An electrician is a person who is responsible for designing, maintaining, inspecting, repairing or installing electrical systems and products.
As a result, electricians work on homes and businesses to ensure that the electrical system works safely and reliably.
If you are asking yourself “is being an electrician hard?” and wondering “is it the right career for me”, then learning more about what electricians are responsible for, the conditions they work in, the possibility of union membership, and an electrician’s schedule may help you decide.
So, is being an electrician hard?
- What Does It Take to Become an Electrician?
- How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
- How Much Does it Cost to Become an Electrician?
- You Have to Work for Your Credentials to Qualify for Apprenticeship
- Is Becoming an Electrician Worth It?
- Is it Hard to Become an Electrician?
- What are the Dangers and Risks?
What Does It Take to Become an Electrician?
Let’s talk about the types of skills and personality you need to make it as an electrician:
- A mechanical aptitude, as well as a basic understanding of algebra, is needed. Most applicants need to brush up on math skills. Since you will learn and build math and algebra skills as you go, don’t let the math aspect intimidate you.
- Being an electrician is more physical than you might think. There will be times you have to move through crawl spaces on your knees, climb ladders, or dig trenches. Electricians are on their feet most of the day.
- Fine motor skills and good balance are needed since you’ll be on ladders and other high places at times.
- Good communication and problem-solving skills will be called upon daily.
Electricians have a number of different responsibilities. Primarily, they are responsible for safely getting electricity from its source to a consumer or a business.
Specific tasks that electricians can be responsible for include:
- Planning electrical systems
- Installing wiring and support brackets
- Installing electrical control systems and components
- Creating electrical circuits
- Interpreting blueprints and architectural plans
- Inspecting electrical components
- Upgrading out of date equipment
- Working outdoors on power and telecom systems
- Performing maintenance on electrical systems
- Testing electrical systems to figure out what is or is not working
- Training other electricians
- Directing other electricians
- Communicating with clients and other team members
How Long Does it Take to Become an Electrician?
Becoming a licensed electrician can take some time. Most apprenticeship programs require four years to complete. That includes 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and over 500 hours of classroom instruction. (State and local requirements vary.)
The IBEW apprenticeship takes five years to complete. It is an exceptional training program, and you most likely will be earning more money through your apprenticeship and beyond.
Whichever apprenticeship path you choose, you’ll need to pass a state licensure exam to become a journeyman electrician.
Studying for the exam is very important. Following my study, tips should help. The exam will be tough as it tests your knowledge of the National Electrical Code (NEC), which is a thick volume. There are classes and practice tests available that can help you prepare.
Memorization of the entire code is not necessary nor possible. You are being tested to ensure you can find the information you need within the NEC codebook.
Is an Electrician Apprenticeship Hard?
I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Your life will be full during your electrician apprenticeship. But it will not be any harder than learning other trades or getting a college degree.
In fact, for most people, an apprenticeship is easier than a 4-year college degree. Hands-on training is an optimum way to learn! You will be learning on the job as well as applying what you learned in the classroom portion of the training.
Working full-time plus going to school and studying will keep you busy. A new apprentice may get plenty of ribbing and handed menial work such as digging trenches. Stick to it and be thick-skinned. It won’t last forever. You can check out my apprentice experience for encouragement.
How Much Does it Cost to Become an Electrician?
Can you believe that the cost to become an electrician is very reasonable? You should be able to become a licensed electrician without incurring much debt if any. Here’s why:
- Electrician apprentices earn while they learn.
- Tuition is nominal compared to a 4-year college degree.
- Employers may pay for your school tuition.
- Scholarships are available for some apprentices.
Many apprentices with IBEW are awarded scholarships or have their tuition paid for by “the Labor/Management relationship between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association”. source
Finding employers that are willing to pay part or all of your school tuition is doable. They are out there. Ask around.
The cost of books varies by year. Try to find used books online or from prior apprentices.
Tool costs can add up. The good news is that you won’t need every tool all at once. Start small and work gradually to build up your collection. Birthdays and Christmas are a good opportunity to add tools to your belt.
Is Electrician School Hard?
