FAQ: What Are the Different Electrician Levels?

Updated June 24, 2022

Choosing a job within a trade often provides you with the ability to develop and hone a particular skill. This may also provide you with more opportunities to grow and advance within your career. For example, choosing to become an electrician enables you to gain more certifications and licenses to further your career. In this article, we discuss what an electrician is, some benefits of working as an electrician and the different electrician levels.

Related: 12 High-Paying Trade Jobs

What is an electrician?

An electrician is a tradesperson who works with all aspects of electrical systems. They plan, install, repair and maintain indoor and electrical systems. Electricians work with wiring, fixtures, circuits, outlets, transformers and other system components to make power accessible. Some responsibilities of an electrician may include:

  • Understanding electrical code requirements

  • Interpreting blueprints

  • Installing, connecting, inspecting and repairing electrical systems

  • Upgrading outdated systems

  • Verifying all electrical system components satisfy code requirements

Electricians work in commercial, residential and industrial environments. Some choose to work in manufacturing and factory settings, while others choose to focus on working in construction. Because of this, electricians often fall into two broad categories: linemen and wiremen. Linemen work on outdoor electrical work, and wiremen work on indoor electrical work.

Related: How to Become an Electrician

What are the benefits of working as an electrician?

Working as an electrician offers a variety of benefits. Learning a trade often provides job security as it's a special skill in demand. The renewable energy industry continues to provide more jobs for electrical work as new sectors develop.

Choosing a career path as an electrician also provides you with the opportunity to grow and advance within your career. There are different electrician certification levels available based on the hours you've worked, how long you've been an electrician and the skills you posses. Earning a higher certification often comes with a higher pay rate and more job advancement opportunities.

Other benefits of working as an electrician include:

  • Using problem-solving skills to address real-world problems

  • Working in an industry where you can see the results of your work

  • Having the option to own your own business or to work as an independent contractor

  • Working in different environments with new challenges every day

Read more: Learn About Being an Electrician

What are the electrician levels?

There are three levels of electrician certification: apprentice, journeyman and master. Each level shows the electrician has satisfied specific requirements and reflects their job experience. Here's a more in-depth explanation of each of the electrician levels, the differences between them and how to advance:

Apprentice electrician

An apprentice electrician is someone who is still learning the trade. To begin as an apprentice electrician, you need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent education. Apprentice electricians work under the supervision of a licensed electrician to learn how to perform the job of an electrician. They may complete tasks like:

  • Installing wiring

  • Installing entire electrical systems

  • Troubleshooting wiring issues

As their apprenticeship progresses, apprentice electricians may complete more advanced tasks. However, a licensed electrician always reviews and approves any an apprentice electrician completes.

Apprenticeships often last for four years or require the apprentice electrician to complete at least 8000 hours of work. However, requirements for apprenticeships will vary for every state. Apprentice electricians may also enroll in trade school programs before or while they complete their apprenticeship. Some states require classroom hours before allowing an apprenticeship, and some states also allow students to substitute relevant classroom experience for on-the-job experience.

Journeyman electrician

Once an apprentice electrician completes their apprenticeship and fulfills any necessary requirements, they may take their test and become a journeyman, which is also called a licensed electrician. Passing this exam entitles the journeyman to their license from the appropriate local, federal or, most often, state group. This license allows a journeyman to work without supervision and train apprentice electricians.

Many electricians choose a specialty when they become a journeyman. Focusing on one specialty affects the type of work they do and may require additional training or certification. Some specialty electrician job types include:

  • Commercial electrician

  • Residential electrician

  • Industrial electrician

  • Auto electrician

  • Maintenance electrician

  • Installation electrician

  • Highway electrical systems electrician

  • Marine electrician

  • Sign electrician

  • Substation electrician

  • Instrumentation electrician

  • Integrated building systems electrical worker

  • Oil rig electrician

  • Electrotechnical panel builder

  • Electrical machine repairer and rewinder

Read more: Types of Electricians

Master electrician

A master electrician is the highest level of electrician. Requirements to become a master electrician vary by state, but most states require you to have at least seven years of experience as a journeyman and worked for at least 4000 hours as a journeyman. Becoming a master electrician also requires passing an additional licensing exam about the National Electrical Code. Once you receive your license as a master electrician, some states also offer courses for higher titles, such as advanced master electrician.

Master electricians oversee and manage journeymen and apprentice electricians. It's important for them to have leadership and managerial skills in addition to their technical skills. Master electricians also often work on the most complex projects, especially for commercial and industrial electrical projects. However, their credentials also provide them with the authority to train journeymen on how to complete these projects.

What types of licenses do electricians need?

Every state has different license requirements for electricians to do their jobs. As your career progresses, you may earn new licenses. One type of license an electrician may earn is an electrical contractor license.

An electrical contractor license is a business license that allows you to operate an electrical contracting company with one or more electricians. Most states require you to be a master electrician before you can apply for an electrical contractor license. However, some states may allow you to apply for this type of license as long as you employ at least one master electrician. It's important to know electrical contractor license holders often need to purchase a certain amount of liability insurance.

Regardless of your license type, most states require electricians to renew their licenses frequently. License renewal often involves continuing education courses, too. This ensures electricians are up-to-date with the latest code requirements.

What's the pay difference between the electrician levels?

The national average base salary for an electrician is $51,813 per year. However, salary may vary based on factors like location, specification and experience. One of the biggest factors for pay rate is often your electrician certification level.

Apprentice electricians often earn the least with a national average base salary of $65,182 per year. Journeymen electricians earn slightly more with a national average base salary of $65,764 per year. However, master electricians earn the most with a national average base salary $73,692 per year. Your base salary may still vary based on factors like location and the company you work for.

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