Non-Union Apprenticeship Programs Through IEC and ABC Member Merit Shops

One of the best parts about becoming an electrician is that you get to hit the ground running with an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs are as relevant for electricians today as they ever have been, combining hands-on education and classroom (campus-based and online) learning. From the day you start you earn a wage, which increases over time as you gain more experience and skills.

Formal on-the-job training through an apprenticeship program usually lasts between four and six years, during which time you’ll accumulate the on-the-job training and classroom instruction hours you need to move from the apprenticeship level to the journeyman level.

As an aspiring electrician you should know your full range of options when it comes to finding an apprenticeship program. The big decision is whether to go with a union or non-union program.

Going the non-union route (merit shop/open shop apprenticeship) involves applying for entry into an apprenticeship program organized through trade associations comprised of non-unionized contractors in the electrical industry. These trade associations organize apprenticeships with their member contractors. Two of the most prominent trade associations for electricians and contractors nationwide are the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Inc. The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training recognizes many apprenticeships sponsored by these trade associations.

In addition to serving as a place for aspiring electricians to go for non-union apprenticeships, these trade associations also serve as a hub for contracting companies to find qualified apprentices and licensed electricians when they are looking to hire.

Applying to a Non-Union Apprenticeship Program

Once you’ve located a local or regional trade association office that sponsors apprenticeships near you, you’ll need to check its admission requirements when applying. Requirements may differ, but generally include:

  • Minimum age requirement – Usually at least 16 if you’re participating in a high-school-approved trade program, otherwise 17-18 years of age
  • If you’re not participating in a high-school-approved trade program you should have either a high school diploma or GED
  • Be able to perform essential electrician duties – This means having normal or correctable hearing, vision, and physical capabilities
  • Pass a basic math (including algebra) and reading exam
  • Pass a drug test and criminal background investigation
  • Be able to provide your own transportation – This usually means having a valid driver’s license

How Merit/Open Shop Apprenticeship Programs are Organized

Every trade association is unique, and can offer a wide range of different types of apprenticeships. These could include shorter-than-traditional apprenticeships that prepare you to perform a specific type of  job, like low-voltage communications installations or security and alarm installations. However the majority of apprenticeships are designed specifically to meet the on-the-job experience and classroom training hour requirements for a journeyman license.

Since each licensing jurisdiction throughout the US has different requirements, the apprenticeship programs in each area differ somewhat to align with local requirements.

In all jurisdictions, full apprenticeships that would qualify you for an unlimited journeyman card are expected to last between four and six years and consist of:

  • Several hundred hours of classroom-based education each year (typically 500-1000 total hours at the end of the apprenticeship)
  • Approximately 2,000 hours of on-the-job experience and training each year (typically 8,000-10,000 total hours at the end of the apprenticeship)

What You Learn in an Open Shop Electrician Apprenticeship

Your apprenticeship can be one of the most exciting times of your whole career. While it’s a challenge to learn new concepts and apply them in real-world situations on the job site, it’s also tremendously satisfying when you demonstrate a new competency and do your job well.

To maximize the breadth of experience, you will find yourself at several different types of job sites throughout your apprenticeship, whether wiring up new homes at a residential construction site, or installing fire alarm systems in a commercial building.

You’ll become familiar with the following elements no matter where your job assignments take you:

  • Inspecting/testing electrical systems
  • Installing fuses, relays, and switches
  • Using ohmmeters, voltmeters, meggers, harmonics testers, GFI testers, and ammeters
  • Installing, repairing, and updating electrical machinery
  • Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics
  • Wiring and upgrading breaker boxes
  • Troubleshooting wiring and electrical problems
  • Installing wiring systems and their components
  • Using basic tools like wire strippers, diagonal pliers, knockout punches, and conduit benders

Contractors from the following industries have relationships with the IEC and ABC:

  • Government agencies and offices
  • Schools and universities
  • Commercial offices
  • Factories and manufacturing plants
  • Arenas and entertainment venues
  • Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
  • Power plants – solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, geothermal, tidal, coal, and natural gas
  • Municipal and state utility companies
  • Aviation companies
  • Military contractors

Finding Open Shop Apprenticeships in Your Area

Each year tens of thousands of electricians complete an apprenticeship through Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Inc. These two trade associations maintain contact with member electrical and construction contracting companies throughout the nation looking to take on apprentices.

Contact the nearest chapter of the IEC or ABC to find specific information about applying for apprenticeships that may be available where you live:









District of Columbia




  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.








  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.


  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.





  • Clay, Norman, and Polk counties served by IEC Dakotas (Pierre, South Dakota)





  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.


  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.

New Hampshire

  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.

North Carolina

  • No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeships.

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeship offices.

South Dakota





No IEC or ABC electrical apprenticeship offices.



West Virginia



Back to Top