Although most electricians learn through a formal apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require licensure.
Most electricians learn their trade in a 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They also may receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators. Because of this comprehensive training, those who complete apprenticeship programs qualify to do both construction and maintenance work.
After completing an apprenticeship program, electricians are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
Some electrical contractors have their own training program. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some start out as helpers.
Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to safety and basic electrical information. Graduates usually receive credit toward their 4-year apprenticeship.
Electricians may be required to take continuing education courses. These courses usually involve instruction related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.
Most states require licensure. Requirements vary by state. Contact your state's licensing agency for more information.
Color vision. Electricians need good color vision because workers frequently must identify electrical wires by color.
Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance to determine the best course of action.
Customer-service skills. Electricians work with people on a regular basis. As a result, they should be friendly and be able to address customers’ questions.
Managerial skills. Some electricians must be able to direct others’ work as well as plan work schedules. Often, this work includes preparing estimates and other administrative tasks.
Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition