Electrical Trade School

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Electrical trade school prepares graduates for lucrative electrician jobs.

Nearly 740,000 electricians work across the U.S., and projection data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the field will grow by 8% from 2019-2029, doubling the average for all occupations. The highest-paid licensed electricians earn over $96,000 per year.

By enrolling in electrical trade school, students can train for careers in this growing field. During an electrician program, students complete technical instruction and experiential learning requirements, earning a vocational certificate or diploma.

What Do Electricians Do?

Electricians manage electrical power systems for residential and commercial buildings. They install lighting systems in homes, conduct repairs in businesses, and inspect electrical parts in industrial buildings. When electricians identify faulty equipment through testing, they must troubleshoot to find repairs or replacements. They use tools like conduit benders and wire strippers to perform their job duties.

While working, electricians must follow safety procedures and building regulations, using the National Electrical Code to make sure electrical systems meet safety requirements. Electricians either work alone or as part of a crew. They also work with engineers, architects, and clients. Experienced electricians may also train apprentices.

Where Do Electricians Work?

Electricians work in different settings depending on their specialty. Residential electricians often work in clients' homes, while commercial electricians typically ply their trade in office buildings. These workers can also install wiring in construction sites and test electrical equipment in factories.

Depending on their job tasks, electricians may work indoors or outdoors. Some perform their tasks in cramped or elevated spaces. Several industries hire electricians, including electrical contractors, manufacturing organizations, and the government. Some electricians are self-employed contractors.

Skills

Electricians need critical skills. The career requires strong critical thinking and troubleshooting skills to determine problems and develop solutions.

Electricians need strong critical thinking and troubleshooting skills to determine problems and develop solutions.

Electricians also need physical abilities, like color vision to distinguish between electrical wires, physical stamina to perform job tasks for long hours, and the strength to move heavy equipment. Since electricians work closely with clients, customer service skills can also help electricians succeed.

During electrician trade school, students learn how to problem-solve electrical issues, complete technical tasks, and navigate the business side of being an electrician.

How to Become an Electrician

Electricians typically train for several years before entering the field. While some electricians complete apprenticeships, others attend electrician trade schools. An apprenticeship can take four or more years, while a vocational program typically takes 1-2 years and includes practical training. Both routes prepare electricians for licensure and certification.

This section offers a step-by-step overview of how to become an electrician, including the educational and licensure requirements.

Education

A high school diploma meets the entry-level education requirement for electrician careers. However, many electricians complete additional training through a vocational program or an electrical trade school. During trade school, enrollees explore electrical theory and learn to read electrical blueprints. Other common courses include electrical code regulations, safety practices, and mathematics.

Students in electrician programs can specialize their training by taking courses in specific fields, like elevators, fire alarm systems, LEED certification, and other niche fields.

While earning a vocational certificate or diploma, enrollees also strengthen their practical skills through laboratory and practicum requirements. One of the most common covered skills is soldering, which students learn in a supervised setting with experienced, licensed electricians on hand for apprenticeship-style training.

The other route to an electrician career is through an apprenticeship. Apprentices work under a master electrician for 4-5 years, during which time they complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training each year. In addition to paid work experience, apprentices develop their skills through technical instruction.

Graduates from training programs or apprenticeships typically meet the requirements for electrician licensure, though requirement details vary by location. With work experience, electricians can become master electricians or take on supervisory responsibilities. Electricians can also complete training to qualify for specialized professional certifications.

Certification and Licensure

In most states, an electrician must hold a license to work independently. Each state and municipality sets specific requirements, so prospective electricians should carefully review the requirements in their area.

Electricians-in-training may need an electrical apprenticeship license while completing their on-the-job training. After meeting training requirements, electricians can apply for a journeyman license. This step typically requires passing scores on an electrical journeyman exam.

Each state and municipality sets specific requirements, so prospective electricians should carefully review the requirements in their area.

Experienced electricians who work as journeymen for several years can apply for master electrician licenses in most states. The license requires passing scores on the state's master electrician exam.

For example, in Washington state, electricians apply for licenses with the Department of Labor and Industries. The trainee license recognizes apprentices or students working under certified electricians. Each certified general journeyman-level electrician in the state must complete at least 8,000 hours of supervised work experience and 96 hours of classroom instruction. Master electricians need 2-4 years of professional experience as a licensed electrician.

Many states also offer specialty licenses, such as electrical administrator or electrical contractor. Contractors operate electrical businesses that employ electricians. In addition to licensure, electricians can apply for professional certifications in areas like lighting systems or solar photovoltaic systems.

What to Look for in a Trade School

When choosing an electrical trade school, applicants should consider several factors. First, determine the program's requirements and length. How do students gain practical experience? Second, check whether the program will meet licensure and certification requirements in your state.

Finally, aspiring electricians should check the accreditation status of their prospective programs. Electrical trade schools are usually considered vocational, which means they should be nationally accredited by an approved accrediting organization. Learn more about accreditation here.