Trade schools and electrician schools are specifically set up to introduce you to a career as an electrician, and you’ll start from the beginning and build on your knowledge as you go along. It’s important to study hard, because students build a skill set, and learn one skill after the other—so each skill is important. Instructors usually help students who are struggling, but that depends on the school you go to—there are good schools, and there are not-so-good schools, and you’ll need to do some research before you sign up. You’ll also need to make sure the school isn’t charging too much—if you need to take out students loans to go to school, those loans add up quick (and you’ll be paying them off for a loooooong time), so do some “comparison shopping” and make sure tuition isn’t too high. If you don’t have a good sense of the numbers, find someone who does, and seek their counsel.
Trade schools can be a good way to get ready for your apprenticeship. As we discussed on our “Electrician Apprenticeship vs. Electrician School” post, it’s a great way to have a teacher help you with the math skills you need, learn basics about the job, and find a job as an electrician’s assistant. If you’re not sure you’re ready to dive into an apprenticeship, they can get you ready.
Here’s the important thing, though—you don’t need to go to a trade school or electrician school to become an electrician. Some people choose to go to school; others do not, and still have satisfying careers as electricians. If you can find an apprenticeship right off the bat, that’s usually the best choice. The costs will be much less, and most states require you to complete an apprenticeship, even if you do go to an electrician school. And most apprentice programs are “paced” so that people can learn what they need to learn.
How Challenging Is The Math That Electricians Use
This math is surely harder than simple arithmetic, but it’s not impossible to learn it.
Many electricians say that it becomes easier over time, especially when you work in the field every day, and can see the concepts applied.
If you worry about math, don’t, because you have a lot of time to learn.
The apprenticeship takes a while, and if there’s something you don’t understand, you have plenty of time to get there.
Scholarships for Electrician Apprentices
Various foundations give scholarships to qualified individuals to help pay for an electrician apprenticeship.
- Every year mikeroweWORKSfoundation awards scholarships to qualified individuals that want to learn a skilled job.
- $2000 scholarship. (Must reside in Illinois)
- Jump-Start Scholarships for trade schools and colleges.
- Another $2000 scholarship offered by Smart Service.
The skilled trades are in need of dedicated craftsmen. I hope more scholarships will open up in the future.
You Have to Work for Your Credentials to Qualify for Apprenticeship
The idea of becoming an apprenticeship for the electrician trade may seem to be as simple and straightforward as heading into the nearest institution to file for an apprenticeship program, leaving the building with a smile on your face, and foreseeing a bright future in your chosen career.
That may be the ideal. But it does not usually happen—at least, not for everybody.
In reality, given the perks that come with an apprenticeship program, a successful application may require some proving—and even convincing your assessor, based on your merit—in order to become a thing.
Essentially, it is like entering into a university you like. You first have to prove that you have the mantle of the “right student” to your preferred educational institution.
Not many pass it which essentially makes it the initial screening of the student-filtering process.
Luckily, there are plenty of options in how you could earn your credentials which you could use to boost your chances of getting into an apprenticeship.
How Can I Find an Electrician Apprenticeship?
One of the best ways to find a job as an apprentice electrician is to ask the local coordinators of a training program near you. This could be ABC, IEC, IBEW, Community College or trade schools. The staff of these programs have a lot of connections and could give you direction and advice.
I also recommend that you put together a list of electrical contractors in your area, then stop in and ask them in person about the possibility of working as an apprentice for them. Showing initiative and interest will go a long way in expressing your ambitions and value to a potential employee.
Becoming an Apprentice is No Child’s Play
So, you think that getting approved to become an apprentice may be difficult enough. Wait until you become an actual apprenticeship which has to learn everything, piece by piece, from scratch.
They say that it’s always the “first time” that is the most difficult about life in general. Nothing can be further from the truth than to actually be clueless about many things, whether in the classroom or actual job and then gain knowledge from that point as a fresh apprentice.
Now, of course, how easy or difficult your first year as an apprentice may significantly be dependent on how prepared you are prior to becoming one. But, even the “most prepared” of an apprentice has its limits as there are simply much to learn which also experience could only provide.
Just in case you are not aware, an apprenticeship can last you at least four years. Some even last for longer to up to 5 to 6 years, depending on what you are trying to learn.
Is Becoming an Electrician Worth It?
Thousands of electricians enjoy their trade and the challenge of solving electrical problems.
Hourly rates for electricians are expected to rise because there is an increasing demand for electricians.
