If you’ve ever considered becoming an electrician, you’re probably aware that there are several different paths you can take to get started in this rewarding field. One of the most straightforward routes is through a trade or vocational school, which provides focused training and practical experience. This path is often considered the easiest because it allows you to gain specific, job-related skills in a relatively short period of time.
However, pursuing higher education through a traditional college or university provides its own set of unique advantages. This path not only equips you with comprehensive knowledge about the field but also opens up opportunities for career advancement and specialization.
If you’re leaning towards obtaining a degree as your entry point into the electrician profession, this guide is for you. We’ll explore the different degrees you can pursue, their relevance to the electrician career, and what steps to take after completing your education.
Degrees to Pursue for an Electrician Career
When it comes to academic qualifications for becoming an electrician, there are several degree programs that can provide relevant knowledge and skills. Below are a few notable ones:
Associate Degree in Electrical Technology
This two-year program offers a comprehensive introduction to electricity, electrical systems, and safety practices. It covers subjects such as circuitry, wiring, motor controls, and electrical theory, providing practical skills directly applicable to an electrician’s day-to-day work. While it leads to entry-level electrician jobs and offers hands-on experience, it is less comprehensive than a bachelor’s degree and offers limited opportunities for specialization.
Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering
Though not typically required for most electrician roles, this four-year degree provides a deep understanding of electrical systems and design. It’s more theoretical and math-intensive, focusing on areas like digital systems design, electrical circuit theory, and power systems analysis. It opens doors to higher-level positions and specializations but is more time-consuming and costly than an associate degree and may be overly detailed for some electrician roles.
Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management
While not directly related to electrical work, this degree offers a broader understanding of the construction industry, which could be beneficial for those aiming for supervisory or managerial roles in the electrical field. However, it is not as focused on practical electrician skills and has a longer duration and potentially higher cost than other options.
Steps to Certification After Finishing Your Education
After completing your education, the next step towards becoming a fully-fledged electrician is getting certified. Here’s a list of steps on how to get certification:
Gain Practical Experience
Most licensing bodies require a specific number of hours of practical experience. Typically, an apprentice under the supervision of a licensed electrician is required for this. Although the length of an apprenticeship can vary, it usually lasts four to five years.
Pass a Licensure Exam
Once your apprenticeship is over, you will have to pass a licensing exam. This test measures your understanding of safety procedures, local electrical codes, and electrical theory. It is imperative to verify with your state’s regulatory body, as each state has distinct requirements for exams.
Apply for a License
Once you pass your exam, you can apply for a license. This process varies depending on your location, but generally involves submitting your exam scores, proof of experience, and an application fee to your state’s licensing board.
In numerous states, electricians must fulfill continuing education requirements in order to keep their licenses current. By taking these courses, electricians can stay current on changes in technology, safety protocols, and codes.
If you’re interested in specializing in a particular area of electrical work, such as solar installation or industrial electrical systems, you might consider obtaining a specialty certification. Exams and extra training are frequently needed to obtain these certifications.
Essential Certifications and Specializations for Aspiring Electricians
It takes more than just finishing school to pursue a career in electrical engineering. Acquiring pertinent certifications that attest to your abilities, expertise, and experience in this industry is necessary. These qualifications range from general certifications, which establish your foundational understanding and ability to work safely, to specialized certifications that allow you to focus on niche areas within the industry.
- High School Diploma or GED: This is the basic educational requirement to start training as an electrician.
- State License: Most states require electricians to hold a state license to work. The requirements for this license often include several years of experience and passing a licensing exam.
- Journeyman License: To gain a journeyman license, applicants must typically have at least four years of electrical experience. A notarized waiver verifying the experience is also often required.
- Master Electrician License: This is an advanced license that typically requires additional years of experience beyond the journeyman level. Master electricians are usually eligible to pull building permits and design electrical systems.
- OSHA Safety Certificate: This certification focuses on safety practices in the workplace and is considered valuable in the electrical field.
- Electrical Technician Certification: This certification demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of electrical systems and is often pursued by those seeking to specialize in specific areas of electrical work.
- EPA Amusement Operators Safety Certification: This certification is specific to electricians working in the amusement industry.
- Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installation Certification: This certification is for electricians who wish to specialize in installing solar panels.Companies such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offer it. .
- Certified Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP): For electricians interested in electric vehicle technology, this certification focuses on the installation of electric vehicle charging equipment.
- Underwater Welding Certification: For electricians interested in underwater work, this certification is provided by the American Welding Society (AWS).
- LEED Certification: For electricians interested in sustainable and green energy solutions, this certification is provided by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Future Prospects and Earnings in the Electrician Career
As you navigate your journey to becoming a fully certified electrician, it’s encouraging to know that this profession is projected to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of electricians is projected to grow by 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by the need for wiring in homes and businesses as the world becomes increasingly reliant on power for various technologies.
When it comes to earnings, the median annual wage for electricians was $60,240 in May 2020. However, compensation can differ significantly based on a number of variables, including location, experience level, and specialty.
By pursuing the relevant certifications and possibly specializing in a specific area, you can enhance your earning potential and job prospects in this promising field. Remember, becoming a successful electrician involves a commitment to learning and developing your skills throughout your career. But with dedication and the right qualifications, you can look forward to a rewarding and secure future in the electrical industry.