You’ll be happy to know that your wages will increase as you advance through your training. For a better idea of the pay rate, you can expect as an apprentice electrician, look at our salary guide. It’s wise to make sure you are well-suited for this career before investing years of your life in learning the trade.
Do you enjoy variety in your day? Working with your hands and being physically active? Hopefully, you answered yes! Read the job description of a licensed electrician as you look further into an IBEW apprenticeship’s time commitment.
If you are thinking about becoming an electrician, one of the first things you may consider is an electrician apprenticeship with IBEW. Read on to learn why this is not the only choice for your career and that attending approved trade school may be a better option for you.
- What is IBEW?
- What Is an Electrician Apprenticeship?
- How Training Programs Are Organized
- What You Learn in an Electrician Apprenticeship and Training Program
- To Join IBEW Apprenticeship
- Start Your Path to Becoming an Electrician Today
What is IBEW?
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is a labor union representing about 775,000 workers in the electrical industry. Their apprenticeship program provides you with on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
The disadvantages of this seemingly easy route to a good-paying career could outweigh the benefits.
What Is an Electrician Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a long-term training program. These are generally run by professional organizations combining work and instruction. You must perform a specific amount of hours in classroom instruction and hands-on training to complete the apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships generally take about 4-1/2 to 5 years to complete. You have two options when looking to complete an apprenticeship:
- Apply to a professional group and, if you receive acceptance
- Attend an electrician school, receive professional classroom and hands-on training as an electrical assistant, and apply for an apprenticeship
The Hybrid Electrical Training Program you receive at InterCoast College provides a combination of on-campus hands-on instruction, simulated projects, and online assignments you can complete from home. And, you will participate in real-world practice in the labs at the school one day a week. This provides you with a well-rounded education.
Active students receive an Electrical Training Card (ET). This allows you to work while attending school. You graduate in less than one year.
How Training Programs Are Organized
Every jurisdiction establishes its requirements for electrician training in accordance with local laws and licensing regulations, and local JATCs develop their programs specifically to meet these requirements. Depending on the journeyman licensing requirements in your jurisdiction, these programs can take between four and six years to complete and incorporate:
- Between 576 and 1,000 hours of classroom-based instruction
- Between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job experience and training
Once you’re admitted, you can expect to start learning a lot, both on the job and in the classroom. Depending on the rules in place in your jurisdiction, you may be expected to complete required classroom hours related to safety and electrical theory before being admitted into an apprentice program.
In most cases, classroom hours are completed through classes scheduled for specific days during the years you are in your apprentice program. JATC apprenticeship programs will include classroom hours as part of the program, with classes usually held at the local JATC office.
What You Learn in an Electrician Apprenticeship and Training Program
Transitioning from the classroom into the actual workplace is exciting. As you begin your on-the-job training, you can expect to start with the basics. By the end of your first week, you’ll be an expert in stripping a wire and bending conduit. Just hang in there – it quickly gets a lot more technical than that.
The wide range of skills you learn on the job as part of your apprenticeship and training program will include:
- Installing residential, commercial, and industrial wiring systems
- Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics
- Working with systems that involve differing voltages
- Repairing and installing electrical machinery
- Using voltmeters, ammeters, harmonics testers, and ohmmeters
- Installing fuses and circuit breakers
- Learning how to inspect a completed electrical system
- Replacing new circuit breaker boxes
Your on-the-job training will take place in a wide variety of settings, which will have a significant bearing on what you learn. Examples of different locations include:
- City utility companies
- Aviation companies
- Military contractors
- Manufacturing factories
- Arenas and coliseums
- Construction companies
- Internet and telephone companies
- Power plants, including solar
- Hospitals, schools, and prisons
- Government offices
As you progress through the weeks and months of your apprenticeship program, you’ll learn skills that become increasingly more complex and technical, building on what you have already mastered.
Your classroom-based and on-the-job training is divided into relevant segments that will eventually cover all of the critical knowledge and skills you need to pass the journeyman examination.
To Join IBEW Apprenticeship
Decide Which Program Is Right For You
First, you need to find an IBEW apprenticeship and find out what type of programs they offer.
You can choose to become:
- Technician (Sound & Communication).
- Residential Wireman.
- Inside Wireman.
- Outside Lineman.
For instance, through the Puget Sound Electrical JATC in Renton, WA, you can find the following programs: Residential, Sound and Comm (technician), Construction Apprentice (inside wireman).
