and Residential Wiremen. Depending on the specialty and association, apprenticeships may last between two and five years.
Apprentices are partnered with experienced electricians and participate in both classroom-based and in-the-field work. Traditionally, most apprenticeship programs require students to complete at least 8,000 hours of experience to meet state licensing requirements. Some trade associations have articulation agreements with local community colleges or technical schools that allow apprentices to earn an associate degree during the five years of their apprenticeship. The typical minimum entrance requirements include being at least 18 years old and holding a high school diploma or GED.
The required courses depend upon the apprentice’s field of study as an electrician. Classwork is designed to supplement and enhance on-the-job training, familiarizing candidates with the National Electrical Code and preparing them to take their state’s electrical licensing examination. Below is a sample list of apprentice coursework.
|Fundamentals of Grounding and Bonding||This course provides students with an understanding of code regulations as they relate to bonding and grounding issues.|
|Motor Theory and Calculation||Students study the core concepts of motor controls and motor theory, how to generate proper motor calculations, and handle installations.|
|Emerging Electrical Technologies||Students are introduced to the code requirements for emerging technologies, including electrical vehicle charging stations and wind turbines.|
Selecting an Electrician Training Program: Checklist
Students can select from a variety of electrician schools. However, not every program is the same, which means prospective students should take the time to review what each school has to offer. Below is a list of items to consider prior to enrolling in a training program.
Does the curriculum cover the National Electrical Code?
The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines the rules and regulations for the electrician industry. Curriculum should be designed around the NEC, which prepares students to become skilled and effective apprentices.
Is the program accredited?
No singular body accredits electrician schools. And, not all schools earn accreditation. Before enrolling, students should review the institution’s and school’s accreditation. For example, many electrician schools are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Does the program offer apprenticeship training?
Completing an apprenticeship is a requirement to become an electrician. Some electrician schools offer hands-on training hours that are recognized by the state’s licensing agency and count towards the required hours to earn a license.
Does the program offer flexible scheduling?
Some students may be working professionals and need greater flexibility to complete their degree. Check to see if the school allows students to work as an electrician during the day and complete courses at night or on the weekend.
Is the program state-approved?
Most states require prospective electricians to graduate from an approved apprenticeship or electrical training program. Students should check with their state’s department of higher education and state licensing board to ensure their program meets the state’s seal of approval.
School vs. Apprenticeship: Choosing an Electrician Training Program
Prospective electricians have multiple training paths to prepare for a career in the field: degree-based academic programs and formal apprenticeships. Degree programs offer students the opportunity to gain industry-specific knowledge and professional skills that prepare them for a future apprenticeship. Apprenticeships provide practical, hands-on training along with supplementary classroom instruction that prepares graduates for state-based licensing examinations. There are inherent benefits to both, which allows students to choose a training program that fits the personal and professional needs.
- Gain theoretical knowledge and practical skills
- Access to emerging or cutting-edge tools and techniques
- Prepare for transition into a four-year program of study
- Flexible class scheduling, with day and evening courses available
- Graduate prepared for an electrical apprenticeship
- Fast-paced, real-world experience
- Earn increasing wages during each year of the apprenticeship
- Option for insurance and retirement benefits
- Earn college credit with tuition covered by apprenticeship employer
- Industry-certified instructors
Bright Opportunities for Electricians: Job & Salary Outlook
The electrician industry is a burgeoning field, spurred by a recovering economy, improving housing market, and growing demand for construction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians should experience 14 percent career growth nationally between 2014 and 2024. Other growing areas, notes the Bureau, include manufacturing and emerging technologies, such as alternative power and renewable energy. In fact, nine states are projected to have 25 percent or greater job gains for electricians between 2012 and 2022, and another 23 states will have at least 15 percent growth, according to data from Projections Central. Below is an overview of the employment outlook for electricians.
