For years, the message from guidance counselors and occupational therapists was to go to college, get a four-year degree and enter the so-called “white collar” workforce to get ahead. Skilled trades were viewed as less than enviable by many. That’s changing as people realize that the skilled trades can offer just as much room for advancement and pay. Becoming an electrician is a sound career move that can pay off quite handsomely. Though the path to becoming an electrician can be long and arduous, the rewards are worth it in the end.
Job Description & Required Skills
In a nutshell, electricians perform the installation, maintenance and repair of residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems in all industries. An electrician must have a deep knowledge of wiring, circuit boards and specialized circuits at a bare minimum. When working on vents, piping and more for such systems, they need to be extremely handy with a wide array of specialized tools. Furthermore, they must be well-acquainted with breaker boxes, voltage meters and so forth. As a rule, they must also understand many complicated regulatory codes and standards, possess excellent spatial reasoning and be able to improvise when needed.
Pros, Cons & Compensation
The advantages of electrical work are many, including the excellent pay and the fact that jobs are easy to find. As with welders, pipe fitters and plumbing experts, competent electricians enjoy a great deal of job security due to high demand. Probably the most obvious downside is the fact that it can take up to 5 years to make any serious money, thanks to the extensive training required. A journeyman electrician can expect to earn up to $50,000 annually. Master electricians pulled down an average salary of $55,000 per year in 2012, though that number varies widely by region and specialty.
Education & Training
Oftentimes, electricians start off by taking a beginner position as an apprentice for up to 4 full years. The advantage here is that one can work and make money while further educating themselves. Contacting the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for more information at the outset is a smart move. During an apprenticeship, one will learn the tricks of the trade and gain valuable experience. The next step is to become a journeyman electrician by taking an exam. You’ll need to get licensed within your jurisdiction to get work after that. Finally, you can become a master electrician after years of further experience and another comprehensive exam.
Where to Begin
First off, look into opportunities in your immediate area. As a beginner, either the National Electrical Contractors Association or the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee can provide you with invaluable information. Understand that roughly 144 hours in the classroom and more than 2,000 hours worth of hands-on experience are required to become a journeyman alone. Fortunately, there are plenty of educational resources available in nearly every region to assist you. If you’re willing to put in the time and commitment, becoming a professional electrician is a very achievable goal.