How to Become an Electrician’s Apprentice

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Are you ready to start your career as an electrician, but not sure what steps you need to take to get there?

There are two routes to getting the training and certification you need. The first option is to go directly to your apprenticeship, which is a long-term training program run by one of several different types of organization:

  • Union: there are many popular unions, like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
  • Non-union: typically run by organizations like Associated Builders and Contractors or Independent Electrical Contractors.
  • Local: these are hosted by a wide variety of organizations based in individual cities and states. The federal government maintains a database that allows you to search for opportunities near you.

The second option is to go to a vocational school, and then apply for an apprenticeship once you have a more solid grounding in the basic knowledge you will need to pass the entrance exam.

Essentially, if you want to become a professional electrician, you will need to have an apprenticeship. Finding one can be a daunting task, though, especially because openings are often scarce and the selection process is highly competitive.

The First Steps

Your first consideration when you are prepared to look for an apprenticeship should be whether or not you have the necessary qualifications. Requirements can vary from state to state or city to city, but generally, applicants must have:

  • Some experience or basic electrical training
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Proficiency in mathematics, specifically general algebra

The last point is mostly needed for the entrance exam and the hours of classroom instruction you will have to complete during your apprenticeship. Before you start cramming for that test, though, you will need to complete these preparatory steps for your application:

  • Get the application form, either by visiting the office of the nearest program or downloading a copy from the program’s website (if they have one).
  • Fill out the application form properly, ensuring all the instructions are followed to the letter.
  • Return the application form with processing fees as required and all requested documents via the recommended mode of delivery, usually mail.

You’ll then be scheduled for your test and, in some cases, an interview on the same date; however, that’s not always the case. In some programs such as the joint program between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), only candidates who pass the test are scheduled for further interviews.

What Happens Then?

After going through all of that, if you have met all of the requirements and a position is open, you may be placed immediately. But again, those positions are sometimes few and far between, and other very qualified candidates may be ahead of you in line.

This is where some prior schooling or training can help. Not only will it make you better prepared to ace that exam, it shows that you have interest in the field and commitment to entering it.

And After That?

Once you’ve found your apprenticeship, you’ll be in the program until you graduate to the status of journeyman electrician. Length of programs varies, but you can expect to spend at least four or five years as an apprentice. The upside is that you’ll be working and gaining knowledge, experience, and skills that entire time — plus, you’ll be getting paid!

Ready to get started? Here are some links that may be helpful.


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