Making Sense of Licensing and Training
It takes the right electrician qualifications to work on the transmission of power or the installation and maintenance of electrical systems. Electricity can be dangerous and complex. That's why, before you can call yourself a qualified electrician, you'll need to acquire the proper skills and credentials. In most states, that includes a special license.
Licensing for Electricians
After completing your electrician training, getting licensed is perhaps the biggest milestone you'll reach at the start of your career. Unfortunately, licensing requirements can vary greatly from state to state. In most states, licensure is conducted at the state level, but in others it is carried out on a city-by-city or town-by-town basis.
For those states that do handle licensing, some have reciprocal agreements with neighboring states, meaning they share the same or similar regulations. In most cases, those regulations conform to the National Electrical Code, with the states making a few changes or exemptions to it.
Licensing requirements are usually broken down into different categories according to the hierarchy of the profession. For instance, in many states the regulation structure goes from apprentice (or electrician's helper) to residential wireman to journeyman electrician to master electrician to electrical contractor (the highest level).
At the end of the day, what it all means is that you'll probably have to pass an exam relevant to the level you're at in the field (with the exception of apprentices and helpers). At minimum, you'll be tested on things like your knowledge of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code and your state's or municipality's own building codes.
Before you ever get to the licensing stage, you will have already met other qualifications for becoming an electrician.
Electrical work is highly physical and intricate, so it's important that you are good at working with your hands. Being physically fit helps a lot, as does possessing a great sense of balance. And, because you'll need to identify electrical wiring by its color, you definitely must have accurate color vision.
You should also be comfortable with math. Electricians often must calculate solutions to electrical problems. Therefore, having a background that includes courses in math and physics is highly beneficial.
Before approaching schools or apprenticeship programs for your electrician training, keep in mind that you will need to be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED). You'll have a leg up on other applicants if you can also show a solid work history or have served in the military.
When you're ready for your education, you basically have two options. You can apply for and go straight into an electrician apprenticeship program, or you can attend a school before your apprenticeship and start your on-the-job training at a higher level.
Either way, you can expect to spend about four years in a combination of classroom and hands-on training. And, even after you become a licensed electrician, you'll need to stay on top of your continuing education in order to maintain current knowledge of local and national electrical codes and safety programs.
Don't let all the qualifications scare you. Take things step by step. If you're eager to become a qualified electrician, you can make your way through the process. Begin by picking the training option that works best for you. There are probably even some electrician schools in your area. You could soon be helping to power the world!
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