These programs can’t be found in every apprenticeship.
The outside lineman apprenticeship program is offered only by training centers explicitly designed for that program.
The apprentices’ salaries are based on the percentage of journeyman pay.
In the first year, you can earn about 50% of what a journeyman makes.
However, every 6 to 12 months, the wages can increase or upon completion of 1000 hours of work.
Wages can also differ from one IBEW apprenticeship to another and unions, cities, and states.
Apprentices make more on the west coast and upper east coast than in the south.
However, you have to keep in mind that the living costs are higher in those regions.
IBEW Apprenticeship Application Form
Online applications are available only for a few apprenticeships, so you will have to fill actual paperwork.
You will have to find your high school or college transcripts and remember the last four addresses you lived at.
You will have to fill out everything.
Be sure to fill everything clearly in good handwriting.
If your handwriting is terrible, better have somebody else fill it out for you.
Don’t leave any fields blank.
If you’re 100% positive you have to leave something blank, call the training center and consult with them on what you should do.
It’s recommended to check with those who will be handling your application.
The application requirements include:
- At least 18 years old.
- A high school diploma or GED, or an Associate’s Degree or higher.
- Completed high school algebra course or post-high school algebra with a passing grade.
- Official transcript for high school and post-high school training and education; must submit GED records.
Some programs may have additional requirements.
Preparing for the IBEW Apprenticeship Aptitude Test
At this point, you should do your best and make a high score.
Applicants are ranked from highest to lowest, so those with the highest scores will be invited to the interview first.
The aptitude test covers two parts: reading comprehension and algebra and functions.
It takes approximately two and a half hours to complete the test.
There is a break between the two parts.
Waiting For Your Interview
This can be the most nerve-racking and frustrating part of the entire process.
With many apprenticeships, applicants are accepted only once or twice a year.
So, it can mean that you’d have to wait for months before you know if you were accepted.
You have to stay calm and refrain from calling the apprenticeship office over and over to find out why you haven’t heard back.
You have to stay patient.
They would notify you if you were selected and appoint an interview.
Members from the local union office, NECA, are on the interview panel.
A director of the apprenticeship may be there too.
During the interview, you may be asked the following questions:
- Why do you want to be part of this program?
- Do you work better as a team or alone? Why?
- What kind of electrical experience do you have?
- If you’ve been involved with a conflict, tell us how you resolved it?
- Tell us a situation when you had to complete a project where you didn’t have the necessary tools to finish it?
- Describe a time when you did a project from start to finish?
A few tips for the interview:
- Give straightforward answers to questions.
- Stay on topic and avoid filler words like um, uh, etc.
- Don’t cross your arms.
- Clasp your hands together and sit still, don’t squirm.
- Take your time to formulate your response well before speaking.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Stay professional.
- You don’t have to wear a suit and a tie, but dress for success, a pair of nice jeans, a shirt (not a T-shirt), clean shoes, a fresh haircut, and shaving.
- Be honest and tell what you are looking for and why you are a great candidate, show your dedication, initiative to learn, and strong work ethics.
- Maintain eye contact: whoever is talking to you, look them in the eye and provide solid answers.
- Give the interviewers a firm handshake.
- Don’t smell like alcohol or cigarettes.
- Get a good night’s rest.
- Keep in mind that as an apprentice, you’re starting from the bottom.
It means that you are more labor rather than skill, and you’ll be given work accordingly.
You may have to set up scaffolding and ladders, dig trenches, carry materials, and crawl in dirty and dark places.
The main concern is safety, which should be considered when you’re answering questions.
For example, you may say, “what it takes to get the job done safely.”
After the interview, your name will be put, for two years, on an eligibility list.
With the availability of new positions in the IBEW apprenticeship, names will be taken down by ranking score order.
If you aren’t selected for an apprenticeship within these two years, you will have to reapply.
Start Your Path to Becoming an Electrician Today
If you have not yet graduated high school, contact InterCoast College to learn about beginning your electrical training while still in school. You can start your steps to becoming an electrician by taking subjects in high school necessary for electricians. This includes additional math, shop, and mechanical drawing.
After high school, continue your electrician apprenticeship goal by enrolling in a college program. There you will gain knowledge and hands-on experience to pursue your career. You will receive your ET card as an active student and begin getting work experience while receiving your training.