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Summary

People who go into the electrical trade can benefit from good wage potential, enhanced career stability, satisfying workplace variety, highly engaging job tasks, and other advantages. An electrician school near you may offer pre-apprenticeship training that can give you a good start on the path to becoming a licensed journeyman.

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Career Snapshot

Career Outlook
10.4% growth from 2018-2028

Median Salary
Electricians

Job Openings
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings

Specializations

Residential work, commercial work, industrial work, signage and highway systems, fire alarm and security systems, power line work, telecommunications, solar energy, wind energy, electrical inspection, aviation technology, automotive technology, marine technology

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education

Lincoln Tech

  • East Windsor
  • New Britain
  • Shelton
  • Marietta
  • Melrose Park
  • Indianapolis
  • Columbia
  • Mahwah
  • Union
  • Queens
  • Allentown
  • Electrical/Electronics

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UEI College

  • Chula Vista, California
  • West Covina, California
  • Electrician Technician

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Pennco Tech

  • Blackwood, New Jersey
  • Bristol, Pennsylvania
  • Electrician

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Porter and Chester Institute

  • Hamden
  • New London
  • Rocky Hill
  • Stratford
  • Waterbury
  • Brockton
  • Chicopee
  • Worcester
  • Electrician: Industrial, Commercial, & Residential

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Summit College

  • El Cajon, California
  • San Bernardino, California
  • Santa Ana, California
  • Electrician

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YTI Career Institute

  • York, Pennsylvania
  • Electrical Technology

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San Joaquin Valley College

  • Bakersfield
  • Fresno
  • Modesto
  • Ontario
  • Temecula
  • Electrical Technology

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Carrington College

  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Electrical Technology

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Florida Technical College

  • Cutler Bay
  • DeLand
  • Kissimmee
  • Lakeland
  • Orlando
  • Pembroke Pines
  • Electrical

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Fortis College

  • Centerville, Ohio
  • Electrical and Electronic Systems Technician

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Fortis Institute

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Lawrenceville, New Jersey
  • Wayne, New Jersey
  • Forty Fort, Pennsylvania
  • Electrical Systems Technology
  • Electrical Trades
  • Electronic Systems Technician

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Dorsey Schools

  • Dearborn, Michigan
  • Electrical Technician

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Southern Careers Institute

  • Brownsville, Texas
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Waco, Texas
  • Electrical Technician

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Baker College

  • Flint, Michigan
  • Electrical Engineering

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InterCoast

  • Fairfield
  • Rancho Cordova
  • Riverside
  • Santa Ana
  • West Covina
  • Electrical Training

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Coyne College

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Electrical Construction and Maintenance
  • Electrical Construction and Planning

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The Refrigeration School

  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Electrical Applications
  • Electro-Mechanical Technologies

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Tulsa Welding School

  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Electrical Applications
  • Electro-Mechanical Technologies

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Southern Technical College

  • Ft. Myers, Florida
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Port Charlotte, Florida
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Electrical Technology
  • Electrical Trades Technology

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HoHoKus School of Trade & Technical Sciences

  • Paterson, New Jersey
  • Electrician Apprenticeship

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Online & Distance Learning
  • High School Diploma with Electrical Pathway

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Penn Foster College

  • Online & Distance Learning
  • Residential Electrician

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Ashworth College

  • Online
  • Electrician Training

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Altierus Career College

  • Tampa, Florida
  • Electrical Technician

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Career Information

The electrical trade offers numerous opportunities for satisfying work, good wages, and specialization. Many electricians also enjoy excellent job security thanks to a steady demand for their critical skills.

Earnings

According to the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, the median electrician salary is $56,180. The top 10 percent of earners in this trade make more than $96,580 a year.

Job Openings & Outlook

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the number of electrician jobs could grow 10.4 percent between 2018 and 2028. In total, an average of 94,600 job openings in this trade are expected to be available each year over that period. That number includes:

  • Brand new positions: 7,400
  • Openings from people retiring: 23,100
  • Openings from people changing occupations: 64,100

Key Benefits

  1. Career stability: Safe access to electricity is vital for most aspects of modern society, which makes this an essential trade with a fairly reliable demand for skilled workers.
  2. Opportunity for self-employment: About six percent of electricians work for themselves (as contractors), allowing them to choose their own projects and set their own schedules and pay rates.
  3. Sense of pride and fulfillment: You get to perform interesting work with your hands and provide vital services within your community. Without electricians, homes wouldn't have heat and light, hospitals wouldn't have the use of vital, lifesaving equipment, and the countless gadgets that have become part of our daily lives couldn't exist.

