Top Resources for Electrician Licensing, Certification, and Training
May 30, 2023
The Great Resignation shows that millions of people have rethought their career paths. Of course, leaving one career doesn’t mean that people want to leave the workforce. Many people who resigned from their jobs still have decades of working life left in them before retirement rolls around. While some seek similar roles but with a different focus, many want a complete career overhaul. One approach that people are taking is to move from an office or retail role into a professional trade, such as an electrician. For those without direct experience to draw from, the process can seem overwhelming. Keep reading for a breakdown of the essential information you need to make that transition.
What Is an Electrician?
While it sounds like a simple enough question, the electrician career path can go down a few different roads. In simplest terms, though, an electrician handles the design, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems. What that means in practice for electrician careers is where things get more complicated. For example, some electricians specialize in residential electrical systems, while others focus entirely on commercial or even industrial electrical systems. The direction you plan on going may influence, for example, where you apprentice or what kinds of certifications you choose to get along the way.
How to Become an Electrician?
While the exact details vary from state-to-state, becoming an electrician typically follows a straightforward path.
Most electricians spend at least two years working as an apprentice to get electrical industry training. Not coincidentally, two years working full-time is about how long it takes most people to rack up the approximately 4000 hours of work experience required to take the journeyman electrician exam in most states. With that said, apprenticeships can last longer than two years based on the speed of your learning and the available work.
While working as an apprentice, you’ll learn a range of practical skills, such as testing circuits, installing wiring, reading electrical diagrams and blueprints, and perform basic troubleshooting in systems by looking for problems. Apprentices will spend part of their time on more traditional book learning, including some algebra, trig, and geometry. The experience also helps apprentices develop their soft skills as they communicate with other tradespeople, site managers, and property owners.
Apprenticeships typically happen with local trade unions, but acceptance into those programs can prove extremely competitive. In that case or areas without a strong electrician’s union, you can also look for community colleges or trade schools. These schools may offer a non-union apprenticeship program that can help you secure a job and accumulate the experience you need to take the journeyman exam.
A journeyman electrician is someone who is approximately halfway through their training. These electricians are given more latitude to work independently. They’re often allowed to install or repair systems without direct supervision. However, there are limits to this independence. As a general rule, journeymen electricians cannot take on electrician system design tasks. For larger projects, journeymen electricians typically receive direct and indirect supervision from a master electrician. Journeyman electricians must typically accrue another 4000 hours of work experience before they can take the master electrician exam in most states.
Master electricians can, in theory, take on any electrical system design, installation, or repair work in residential, commercial, or industrial settings. In practice, most master electricians focus one or two of these areas. That specialization lets them focus on developing their skills. For example, residential electricians will spend their time brushing up on electrical panel and sub-panel installation. An electrician focused on industrial electrical systems will likely spend more time focused on issues with transformers and large-scale electrical loads.
Part of the learning process for electricians at all levels is an ever-increasing knowledge and understanding of the National Electrical Code or NEC. This code serves as the baseline for electrical system safety across the nation. However, some cities have their own electrical code that may supersede the national code. These codes typically apply more stringent rules about electrical systems and wiring. If you plan on setting up shop in a city with it’s own electrical code, make sure that you spend a substantial amount of time familiarizing yourself with the local code requirements.
The vast majority of states have departments that administer the exams for a statewide electrician or electrical license. These exams are typically based on information found in the NEC. They may test anything from your knowledge about ground fault circuit interrupters to direct-burial procedures to calculating residential or commercial electrical loads. In the few states without statewide licensing, local bodies will administer testing and licensing. They may base their exams on the NEC, the local electrical code, or both.
Once you get your journeyman electrician license or master electrician license, you can start thinking about getting certifications that will make you more employable. This can work for you as either someone looking to become a direct employee or to open up your own business. Here are some of the more popular options in terms of electrician certifications.
The National Fire Protection Association offers three general certifications that an electrician might want to secure, depending on their specific role.
Certified Electrical Safety Worker
This certification is for people involved in the hands-on work of installing and repairing electrical systems.
Certified Electrical Safety Technician
This certification is for people who may work near electrical hazards, but not necessarily directly with the electrical systems.
Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional
This certification is intended primarily for supervisory staff or managers who in charge of safety programs, electricians, or those who work in proximity to electrical hazards.
Electrician salaries vary a lot based on where you are in your career journey. As a general rule, apprentice and journeymen electrician’s make less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an electrician is around $60,000 per year. It should be noted that master electricians can make substantially more than that depending on their locations. In major urban centers like Los Angeles and New York City, a master electrician can make $100,000 per year or more.
It should also be noted that salary can very substantially between electrician employees and independent electricians. Electricians who work for someone else, such as a contractor, typically get a fixed wage or annual salary. Electricians who work for themselves can often secure better annual salaries, but they assume extra risks and expenses by going into business for themselves.
