Most electricians learn their trade through an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship is an educational model that goes back hundreds of years, and in many countries, it is still the dominant way to learn a trade. Although in the United States many trades have moved away from this model, it is still the primary course of training for electricians. Apprenticeships generally take four to five years to complete and combine classroom time (typically at least 144 hours per year) and on-the-job training (at least 2000 hours per year). Students in apprenticeship programs spend most of their time learning directly from working alongside master electricians, and the best part is that the job training portion is paid.
Apprenticeship programs and the requirements for them vary by state. In general, a program sponsor, which may be one or a group of employers, or a union, designs and organizes the apprenticeship program. This system provides great benefits for employers, who get to be actively involved in providing high-quality training to potential future employees. It is also an excellent system for apprentices, who earn nationally recognized credentials and often credits that may transfer into degree or other academic programs, while also earning a wage. Upon completing an apprenticeship program, students are prepared to take the licensing test for their state.
Although the exact curriculum may vary, many electrician apprenticeship programs follow a general course of studies. In Year 1, students learn essential concepts in math, safety, the National Electrical Code, how to read electrical drawings and blueprints, and how to work with electrical tools. In Year 2, they delve into wiring plans and specifications for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Year 3 involves more advanced training on various electrical switches, components, and systems. Finally, Year 4 is reserved for advanced and specialized training and licensing test preparation.
Before entering into an apprenticeship program, many future electricians take courses at a vocational or technical school or at a community college. This is a great opportunity to learn the basic math and science required for electrician training as well as to start getting some hands-on experience working with electrical testing tools and components. Many of these academic programs work in partnership with apprenticeship programs so that the courses count both toward a diploma or degree and toward the apprenticeship training. If you are interested in becoming an electrician, taking courses that can also potentially count toward a degree is an excellent way not only to get your training now, but to make sure you have the credentials you need to reach your future career goals. In addition, apprenticeship programs are often highly competitive, so taking some courses in advance can help you in the application process.
If you are interested in participating in an electrician apprenticeship program, check the requirements and opportunities in your state.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electricians. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Labor Cabinet of Kentucky. Registered apprenticeship.
Florida Electrical Apprenticeship Association. FEAA instructors and curriculum.