What an Electrician Does

 Depending on their particular jobs and areas of focus, electricians can take on several different responsibilities. But for many people in the trade, the day-to-day work often involves tasks such as:

  • Planning the layout and installation of electrical systems with consideration for safety and code compliance
  • Reading blueprints
  • Installing new electrical components (such as wiring, fuses, etc.)
  • Repairing and maintaining existing electrical infrastructure
  • Inspecting existing electrical systems, components, and equipment in order to safeguard against hazards and ensure code compliance
  • Connecting wires to various components within electrical systems (such as transformers, circuit breakers, etc.)
  • Working with power and hand tools in order to repair or replace equipment, wiring, and lighting fixtures
  • Assembling, installing, and testing electrical equipment, fixtures, and appliances
  • Using ohmmeters, oscilloscopes, and voltmeters to identify problems and test electrical systems
  • Training and supervising apprentices, electrical helpers, or less experienced electricians
  • Consulting and collaborating with architects, engineers, or specialists in other trades who are working on the same projects

Work Settings

Electricians use their skills in a huge variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors. Depending on their specific jobs and qualifications, those settings can include places like:

  • Construction sites
  • Homes
  • Businesses
  • Factories
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Airports
  • Entertainment venues
  • Government buildings
  • Utility sites
  • Oil rigs
  • Repair shops
  • Mining or drilling sites
  • Roadways

Specializations

People in the electrical trade can pursue many different areas of focus. Some electricians prefer to specialize in installation (such as for new construction or renovations), whereas others choose to focus on maintenance and repair. And some electricians decide to branch out into very particular industries that often require additional training, certification, and other qualifications. Here are several examples:

Residential work: Use your skills to install, upgrade, or fix electrical wiring and systems in houses, condominiums, apartments, townhomes, and other places of residence.

Commercial work: Provide your services as part of the construction, renovation, or maintenance of electrical systems in properties that are often large in size and accessible to the public. Examples include office buildings, schools, retail stores and shopping malls, hospitals, restaurants, entertainment venues, and similar structures.

Industrial work: Specialize in installing or maintaining electrical equipment, machinery, and systems for manufacturing facilities, utility plants, mining or extraction sites, or similar large-scale operations.

Signage and highway systems: Help fix, maintain, or install traffic lights, pole lighting along streets, airport runway lights, or lighted signs or awnings on buildings or detached structures.

Fire alarm and security systems: Focus on installing or repairing low-voltage systems that help protect buildings and their occupants from blazes, theft, acts of vandalism, or other threats.

Power line work: Get specialized training for putting high-voltage transmission lines and distribution equipment into place or fixing components damaged by storms, car accidents, bird strikes, natural disasters, or other events that often cause power outages.

Telecommunications: Contribute to the installation and repair of underground or overhead cable, Internet, or phone lines used for transmitting video, data, and voice calls.

Solar energy: Play a key role in the nation's transition to renewable sources of electricity by gaining skills for installing and maintaining solar photovoltaic panels and related systems.

Wind energy: Help install and maintain huge outdoor turbines that generate clean electrical power from the natural movement of the air.

Electrical inspection: Closely examine the wiring and other electrical components in buildings that are being constructed, renovated, or sold in order to ensure that everything is safe and up to code.

Aviation technology: Play a part in the manufacturing, repair, or refurbishment of aircraft by working on the vital electrical systems in airplanes or helicopters.

Automotive technology: Troubleshoot and fix a wide variety of electrical components and systems used in motor vehicles.

Marine technology: Contribute to the production, refurbishment, or repair of boats, ships, or other watercraft that have on-board electrical equipment or systems.

Career FAQs

What's the difference between an electrician and electrical technician?

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the roles are often different. Whereas electricians are mostly involved in the installation and maintenance of wiring and electrical systems for structures, electrical technicians are frequently more involved with maintaining and repairing equipment, machines, or devices that use electricity. The term "electrical technician" is also sometimes used for:

  • People who assist electrical engineers with the design, testing, and production of devices powered by electricity
  • Apprentices in the electrical trade who are under the supervision of journeyman electricians
  • Tradespeople who primarily work with low-voltage electrical systems

Is being an electrician dangerous?