Starting Your Own Business
Launching your own electrical contractor business is the goal for many people who take up the electrician trade. Yet, much as becoming an electrician is often shrouded in mystery to the non-initiate, so too is launching a business. Launching a business is more than just picking a name and hanging out a shingle. However, state regulations can vary on certain specifics, so this will provide a general guide to launching your electrician business.
Pick a Name
It might seem like picking a name is something that can wait, yet it will become a holdup for you almost immediately if you don’t have one picked out. Some people prefer that the business has their own name attached to it, while others prefer something that doesn’t rely so heavily on them. The argument goes that you might want to sell the business one day or pass it on to someone else. A business with your name attached to it has built a brand based, at least partially, on your credibility. That can make selling the business much harder because the new owner can’t lean on your credibility in the same way. A brand that is less attached to you personally can change ownership more easily and retain more of the brand reputation.
Start an LLC
Starting an LLC isn’t absolutely required, but it is considered a fairly standard step. Staring a limited liability company offers your business many of the same protections as a corporation. Specifically, the company becomes the defendant if you ever get sued. While the company’s profits and possessions are potentially up for grabs, your personal property remains shielded if the court rules against you.
In most locations, you must register your business with the state. This typically means filling out some paperwork and sending it in. In places where electrical licenses are local, you may need to register your business with the city, county, state, or all three. Make sure you check into the local requirements.
In addition to registering with the state, there is also a chance that you will need permits from the state, county, or city to open your business. You will need those permits in place before you open for business.
Since most electricians work on-site at people’s homes or businesses, most states or municipalities require that you carry a liability insurance policy. The size of the policy varies by location. You’ll probably also want a business owner’s policy or similar insurance coverage for the business itself.
You will likely want a website to help promote your business, at least in the local area. A good website will include certain information, such as your normal business hours, contact information, address, and the services you offer. If you work outside of normal business hours, you should list that information and any additional charges that off-hours work will incur for customers.
You can DIY websites with a combination of web hosting, a content management system, and some time. If you’re not especially tech-savvy, though, you may want to default to hiring someone to build a site for you or using a system that offers a website builder.
Advertising and Marketing
Advertising is often one of the things that business owners enjoy the least. Remember that you’re not trying to attract the attention of everyone in the world. Just people in a 5 to 30 mile radius of your business location. That means you can focus primarily on local options, such as radio ads and local publications. You should also spend a little time building at least one social media profile. Aim for one of the big social media sites that lets you include business information or even create a dedicated business page, such as Facebook. While anyone can see it, it will attract the most attention from people or business owners that live or operate in your general neighborhood. In other words, the exact people you want to attract as customers.
Managing the Electrician Business
Getting the business up and running isn’t the same as managing the business long-term. A good business has systems in place that make things more efficient, such as electrician business software. Efficiency, in this case, means helping the business operate more smoothly and make more money. As an added bonus, good efficiency almost always helps boost your overall customer service.
One of the ways you can boost your efficiency and improve overall management of your business is with a field management system, such as FieldBin. These systems help streamline some of the fundamental tasks that you’ll face in your business, such as fielding business calls, setting up appointments, and dispatching employees or crews to job sites.
These kinds of systems can also help you manage tasks like inventory tracking, electrician estimating, and invoicing for completed jobs. By condensing all of these tasks into a single system, you avoid a lot of the headaches that you often see tripping up new small businesses. For example, you don’t have to import and export data just to see what you have in stock. Since all of the information exists in one system, you spend more time focused on doing jobs and less time on paperwork.
Becoming an electrician isn’t a short process. You will commit several years of your life and a lot of mental energy to mastering the skills you need to take journeyman and master electrician exams in your state or city. Then, there are optional certifications that help make you more appealing to potential employers. The upside of all of that effort is that it can secure you a very livable income in the long run. It’s also an excellent option for those who spent years in the corporate grind and want to do something different with their lives. Electricians also have a lot of potential for opening their own businesses. Skilled tradespeople remain in high demand across the nation, which means you can potentially set up shop almost anywhere. Just remember to jump through all the right hoops when you want to open your own business.
Plumbers are the unsung heroes of the modern world, keeping our homes and businesses running smoothly. However, this physically demanding profession often takes a toll on their bodies, leading to common issues like back pain. If you're a plumber dealing with back pain, you're not alone. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore in-depth tips and […]
HVAC businesses use field service vehicles to perform a variety of heating and cooling installation, repair and maintenance tasks. Since no two companies are the same, there is no one-size-fits-all field service vehicle program for HVAC business owners. A well-researched, carefully planned purchase of field service trucks is a crucial business investment for any HVAC […]
If you want your painting business to be a success, it is essential to consider what types of services you can offer. Of course, offering high-quality painting services is an excellent place to start. However, you should also consider add-on services. Extra services allow you to utilize your current workforce and business model while appealing […]
FieldBin is the easiest-to-use field management software for hard working trades business owners. Our comprehensive set of industry specific developed features solve your back-office nightmares so you can increase profits by satsifying customers to grow your business.