Thinking about pursuing a career as an electrician, are you? It’s not difficult to see the appeal. Licensed electricians get to work in an exciting and challenging field, solving electrical puzzles and earning massive respect for their in-demand skills, all while earning a great wage. Not to mention, it’s one of the best trade jobs you can land without a four-year degree. Woohoo, no student debt! *does happy dance*
While there are many different career paths an electrician can pursue, most of them begin with an electrician apprenticeship. Once you’ve landed and completed an electrician apprenticeship, you can take a test to become a licensed journeyman electrician.
Not sure where to look for apprenticeship opportunities or how to apply for one? The Tallo blog has you covered! Read on to learn how to score an electrician apprenticeship — plus, what you can expect on the job.
What Is an Electrician Apprenticeship?
An electrician apprenticeship is a program that someone goes through to get the skills and hands-on experience they need to become a licensed electrician. One of the cooler things about being an electrician apprentice is that it’s an earn-while-you-learn deal. And as you gain more skills and experience, you can increase your earnings as you complete your four- to six-year apprenticeship program.
Union vs. Non-Union Electrician Apprenticeships
Electrician apprenticeship programs can be broken down into basic two types: union and non-union shops. Neither is better than the other, necessarily, but your decision can alter your career path and earnings.
- Non-Union Apprenticeship – Pursuing an apprenticeship with a non-union shop typically requires you to have some formal training. To get this formal training, you’ll need to go through trade school to earn an electrical certificate. Once you have the formal training, applying for non-union apprenticeships is much like applying for a conventional job. Here are some defining traits of a non-union apprenticeship:
- Pay is influenced by market rate
- Generally easier to get into compared to union apprenticeships
- Job stability can be impacted by seasonal slowdowns and other variables
- Union Apprenticeship – If you’re going the union route, you’ll start by locating national and local electrical unions in your area. These unions usually answer to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the largest and most well-known electrical union in North America.
- Pay is negotiated by union representatives and is consequently higher than non-union jobs
- Can be difficult to get into due to high standards and competition
- Comes with certain rights and benefits as a union member
- As a union member, you pay your working dues from the get-go
Electrician Apprenticeship Requirements
The entrance requirements to become an electrical apprentice for a union or to enter a trade school are generally the same:
- Be 18 years old
- Have a high school degree or equivalent
- Have a reliable form of transportation
- Be able to work independently and as part of a team
If you’re applying for an IBEW apprenticeship, you’ll also need to prepare for the IBEW aptitude test. The scores of this test will determine the order in which you are interviewed.
FYI, you’ll definitely wanna brush up on your math, mechanical and reading comprehension skills for this — especially the math! The math questions you see in the booklet they send you are far easier than the ones on the actual test.
The Interview Process
After you complete your aptitude test, you’ll wait to be notified and scheduled for an interview. Are you in a comfortable position? Good, because this step could take a while. Some apprenticeships accept a limited number of applications each year, which means you may need to wait a few months to get a call-back.
Once they call you, the process is a lot like any other job interview. You’ll be asked things like, “Why do you want to be part of our program?” and “Tell us about a time when you missed an important deadline” and other questions that low-key try to suss out your ability to do the job.
On-the-Job Training: What to Expect
OK, so you’ve landed the electrician apprenticeship — nice one! What can you expect from your on-the-job training?
Honestly, be prepared for a lot of grunt work (gathering tools, digging ditches, etc.) and general observation for the first few months. You’ll probably be sore AF in the beginning because — spoiler alert — being an electrician can be tough on the body.
As your program progresses, you’ll be given more challenging duties and responsibilities. Remember that it’s a learning experience. You’re going to make mistakes (and be yelled at for them). But if you ever feel unsafe doing something, tell your journeyman. Apart from that, a lot of an electrical apprenticeship is using common sense:
- Be on time. Be the first one in and the last one out.
- Pay attention. Watch carefully, ask questions, and learn.
- Don’t be idle. Always try to be doing something.
- Be honest. If you make a mistake, own up to it.
A Rewarding Career Path
Working as an electrician apprentice is a rewarding but also challenging job. You’ll make mistakes, have orders barked at you, and feel out of your element. Keep asking questions, put in the hard work, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a licensed journeyman.