The trade does have some inherent risks. Injuries can occur as a result of falling from ladders or scaffolding or being burned or shocked by electricity. But most professionals are able to perform their work safely by taking precautions, utilizing their electrician training, and following occupational best practices.

According to BLS data, only 80 electricians suffered fatal injuries from their work in 2018. The top three causes of those fatalities were:

  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments
  • Transportation incidents
  • Falls, trips, and slips

That same year, about 715,400 electricians were employed in the U.S., according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). So the occupational fatality rate in this trade was only about 0.01 percent.

What personal qualities can help me succeed in the electrical trade?

Many of the best electricians share these traits:

  • Honesty
  • Friendliness
  • Patience
  • Trustworthiness
  • Adaptability
  • Self-directedness
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to communicate clearly
  • Good vision (with no color-blindness)
  • Physical strength, flexibility, and stamina
  • The ability to think logically
  • Good hand-eye coordination

What are the top-paying industries and regions for electricians?

According to OES program estimates, the industries with the highest average electrician pay (per year):

  • Natural gas distribution: $104,250
  • Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events: $86,820
  • Land subdivision: $82,630

The same estimates show that electricians earn the highest average wages in these regions:

  • District of Columbia: $79,870
  • New York: $79,480
  • Illinois: $78,790


Education & Training

Today, one of the most common paths to becoming a licensed electrician involves a combination of formal technical schooling and hands-on apprenticeship training. That's because most states require you to have a certain amount of classroom hours and electrical work experience before you can become officially licensed or certified.

Length of Training

Depending on the program, it generally takes from eight to 24 months to complete pre-apprenticeship training through an electrician school.*

Most Common Length of School*
(range in months)

  • Solar energy
    4-12
  • Wind energy
    5-24
  • HVAC
    6-24
  • Electrical
    8-24

Program Options

 Many electrician trade schools and technical colleges offer pre-apprenticeship electrical programs that provide a valuable head start. Completing such a program may even count toward a future apprenticeship, allowing you to begin one at a more advanced level. (Some or all of the classroom requirements may be waived.)

Signing up for an online electrician school is also an option for those who want to learn from a distance while preparing for the occupational requirements of their individual states.

Certificate and diploma programs tend to be short and career-focused, meaning that the curriculum is solely focused on teaching concepts and hands-on skills that are directly related to the electrical trade. Most programs at this level can be completed in under a year.*

Associate degree programs may offer the same type of training but also include some general education courses. They're often designed to take about two years.*

Apprenticeships involve working under the supervision of a licensed journeyman or master electrician for up to four or five years (according to the OOH). So what's better to start off with: an electrician trade school or apprenticeship? Although it is possible to head straight into an electrician apprenticeship, a lot of people choose to complete a post-secondary program at a technical school first. Here's what else you should know:

  • Many employers and organizations that hire and sponsor apprentices look more favorably upon those who've attended nearby electrician schools.
  • Most apprentices are employees in training and get compensated for their work.
  • The OOH says that in addition to classroom instruction, apprenticeships generally involve about 2,000 hours of hands-on training per year.
  • Many apprenticeships are run by state organizations or sponsored by joint training committees, which usually include local union chapters. One of the most common apprenticeship programs is administered through the electrical training ALLIANCE, which is comprised of a partnership between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
  • You can locate potential sponsors near you by using the U.S. Department of Labor's apprenticeship finder.

Typical Courses

Depending on your school and program, your electrician classes may cover areas such as:

  • Electrical theories
  • Trade math
  • Residential, commercial, and industrial electrical concepts
  • Blueprint reading
  • Local, national, and state regulations
  • Building codes
  • Safety practices
  • Tools and equipment for the electrical trade
  • Low- and high-voltage systems
  • Design, repair, calibration, and modification of electrical components, equipment, and machinery
  • Inspection and troubleshooting of electrical systems
  • Power distribution
  • Grounding and wiring
  • Conduit and wiring protection
  • Electrical panels
  • Load calculations
  • Appliance, lighting, and ceiling fan installation
  • Motors and generators
  • Alarm systems
  • Telecommunications

An extremely important area of your training will be related to the National Electrical Code, which is a set of guidelines created and managed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Not only is the National Electrical Code an essential section of licensing examinations, but it will also be an integral part of your working life because all electrical work (whether it's upgrades to existing systems or new installations) is required by law to be inspected and approved by state or municipal electrical inspectors. One of the main things these inspectors need to determine is if the electrical work adheres to the National Electrical Code.

