Business Insider

How to become a licensed electrician

Billy Stutz, a Ferguson Marketing Manager

by Billy Stutz


If you enjoy working with your hands, would rather be on your feet than behind a desk, and want a career that is both in-demand and rewarding, then becoming an electrician might be the right fit for you. As an electrician, your future could open to a limitless number of career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, estimates that increased construction spending and the emergence of alternative energy sources will drive the demand for electricians. Additionally, a career as an electrician can lead to high earning potential. Explore electrician career benefits and see how to spark your future by becoming a licensed electrician.

Electrician career benefits

Whether you want to start your own business and work on residential building projects or in the commercial contracting industry, pursuing a career as an electrician can allow you to be your own boss. As mentioned above, electricians have high earning potential. In 2017, the median annual salary for electricians in the United States was $54,110. This is over $16,000 more than the national median pay for all jobs, which was $37,690.

Another advantage of choosing a career as an electrician is that you can earn your certification without attending a traditional four-year university. With the national average student loan debt at over $37,000 per graduate as of 2017, this could save you from having to pay back costly student loans for years after graduation. So how do you become an electrician? The specific steps vary by state and even by locality, but there are basic requirements that are similar everywhere. Find out what you should consider before deciding to become an electrician and learn about the basic education and training requirements.

Is an electrician career right for me?

Like any career, becoming an electrician is better suited for some people more so than others. Take these points into consideration when deciding if an electrician career is right for you:

  • Do I have a clean driving record and valid license?

    Keeping your driving history free from tickets and making sure your driver’s license is current will make it easier for you to find employment as an electrician.

  • Can I pass a criminal background check?

    Like a driver’s license and driving record, being free from criminal convictions will make you a stronger candidate for employment. Additionally, future employers will likely require you to pass a drug test as part of the screening process.

  • Am I physically capable of being an electrician?

    From walking across construction sites and crouching in tight spaces to carrying heavy tools and electrical equipment, being an electrician is physically involving.

  • Am I color blind?

    As an electrician, you will need to be able to distinguish between wires of different colors. This can be a challenge if you are color blind.

The professional trade industry offers a wide range of career opportunities. Explore the possibilities of becoming a plumber or heating and cooling technician.

Electrician education & training requirements

If you decide that you want to become an electrician, here is what you can expect to have to do in terms of education and training requirements:

Step 1: Get your high school degree

Completing your high school education or earning an equivalent degree, such as a General Education Degree, is the first step to take to prepare your for an electrician career. Classes you should focus on include:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Physics
  • Science
  • Trigonometry

Pro tip: Some schools offer vocational training classes as part of the curriculum. Talk to your high school guidance counselor to see if any classes related to the electrician field are available.

Step 2: Find an apprenticeship

Enrolling in an apprentice program after obtaining your high school diploma or equivalent is the next step towards becoming an electrician. A typical apprentice program combines classes and on-the-job training. You will likely learn the National Electric Code, which is the electrical code that most states have adopted.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average apprentice program take four to five years to complete and includes about 2,000 hours of on-the-job training per year. In addition to gaining real-world experience, on-the-job training is often paid. This means you can earn while you learn.

Pro tip: If you’re not sure where to start with finding an apprenticeship, check with your local trade organizations or unions. Three popular electrical trade organizations are:

Step 3: Pass the exam

Once you’ve met the requirements of your apprenticeship program, you will likely have to take a state or local exam to earn your certification. The test will vary based on where you live, but it is likely that you will have to prove your knowledge of the National Electric Code if your state is an adopter.

Online electrician resources by state

Find your state below to get started with learning about the specific requirements for becoming an electrician where you live.

Billy Stutz, a Ferguson Marketing Manager
Billy Stutz

For more than 10 years, Billy has been a dedicated supply-chain strategist delivering quality information to his customers and offering solutions to drive actionable results to their bottom line.