The Bureau of Labor Statistics, predicts that job openings for electricians will continue to grow by 9% into 2030. In 2021 the average electrician earned over $60,000. There is a constant need for electricians in many industries. They are an essential part of innovation and technology.
How do you become an electrician? What are the education and training requirements needed to form a part of this growing field? How prepared are you to begin your journey in become an electrician? Follow along to familiarize yourself with the necessary steps to become an electrician in the United States and Canada.
Why Become an Electrician?
Both in the United States and Canada, the technology industry is booming. Every day, new inventions and innovations are being made, to make our lives easier. The men and women behind these innovations? Electricians and engineers.
They are the behind-the-scenes heroes that make life easier. The need for electricians and electrical engineers continues and will continue to grow each day, as we continue to rely on technology.
Electricians are responsible for the wiring and circuitry that make everything work. This includes cellphones, computers, cars, a coffee maker, and even a heart monitor to name a few. Anything that requires electricity, batteries, and multiple sources of energy, is made possible by the work of electricians.
Electricians are thoroughly trained in areas like programming, robotics, and automation. There are also different certifications depending on how much you want to study, and how quickly you want to enter the workforce.
Is This Career Right for You?
How long do you want to study? How much money would you like to earn per year? How many hours are you willing to complete for an apprenticeship?
Becoming an electrician requires a lot of training and education, regardless of whether you want to be an apprentice, a contractor, or an engineer. This is because of the precision required to complete projects.
Would you like to wire a car, and assist with the installation of electricity in someone’s first home? If you enjoy robotics, automation, and software programming, and are proficient and intensive math, you may have found the right career for you.
In both countries, the path to becoming certified has many similarities and several small differences. Also, depending on the exact location you want to obtain your certification, the path and requirements may be different.
In the United States, as well as in Canada, an individual must have first completed some High School or Secondary school to register for an apprentice program. This is the first requirement in either country for becoming an electrician.
High School engineering courses usually provide basic engineering knowledge. By the time High School is completed, most future electricians are already familiarized with multimeters and the foundation of programming.
Youth Apprenticeship Programs (Canada)
If you are still in high school and are on the fence regarding a career as an electrician in Canada, several provinces offer programs in which you can finish High School, while also training as an electrician.
- Alberta – Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP)
- Receive your High School Diploma, and receive paid on-the-job training and credits towards your future apprenticeship.
- British Columbia – Industry Training Authority (ITA)
- Courses are offered thru Grade 12 and the student receives a credit that goes towards an apprenticeship
- Manitoba – High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP)
- Begin preparing for an apprenticeship in high school. Complete part-time, paid on-the-job training. During this period, you work under the supervision of a journeyman for 30 hours, and complete 10 hours of academic work.
- New Brunswick – New Brunswick Teen Apprentice Program (NBTAP)
- Beginning in grade 10, work during the summer terms and earn money simultaneously.
- Newfoundland and Labrador – Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador
- Nova Scotia – WorkIt Youth Apprenticeship and Options & Opportunities (O2)
- You must be between 16 and 19 years old to register, and fees are waived.
- This program lasts 3 years beginning in grade 10, providing you with transferable apprenticeship credits.
- Prince Edward Island – Youth Apprenticeship Program (ASAP)
- You must be at least 16 years of age, be enrolled in High School, and complete an application.
- Once approved, you are provided with a logbook, and can receive at least 110 hours which can be transferred to a future apprenticeship.
- Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Youth Apprenticeship Program (SYA)
- With the promise of saving time and money, Saskatchewan offers students a financial waiver to receive paid training and 300 hours of transferable credit.
Youth Programs in the United States
In the United States, 73% of school districts offer CTE or Career and Technical Education programs.
Most of these programs offer a certificate in the specific trade, and also provide transferable training hours. These are all completed by the time the student graduates high school.
The student also completes mandatory High School Diploma requirements, securing both diplomas. These High School classes include trigonometry, calculus, and physics.
These courses prepare the student to measure circuit angles, calculate current force, and basic problem-solving techniques.
Post High School or Secondary School
Another similarity shared between both countries, is that licensing and education requirements can vary between each state or province. The federal governments in both countries do not regulate certification requirements. This is done at the local and state level.
Upon graduating High School, future apprentices can register for a program, and begin on-the-job training. In Canada, Quebec is the only exception. There is mandatory classroom training, before beginning to practice this trade.
It is very important to familiarize yourself with the requirements for the specific state or province in which you plan to exercise your work.