Becoming an electrician is well worth the 4-year apprenticeship. You can make a good living. Electricians are the highest paid of the skilled trades, with plumbers a close second. (Plumbers may have a higher wage in some areas).
Electricians enjoy varied work with little chance of boredom. There is plenty of room for advancement as well.
Is it Hard to Become an Electrician?
As you read through the topic of how hard it is to become an electrician, I want to encourage you that if a particular area seems formidable, it helps to focus on taking one step at a time. It’s not as hard as you might think.
The best way to learn to become an electrician is through an apprenticeship. Apprentices work full-time for an electrical contractor plus take classroom training 2-4 hours a week.
The classroom training sometimes involves labs where you will have hands-on practice of certain aspects learned in your lesson.
It goes without saying that by reaching the point of becoming a licensed electrician, you are probably already aware of the difficulties that come with the trade.
Even if you are well-equipped, both in actual gear and skill, there is simply inherently taxing about the job of a journeyman electrician that cannot be discounted.
For example, unknown to some, the nature of an electrician’s job is not just about connecting wires, making relays, and such, it also demands a lot on the physical body. Even when you are not carrying something heavy, you would still expect yourself to do strenuous jobs for extended periods of time in a day’s work.
In order to thrive from the job, you must be physically fit or at least, functional. Meeting this requirement in itself requires work and does not just happen naturally, even though it is convenient to think so in the process.
And then comes the risk.
Is The Actual Work That Electricians Do Difficult?
We’ve got a lot of questions from a lot of people, and we’ve noticed that people usually want to know how difficult electrical training is, but they forget to ask—”how hard is the actual job?”
That’s a super-important question because the day-to-day tasks of an electrical career will be your experience for the majority of your time as an electrician. Training ends, but the career can last as long as you want it to.
Here’s the good news: the career is not as hard as the physical work that is demanded of other tradespeople, but it is a much more physical job than any desk job you’ll ever have. Plus, some other factors can make it challenging:
- The weather can be bad. You may be working in attics during the hottest months of the summer, and working in garages—or outdoors—during the coldest months of winter. That’s one aspect of the job that people fail to consider—you may be performing the work in challenging conditions. For some people, however, this is the best part of the job—being outside, and not getting stuck in the monotony of office work.
- You’ll be on your feet all day. That can also be tough, especially when you consider that so many people sit all day long. We think that’s a positive aspect of the job. They’re finding out that people who sit in an office all day long have some pretty serious health problems because of it, such as diabetes and obesity. Not electricians, though! Electricians can be pretty tired by the time they get home.
- You can deal with some difficult people. It’s not unheard of that a client is difficult to work with, or that even some of your colleagues are difficult to work with. You can count on that! This is probably true of all careers, though.
- You’re in it for the long haul. This is another aspect of the job that’s a good thing. Many Americans get laid off and have to change careers half-way through their professional lives. Most electricians are electricians for their entire working career, and if you decide to become an electrician, chances are strong you’ll be a lifer too!
What are the Dangers and Risks?
Depending on the job, or even the day, electricians might work indoors or outdoors, at homes, businesses, and construction sites.
They often need to crawl into tight spaces or climb up high on a ladder to get to the places where electrical work needs to be done.
Electricians are most often hurt from falls, electrical burns, exposure to toxic materials, and even face increased risks from working in small tight spaces and varying outdoor conditions.
Falls are common for electrical workers who often need to perform work on a rooftop or reach overhead power lines. They also need to access electrical wiring in attics and ceilings. Working in these high places puts an electrician at increased risk of falls.
Electric shock is one of the most serious injuries faced by an electrician. This type of shock happens when a sudden discharge of electricity runs through a part of the body.
Complications of electric shock can include severe burns, confusion, trouble breathing, interruption of heart rhythm, cardiac arrest, muscle pain and contractions, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Electrocution occurs in extreme cases of electrical shock that result in death. Even exposure to just a small amount of current can result in death. Although it is a risk, fortunately, electrocution is not as common as other injuries.
An electrical burn is a burn to skin or tissues caused by electric shock. Typically damage is only seen on the surface of the skin. However, a more extreme burn can sometimes damage deeper tissue and even nerves.
Working as an electrician has its advantages and its disadvantages. Suppose you are looking for a hands-on career. In that case, that doesn’t require a college degree, and that will provide job security and a good salary, consider applying for an electrical apprenticeship.