If you're considering a skilled trade, it's important to know the requirements and how much it takes. To become an electrician, you need extensive on-the-job training, an apprenticeship and a license. If you're wondering, “How long does an electrician apprenticeship take?” or “How much training does an electrician need?” then understanding each step can help you you're your career path effectively. In this article, we answer frequently asked questions like “How long does it take to be an electrician?” and explain the requirements for this career.
What does an electrician do?
Electricians work in residential, commercial and industrial settings, where they install, repair and maintain electrical systems. They're typically responsible for power, lighting and communication systems. Standard tasks include:
- Installing new wiring systems and repairing existing networks
- Using tools like voltmeters and ammeters to identify problems with electrical systems
- Inspecting and maintaining circuit breakers and other electrical components
- Using hand and power tools to repair or replace wiring and electrical fixtures
- Adhering to safety and standards guidelines in the National Electrical Code
While electricians often work independently, some have teams or collaborators. As an experienced electrician, you might manage apprentices. When installing or repairing wiring systems, you might work closely with engineers or other specialists.
Related: Learn About Being an Electrician
How long does it take to become an electrician?
On average, it takes four to five years to become an electrician. Many aspiring electricians get all the training they need through an apprenticeship program. However, how long to become an electrician depends on the path you take and the goals you want to achieve.
If you find yourself asking, “How many years is electrician school?” it's important to know some of the factors that may affect the length of your apprenticeship:
- Prior military or construction experience, which may qualify you for a shorter apprenticeship.
- A relevant associate degree or technical school experience, which may give you credit toward your apprenticeship.
- An approved electrical contractor training program, which can let you work as a helper and allow for a shorter apprenticeship.
How to become an electrician
Here are six steps to become an electrician:
1. Earn a high school diploma
Before you can begin training or start an apprenticeship, you must earn a high school diploma or pass the GED exam. Completing this education requirement ensures that you have the basic math, science, reasoning and communication skills necessary for this career.
2. Consider getting work experience
Before you apply for an apprenticeship or a trade school, consider working in the field first. If you work as a helper, you can assist electricians with manual labor, retrieve tools and experience this career path firsthand. Although working as a helper isn't a requirement, taking this route can help you demonstrate your potential and get an apprenticeship with your employer of choice.
Related: How to Get Into a Trade
3. Pursue classroom education
To become an electrician, years of school aren't necessary. However, you do have to complete a certain number of classroom hours, generally around 100. By pursuing classroom studies, you can learn the basics of the trade, such as reading blueprints, memorizing electrical code requirements and mastering safety practices.
While many apprenticeship programs include classroom education, you can complete the part of the process another way. Some aspiring electricians opt to enter technical school, which includes a mix of classroom education and practical experience. Although technical school comes with tuition fees, it can help you more easily qualify for an apprenticeship.
4. Complete an apprenticeship
Next, apply for an electrician apprenticeship through a professional organization. Standard options include:
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
- Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).
- Association of Building Contractors (ABC).
All three associations require you to pass an entrance exam and complete at least one interview. All electrician apprenticeships are paid, so you earn an income throughout this stage.
When it comes to electrician training, how long depends on the requirements you've already completed and the credits you've received. You need 8,000 hours to become a general electrician, and most full-time apprentices earn 2,000 hours per year. If you work full time, you need to complete a four-year program. If you work part-time, your apprenticeship may take much longer.
Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?
5. Pass the journeyman exam and get a license
When most people ask how long to be an electrician, they generally want to know how long it takes to become a journeyman. When you become a journeyman electrician, you've completed all the essential training, and you can work independently. To work as a journeyman, you have to complete an apprenticeship and take an exam administered by your state's licensing board. The exam covers topics like wiring methods, electrical theory and safety issues.
Once you've passed the exam, you're considered a licensed electrician. Ultimately, if you're wondering how long to get electrician license, you should plan on spending four years to become a journeyman.
6. Renew your license periodically
Like many other trade licenses, electrician licenses last for only a few years at a time. To keep your certification current, you have to renew it regularly, typically every three years. In many cases, you have to complete continuing education credits to renew. Check with your state's electrical contractor licensing board to confirm the requirements.
Requirements to become an electrician
To work as an electrician, you have to complete these requirements:
- High school diploma or GED.
- About 100 hours of classroom training and education.
- 8,000 hours of work experience via an apprenticeship with IBEW, IEC or ABC.
- Journeyman exam, which you can take after completing an apprenticeship.
- Electrician license, which generally lasts for three years and requires renewals.
You can also go to technical school or work as an electrician helper. While these paths might help you absorb more information or gain more helpful experience, they supplement rather than replace the requirements for this career.