Career Information

Electricians benefit from above-average salaries and strong employment forecasts. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for electricians from 2019-2029. In many cities, electricians earn even higher salaries than the national average. Below, you'll find salary and job growth data for electricians.

Salary and Job Growth for Electricians

Salary

$56,180

Job Growth (2019-2029)

8%

Source: BLS

Highest-Paying Cities for Electricians
Location Median Salary
Los Angeles, California $76,000
New York, New York $59,980
Houston, Texas $62,000
Source: Payscale

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Ask An Expert

To better understand what a career as an electrician looks like, we interviewed an expert. Read about his experience below.

Image of Erik Truxon

Erik Truxon

With 30+ years of experience in the field, Erik Truxon completed an electrical trade program and has owned his own electrician business since 2009.

Why Become an Electrician?

What Are Some Challenges and High Points in This Role?

If you have a family, a job, and you're attending classes, it can be very difficult to work all day, go to school a couple of nights a week, and come home to your kids asleep. On the other hand, it's very rewarding to know that when you are finished, you can truly provide for your family and make things better for them and you.

The comradery that you develop in class is good, and you probably will see many of your classmates on the job. Many contractors pull from the same talent pool. While you might be very tired when you get there, my instructors were always very engaging and funny, so time went by fast.

It always feels good to be able to apply what you learned in school the next day at the job and now know the reason why "you do the things that you do" on the job.

What Type of Person Does Well in This Role?

A person with good dexterity and general knowledge of how to fix things does very well in this program. They should also like electricity and the theory involved with it. They should have a general respect for electricity, but not necessarily a fear of it.

Who Does This Role Help? How Does This Role Affect Others?

This position helps the student and their family to be productive, happy members of their community. Becoming a professional allows you to help build the world and maintain the current buildings in your community. Your family, neighbors, friends, even foes will love what you can now bring to the table.

How Long Does It Usually Take Electrical Trade School Graduates to Get Hired?

Usually, with experience, they will be hired almost instantly. Without experience, maybe a month or two. We are in high demand. The key is making yourself marketable — letting people know you've finished and you're ready to build the world.

How to Get Hired

How Much Does a Certification Specialty Affect Your Hireability?

The more you can do that is documented, the more hireable you become. This is an excellent way to get hired faster.

What Skills Do Employers Look For?

  • You must be able to follow directions.
  • You must be a quick learner.
  • You must be willing to travel a set distance.
  • You must be non-confrontational and non-threatening.
  • You must be prompt, well kept, and congenial during your interviews.

What Can Students Do to Make Themselves Look Better to Employers?

  • Always come on time.
  • Be ready to start right away.
  • Have some quality starter tools.
  • Have a valid driver's license.

Professional Organizations

  • National Electrical Contractors Association NECA advocates for electrical construction professionals. The association offers a learning center, a resource network, and project management training. Members can also complete continuing education requirements or online training. The NECA career center connects electricians with job opportunities. Local chapters help professionals build their networks.
  • Independent Electrical Contractors This nonprofit trade association represents thousands of electrical and systems workers in the U.S., offering training programs on its educational campuses and through local chapters. Members can learn about new worker training, apprenticeship opportunities, and issues in the field through its education programs, newsletters, and blogs.
  • Federated Electrical Contractors FEC represents specialists in electrical contracting. The organization is a joint-venture network, connecting contractors with potential clients. Members can also network with other specialized contractors who work in advanced technology, safety, and virtual design. The organization has experience in commercial, industrial, government, and education projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Electricians Go to Trade School?

Many electricians attend electrical trade schools or vocational programs to gain instruction and experience. In a 1-2 year program, enrollees study electrical theory while strengthening their practical skills. Many electrician schools partner with local electricians to offer apprenticeship training.

How Quickly Can I Become an Electrician?

Electricians typically need to complete several years of technical instruction and on-the-job training. An electrical apprenticeship generally takes 4-5 years, while electrician schools take 1-2 years plus practical training. In either case, electricians typically must meet work requirements to earn journeyman licenses.

Which Type of Electrician Makes the Most Money?

Licensed master electricians typically earn the highest pay. Electrical contractors, electrical foremen, and electricians can all pursue work as project managers to earn higher-than-average salaries. Electricians who work in government and manufacturing report the highest salaries. The median electrical engineering salary also ranks above electricians, but this career path requires a bachelor's degree.

Do Electricians Have to Be Good at Math?

Electricians typically need high school math skills to succeed in the field. These professionals work with electrical circuits, voltage, and currents, which all require some math to understand. The career path also uses basic mathematical skills like measurements and fractions.

Is Electrical School Hard?

Electrical school requires a combination of technical skills and classroom-based learning. During electrical trade school, students gain practical training through laboratory and practicum requirements.

Header Image Credit: vm | Getty Images

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