Here are some other important facts about the National Electrical Code:

  • It is periodically updated by the NFPA, and new editions are released regularly.
  • It includes guidelines on electrical work for virtually all settings.

Skills You Can Learn

Electrician training programs offer the opportunity to develop abilities related to:

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints and technical diagrams
  • Interpreting the National Electrical Code and local regulations
  • Following safety procedures
  • Calculating loads, wiring lengths, and room dimensions
  • Using hand tools, power tools, and special equipment such as:
    • Wire strippers
    • Conduit benders
    • Thermal scanners
    • Voltmeters
    • Ammeters
    • Oscilloscopes
    • Cable testers
  • Installing, inspecting, troubleshooting, and fixing electrical components such as:
    • Wires and cables
    • Switches
    • Outlets
    • Circuit breakers
    • Fuses
    • Distribution boards
    • Motors
  • Pinpointing defects or potential hazards

Licensing & Certification

In most states, after you have successfully completed your training, you must get licensed before you can legally work unsupervised as an electrician. That generally requires passing a licensing exam after proving that you've accumulated enough hours of classroom learning and real-world work experience.

The specific requirements vary by state and municipality. That's why it's best to check with a local organization—such as the state licensing department or state fire marshal division—to determine the exact requirements and fees for your area.

In most cases, a license will only allow you to work within the specific municipality or state in which you took the examination. However, some interstate reciprocity agreements do exist.

Some states have multiple levels of electrician licensing (including some below the journeyman level). But in many regions, once you have successfully passed the relevant licensing examination, you will officially become a journeyman electrician. As a journeyman, you may be legally allowed to perform almost all types of electrical work. (Some states restrict journeyman electricians from designing electrical systems.)

Becoming a Master Electrician

After becoming a licensed journeyman electrician, you may choose to advance your career and pursue the master electrician designation. You will likely need to meet additional requirements before you are eligible to take a master electrician examination within your state or municipality.

The requirements tend to differ by state. Most states require that you have several years of experience as a licensed electrician before you can take the certification exam and upgrade to master status. However, some states will accept a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering (or a related field) in lieu of years of experience.

Once you have successfully passed the examination, you will be legally allowed to perform more advanced work, including the planning and design of electrical systems. You can also take on supervisory or management roles.

As a master electrician, you may also become a private electrical contractor by getting a business license and starting your own company. If you go this route, you might need to purchase a minimum amount of liability insurance.

Education & Training FAQs

How much do electrician programs cost?

Expenses vary depending on the particular school and level of education you choose. According to the U.S. Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency data for the 2018-2019 school year, the average electrician school cost (tuition and fees) was $14,632 for programs in the "electrical and power transmission installers" category. Some programs were as little as $299 or just a few thousand dollars, whereas one program was more than $40,000.

Keep in mind that many students qualify for financial aid. Data for 2017-2018 from the same source shows that the average net price for these programs was $15,567. (The net price is the amount a student pays after subtracting financial aid from the total cost of tuition, fees, books, supplies, and other education-related expenses, including room and board if applicable.) The net price ranged from as little as $4,394 to as much as $26,626.

What do apprentice electricians get paid?

The U.S. Department of Labor says that apprentices (across all trades) earn starting wages of $15 an hour, on average. Generally, as your skills and understanding of the job improve, your wages go up. According to PayScale, the median wage for electrical apprentices is $15.33 per hour. The top earners make over $20.53 an hour.

Do I need to be good at math?

You do need to learn some math and use it while on the job. However, some people find that, thanks to their training, they can handle doing math in the electrical trade even though they weren't good at math in high school. That's because being able to apply mathematical concepts to practical, real-world situations makes them easier to learn. Plus, many electrician schools offer extra tutoring through instructors or peers. So you can always ask for help if you encounter concepts that are hard to understand.

Electricians primarily use simple arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and algebra in their jobs. They need to know basic concepts from those mathematical branches in order to carry out routine tasks such as:

  • Taking measurements
  • Converting between different units of measurement
  • Calculating precise angles
  • Figuring out the voltage, current, or resistance of an electrical circuit
  • Calculating the amount of power being supplied by an electrical source

* Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant program lengths from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.