Electrical Apprenticeship: The Path to an Interesting and Rewarding Career
Electricity touches every aspect of our lives and people are using more of it than ever before. An ever-increasing demand for electricity translates to a high demand for skilled electricians, with jobs expected to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field deals in the abstract, requiring technical aptitude and a strong grasp of math and physics, so it’s not for everyone. But for those willing to put in the work to become an electrician, this career path provides substantial benefits like job security, stable income, interesting work, and various other rewards.
There are many electrical specializations to explore, including outdoor lineman, indoor wireman, low voltage systems, electrical testing, instrumentation and controls, electrical layout and design, and electrical project management. Automotive electricians are increasing in demand, as are those who specialize in solar and wind energy.
There is a wise saying that goes, “Don’t learn the tricks of the trade; learn the trade itself.” An electrician apprenticeship, a well-defined mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job training, provides the best pathway to an electrical career. With an electrical apprenticeship, you “earn while you learn”, unlike some of the other skilled trades.
IBEW programs, which originated during World War II, have strict requirements including an application review, aptitude test, interview, and a pre-employment physical. Non-union apprenticeships typically have similar requirements.
A good apprenticeship program covers a range of topics. These include fundamental electrical theories from Ohm’s Law to Kirchoff’s Law, as well as series, parallel circuits, electronics, simple and complex wiring diagrams, troubleshooting, testing methods, use of electrical meters and devices, etc.
As with most careers, apprentices start at the bottom but with a solid foundation. An apprenticeship usually spans 4.5 to 5 years during which field experience is gained working under the mentorship of a seasoned journeyman electrician. The apprentice learns to work as part of a team while gaining practical hands-on experience in handling wire, hardware, and other materials, bending conduits, electrical terminations, dressing wire, and prioritizing safety at all times.
The field performance of the apprentice is evaluated by the journeyman to identify their strengths and areas that need improvement. Hats off to the apprentice program instructors and journeymen electricians who shape and guide the next generation of skilled professionals in a world where technology is rapidly and continually advancing.
Completing an apprenticeship is a significant milestone at which time apprentices can test to become a licensed journeyman electrician. They can also apply for a master electrician license in the state in which they live. With these achievements under their belts, they're ready to embark on a rewarding career as a journeyman electrician.