You’ve always been interested in working with your hands, you’ve been known to be a whiz at solving complex issues, and you’re fascinated with how things work. You’re an electrician at heart—now you just need the training and know-how to turn your talents into a successful career.
Electricians are tradesmen with an advanced level of training, both in the classroom and on the job. There are no shortcuts to becoming an electrician. As a trade that requires a professional license in all U.S. states and/or jurisdictions, you’ll be expected to earn your way into the profession and demonstrate your mastery of progressively more technical skills and knowledge along the way.
However, you do have options when it comes to how you receive the education and training necessary to become a licensed electrician:
Option 1: Earn an electrician certificate or career diploma through a vocational-technical school or associate’s degree in electrical technology through a community college or four-year school before you enter an apprenticeship or other on-the-job training program
Option 2: Complete the required basic electrician classroom courses during your apprenticeship or other on-the-job training program
Electrician Schools By State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Electrician Schools and Degree Programs
Completing an electrician program through a technical school or community college before you begin an apprenticeship program may be advantageous for a number of reasons:
(1) It allows you to decide if a career as an electrician is right for you.
(2) It allows you to complete all classroom requirements in one continuous program, instead of during the course of your apprenticeship.
(3) It allows you to enter your apprenticeship with a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of electricity.
(4) It allows you to begin your education while waiting for acceptance into an apprenticeship program.
Accreditation varies for electrician programs; however, many hold national accreditation through one or more of the following agencies:
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
- Council on Occupational Education
The majority of electrician programs result in a career diploma/certificate or associate’s degree.
Most career diploma/certificate programs take about a year to complete, while associate’s degree programs take about two years to complete and consist of about 60 semester credits.
Although the vast majority of electrician programs satisfy the classroom hour component required for state/local licensure, it is important to check with your licensing board.
Certificate programs are inclusive of all basic courses designed to prepare you for your impending apprenticeship, while associate’s degree programs allow you to receive a more in-depth course of education. Many associate’s degree programs allow students to take courses in specialized areas, like renewable energy or industrial electrical technology.
Many programs are offered online or through evening classes, with master electrician instructors providing support along the way.
Electrician programs focus on applying technical knowledge and skills to maintain, operate, and repair electrical systems and apparatus. A typical program of study includes the following courses:
- Conduit Work
- Electrical Basics and Tools
- Electrical Boxes, Receptacles, and Switches
- Electrical Circuits and Systems
- Electrical Equipment for Commercial Installations
- Electrical Wiring Protection Devices
- Grounding and Wiring
- Installing Lighting, Ceiling Fans, and Appliances
- Introduction to Commercial Wiring
- The Service Entrance and Electrical Panels
Admission into an electrical diploma or degree program generally requires:
- A GED or high school diploma
- A criminal record free of prior felony convictions or serious misdemeanors
- A clean drug screen
- Required immunizations and health examination
Electrician Apprenticeship Programs: Learning While Earning
Many apprenticeship programs for electricians provide a unique opportunity to receive the necessary education and training to become a state certified journeyman – all while earning a paycheck!
Although state requirements vary, most require between 500 and 1,000 hours of technical (classroom training) and between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job (apprenticeship) training. Electrician apprentices work full-time. An average apprenticeship with classroom courses takes between 4 and 5 years to complete.
You can complete your electrician apprenticeship through a number of organizations and employers:
- Community colleges and vocational/trade schools: Many of the same schools that offer diploma or certificate programs also offer integrated apprenticeships.
- Private employers
- Apprenticeship training centers
- S. military
- Union apprenticeship programs
All electrician apprenticeships must be approved by state and jurisdictional regulatory boards and adhere to state regulations. Most registered apprenticeship sponsors work directly with community colleges to better facilitate the completion of all required classroom hours.
Mynextmove.org (a program of the Nextstar Legacy Foundation) and Apprenticeship USA (a program of the U.S. Department of Labor) are excellent resources for locating registered apprenticeships in your state. Your state’s department of professional regulation/board of contractors will also list approved apprenticeship programs.
The largest apprenticeship and training program in the U.S. is the Electrical Training ALLIANCE, a combined effort between the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Since its inception 70 years ago, the Electrical Training ALLIANCE has trained more than 350,000 individuals through local affiliate programs.
Features of the ALLIANCE program:
- Students have access to a massive electrician training library and experienced educators.
- At least one ALLIANCE training center is located in each state.
- The program’s core curriculum varies according to each state’s certification exam.
- Blended learning includes online learning and distance-based resources.
To qualify for either the IBEW/NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Program (for inside wireman apprenticeships) or the IBEW/NECA Area Wide Joint Apprenticeship Program (for outside lineman apprenticeships), you must meet the program’s basic requirements:
- A qualifying score on an aptitude test
- At least one year of high school algebra
- High school education
- Minimum age 18
These competitive programs tend to be selective, requiring an interview for admission.
You can find courses (both classroom and online) by searching ALLIANCE’s database, either by location or by course.