Industries with the Most Electricians
|Industry||Employment||Hourly Mean Wage (2014)||Annual Mean Wage (2014)|
|Building Equipment Contractors||402,120||$25.82||$53,710|
|Local Government (OES Designation)||13,870||$29.12||$60,580|
|Nonresidential Building Construction||9,470||$25.06||$52,130|
|Utility System Construction||7,110||$28.85||$60,010|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)
|State||Employment||Employment per 1,000 Jobs|
|State||Annual Mean Wage (May 2014)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)
Licenses & Certifications for Electricians
In order to work in the electrical construction trade, electricians must hold a valid certification. The profession is regulated at the state level, typically by the state’s contractor’s board or a state department of licensing and regulation. Broadly, electricians fall into one of three categories: General Electrician, Journeyman Electrician, and Master Electrician. For most states, the most basic requirement is at least 8,000 documented hours working as an apprentice under the supervision of a licensed electrician, as well as 80 to 100 complementary hours of classroom instruction. Prospective electricians should contact their state’s licensing department to ask about state-approved apprenticeship programs and licensing requirements prior to enrolling in any training program.
Experienced electricians may also pursue specialized certifications to advance in their career or pivot into a new service area. Specific requirements vary by state, but generally require between 2,000 and 4,000 of supervised training under a licensed electrician and the passage of a state examination. Some common specialty areas include the following:
- Residential Maintenance
- Appliance Repair
- Pump and Irrigation
- Equipment Repair
Beyond state-specific certifications, electricians can also complete voluntary certifications from third-party associations and vendors. Example voluntary certifications include the following:
The Electrical Training Alliance offers four nationally recognized certification programs for electricians.
This certification is designed for individuals that work with splicing shielded electrical power cables. It requires the successful passing of a written knowledge examination and a practical (performance) examination.
This certification is for Journeymen Wiremen who are seeking to burnish their skills in instrumentation. The certification requires a successful score on a 200-question, open-note examination and a passing of a practical demonstration examination.
This certification is designed for Inside Wiremen. The certification requires the successful passing of six written examinations and a performance test. Level 1 through Level 5 test entry-level knowledge, while the Level 6 examination is for individuals who are ready to become or are a licensed Journey-level electrician.
The PV System Installer certification requires candidates to pass a single examination that measures the candidate’s knowledge of electrical work in both residential and commercial settings.
The International Electrical Testing Association offers four levels of nationally recognized certifications for individuals in the electrical testing industry. To move up in classifications, applicants must meet the professional qualifications for that class and pass an examination for each previous level.
An entry-level classification for individuals who are not certified technicians and are working under the supervision of a certified technician.
This classification is for individuals who still require direct supervision, but conducts limited testing work.
This classification is for individuals who are experienced with performing electrical testing and switching, as well as supervising workers at the Trainee Level I and Assistant Level II.
This classification is for workers who are responsible for supervising projects and managing electrical crews.
Essential Skills & Experience for Electricians
Electricians must call upon a broad array of specific skills and industry knowledge. These skills are developed in the classroom and enhanced during an apprenticeship. Below is a list of five core skills and knowledge areas electricians should possess.
Expert Advice from a Licensed ElectricianInterview with Marc Nowak, Licensed Journeyman Electrician & Instructor at Lincoln Technical Institute
Benefits range from the simple—being more knowledgeable than someone without an education – to the more complex—having a support system to guide you through your career. Many people working in the field only know a small portion of the work we as electricians perform. Getting a formal education gives the student a chance to learn a much broader scope of work and work related skills.
Most Electrical Technology courses focus on the two most important things: Safety and The National Electrical Code (NEC). After basic theory courses students are introduced to materials (Romex, MC, EMT, etc.) and basic installation methods (switching, receptacles, disconnects, and starters). Then, then move on to more complex equipment (motors, transformers, VFDs, and PLCs). But courses are constantly changing to keep pace with our industry. New avenues of education being brought to these courses involve environmentally friendly and green technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and fuel cells.
Know who you are. I went to a four-year college and spent five years getting a bachelor's degree because I didn't know myself well enough. The students who always work their hardest are always the first to get employment. It's easy to work hard at something if you love doing it.