Cool Careers: The Apprentice Electrician

October 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm  •  Posted in Construction  •  0 Comments

For some, the path to success is a straight shot: complete a four-year business degree, land a nine-to-five office job, and put in your time. That sounds like a decent gig for most people—but you aren’t most people. For folks who prefer hands-on work, that kind of drudgery is agonizing.

Working with your hands isn’t just your job—it’s how you’re wired. So why settle for a career that utilizes a fraction of your talents at best? When you choose a profession that aligns with your skill set, you’ll break through every glass ceiling. If you have the grit and patience to see it through, your dedication will pay off in a big way too.

We’re singing your praises, apprentice electricians. Here’s why:

You’re Ready To Be Schooled

To become a journeyman electrician, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship that lasts three to five years and includes classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Training is typically completed through technical schools, training centers, distance learning, and community colleges.

During your apprenticeship, an experienced electrician will supervise you and show you the ropes. Requirements vary from state to state, but you’ll likely need to pass a licensing exam to become a bonafide journeyman electrician.

In the classroom, you’ll learn about jobsite safety, electrical code, and electrical theory. To brush up on safety practices, specific products, and changing electrical codes, you may be required to take continuing education courses after completing your initial training.

You Have What It Takes

Apprentice electricians are expected to show up on time, put in the hours, take direction, and learn. To keep up, you’ll need to stay tough, determined, and sharp. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (How to Become an Electrician) lists a few key qualities that apprentice electricians should possess:

  • Color Vision: You’ll need to be able to identify color-coded wires.
  • Critical Thinking Skills: To find, diagnose, and fix issues, you’ll need to use your noodle.
  • Customer Service Skills: Electricians work with customers regularly. A friendly, professional demeanor is a must.
  • Physical Stamina & Strength: Electricians break a sweat running wire, connecting fixtures, and moving heavy components and equipment.
  • Business Savvy: From inventory to payroll and management, self-employed electricians wear a lot of hats. If you plan to become an independent contractor, you’ll need a base level of business knowledge.

Another aspect of an electrician’s job might include automation with Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programming, so some basic computer skills would come in handy.

You’re Not Afraid To Get Your Hands Dirty

The job of an apprentice electrician is rewarding, but it isn’t glamorous by any means. Your workday could start as early as 6:00 am and extend well past 5:00 pm. That could mean rising at ungodly hours like 4:30, 5:30, or 6:00 am in the morning.

To meet tight deadlines, sometimes you’ll need to work evenings and weekends. On top of that, you’ll be going to school a few times a week too. *reaches for coffee*

Eventually, you’ll handle all the main tasks of an electrician, but don’t expect to be handed the easiest or most exciting jobs right off the bat. Apprentices often get tasked with less-than-glamorous grunt work, like mucking around in ditches, unloading trucks, putting up and tearing down structures, cleaning up, and maybe even grabbing coffee and donuts for your co-workers. (Somebody’s gotta do the dirty work.)

You Have Your Eye On The Prize

For bright-eyed up-and-comers, the future is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electricians), “Employment of electricians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

Once you complete your training and the required licensing, you can work as a journeyman electrician. One day, you could run your own business as an electrical contractor, or you could work as a master electrician. When it comes to areas of specialization, the sky’s the limit:

  • Construction electricians typically handle larger projects, like wiring an entire floor of an office building.
  • If you’re business-inclined, you could start up your own electrical contracting venture. Electrical contractors employ electricians, bid for new projects, and hire tradespeople to get the job done.
  • Electricians can also specialize in hospital, research, or marine applications.

To make it in the electrical trade, you’ve gotta put in the paces. For apprentice electricians, that means three to five years of schooling and intense on-the-job training. For you, the road to success is cobbled with plenty of dirt, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over to You

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or connecting with us on Twitter @GraybarESP or on Facebook.

Sources & Credits
Department of Labor: Apprenticeship: Frequently Asked Questions
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electricians
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electricians (Job Outlook)


Todd Reed, National Market ManagerAbout The Author
Todd Reed, National Market Manager

As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.

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