After graduating high school, regardless of whether you completed a CTE or youth training program, you may decide to obtain a 2 or 4-year degree.
If you decide to enter a community college or university, you can obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
There are pros and cons associated with the length and cost of the various routes available.
Earning a Certification
An apprenticeship program usually lasts from 4 to 5 years. During this time the future electrician obtains at least 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training each of those year.
If you are not interested in the traditional college education or degree, obtaining your license through a trade program or apprenticeship may be the best option.
Trade schools can connect you immediately to on-the-job training opportunities and also assist with job placement upon graduation. Their courses are focused specifically on becoming an electrician. Unlike a higher-education degree, these are generally non-transferable.
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, D.C, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, and Wyoming all require that apprentices be licensed or registered.
All others do not require registration or certification for electrician apprentices.
What to Expect as an Apprentice
To become an apprentice, you need to apply to a school or union program. Each one has its requirements. During this time, you will work closely with a trained electrician in various settings.
The various settings in which electricians complete their work require the applicant to be in good health. Other requirements are a specific GPA, having a driver’s license, and passing an aptitude test.
The electricians and teachers in charge of these programs dedicate time and attention to apprentices. For this reason, many schools and programs are highly selective, and only have a few slots available each year.
Vocational schools offer intensive classes focused on becoming a trade electrician. These courses are all electrician specific. The majority of these schools substitute up to 2 years of schooling, in exchange for on-the-job training.
Many prefer this route, because training is paid, and the work is more hands-on, providing a future electrician with work experience before even graduating from the program.
If you chose to work full-time, 40 hours per week, obtaining your license can take about 4 years. 2,000 hours of work are needed which is the equivalent of 8,000 hours in 4 years.
If you chose to work part-time, obtaining your license can take up to 6 years or more.
Most colleges that offer Electrical Engineering Associate’s Degrees have two options. The first option is an engineering degree, allowing you to begin working upon graduation.
This option of obtaining an Associate’s degree usually takes 2 years, or 60 college credits to complete. This breaks down to 4 semesters.
The classes that are taken usually taken at the beginning are science classes like chemistry and physics, and math classes like algebra and calculus. During the second half the classes are degree-focused, including programming and electric circuits.
Transferable Associate’s Degree
The second Associate degree option is a general studies associate’s degree.
This degree is then used to transfer to a 4-year college or university, where you can earn a Bachelor’s degree. Students who plan to transfer to a 4-year university chose this route because they can save nearly $25,000 in two years.
The classes however are not as focused on Electrical Engineering, as those are taken at a 4-year institution.
The cost for either Associate’s degree ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.
A Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering typically takes 4 years or 120 college credit hours to complete.
This is the equivalent of 8 semesters. The classes are more specialized and in-depth than those offered in an Associate Degree program.
These classes include circuit theory, software design, automation, and robotics, among others, depending on the school attended.
The total cost for this program can range between $20,000 and $60,000, after which a student can then pursue a master’s degree.
All states require a valid electrician license either at the state and/or local level except Indiana, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.
Depending on the state, there are different levels, that require different credentials.
Kentucky is one example of a state that issues three licenses for electrical contractors, electricians, and master electricians.
The type of license you need depends on what level you decide to pursue, and how much training you have.
To work as an electrician in any of Canada’s provinces, you need a certification. This certification can be obtained after completing grade 10, as opposed to the United States which requires completion of grade 12.
Canada also has an Electrician’s Union, which also requires completion of grade 10 and evidence of having completed an apprenticeship.
The requirements for registering for an apprenticeship vary between provinces and territories.
In Ontario specifically, the minimum requirement is the completion of grade 10. However, many trade schools and unions require completion of grade 12. Grade 12 includes math and physics classes that make future work easier.
Red Seal Program
The electrician is one of the trades that are part of the Red Seal Program. The Red Seal Program is a partnership between Canada’s federal government and its provinces.
After an apprenticeship is completed, the Red Seal exam will be taken. The future tradesman will receive a certificate of Qualification, which will allow them to practice their trade anywhere in the country.
The Red Seal is preferred by most employers, and most Canadian trade schools want to offer the exam to streamline the hiring process.
How Long Does it Take?
If you are interested in becoming an electrician, the time that it will take varies can vary from several months and can take up to several years. If you are still in High School, there are many beneficial programs in your state or province.
If this is a career you are truly interested in, and you enjoy solving problems, have good communication skills, and always want to learn more, you can become an electrician within two to five years.
If you are thinking about becoming an electrician, are currently working as an electrician, or want more information about all things electrical, automation, and technology, check out our forum.