How to Become an Electrician


Although there are other paths to take, the most common way to become an electrician is to follow these essential steps:


1. Do well at math, physics, trades and English in high school

2. Make sure you have the right personal traits and attributes for this profession

3. Pursue an Electrician diploma at a trade school

4. Sign on for an apprenticeship with an employer

5. Complete the apprenticeship 

6. Become licensed/certified as an electrician


Below we've expanded on these points to give you a good idea of what you'll need to become an electrician in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and a list of “Electrician” job postings in your area!



What Education Will I Need?

Electricians start out their careers by working as apprentices. However, some employers might only take on apprentice electricians that have completed an Electrician diploma program; most will require a high school degree, or GED. 


Electrician programs typically offer courses related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. If you graduate from one of these programs, you might receive credit toward your apprenticeship.





What is an Electrician?

An electrical is a construction trade person who is responsible for installing, altering, repairing and maintaining various electrical systems for residential, commercial or industrial spaces. These systems include those that are designed to provide power, light, heat, communications, controls or alarm signals.



What Do They Do?

In general, an electrician is responsible for performing the following tasks:


• Interpreting electrical, mechanical and architectural drawings as well as electrical code specifications to determine wiring layouts

• Positioning, maintaining and installing distribution and control equipment such as switches, relays, circuit breaker panels and fuse enclosures

• Pulling wire through holes in walls, ceilings and floors

• Installing, replacing, maintaining and repairing electrical systems and related electrical equipment

• Splicing, joining and connecting wires to form circuits

• Performing testing of circuits to ensure functionality and safety

• Installing and maintaining fibre optic systems

• Following local, regional and federal electrical codes

• Possibly directing the work of others, or training entry-level electricians



What Certification Will I Need?

Most states/provinces require electricians to pass a test and be licensed in order to work independently. These requirements vary by region, but typically include the completion of an apprenticeship program. For more information, contact your state or provincial electrical licensing board.


Please Note: If you have certification in another region or country, you may be able to simply challenge the licensing exam in the area in which you want to work.



Do I Need to Complete an Apprenticeship? 

To become a licensed electrician in most provinces and states, you must first complete an electrical apprenticeship. An apprenticeship usually consists of learning the trade in a 4 year period (this can vary, and completing an electrician course at a trade school will likely count towards this). 


During the apprenticeship, you would have to complete a set number of hours in classroom training, and a greater number of hours of paid on-the-job training. In the classroom, you would learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. You might also receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.


Please Note: After completing initial training, you will likely be required to take continuing education courses in order to keep your knowledge up to date. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.



How Do I Get an Apprenticeship?

Simply find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice. Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates, and some may prefer to only take on an apprentice that has completed an electrician course at a trade school.


Success Tip: Construction, electrical and general maintenance contractors are great places to start looking for apprenticeship opportunities. Or, if you're taking an Electrician program at a trade school, they will likely help arrange one for you!



How Can I Prepare in High School?

Most employers prefer to hire apprentices with a high school diploma or equivalent. Doing well in high school courses such as Math, Physics, Trades, and English are particularly helpful for this career.





Is This Career Right for Me?

The following personal traits, abilities and skills are crucial for working as an electrician. If you have them, you may be well-suited for this profession:


• Sufficient colour vision for identifying electrical wires by colour

• Good spacial perception

• The stamina to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire

• An interest in staying ‘current’ with changing technology (bad pun, bud good trait!)

• The ability to work in confined spaces, or in high places

• A keen interest in working with your hands, rather than at a desk

• Good manual dexterity for doing precision work

• The ability to work carefully, methodically and safely

• The patience and analytical abilities to work through troubleshooting issues



What is the Typical Salary?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans working in the “Electricians” occupational group earn a median salary of $51,880 per year. The amount they earn can vary based on numerous factors, including level of education, experience, region in which they work, and many others. 



More About Salary Levels

The salary you could earn as an electrician can vary based on many factors, including:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• If you receive any medical, dental, vision, profit sharing, and/or retirement benefits

• Many other factors


Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the most recent figures available at the time of writing - June 28, 2019), the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Electricians” occupational group is $76,285 per year. (Because of the oil and gas industry, electricians are typically paid very well in Alberta).


B.C.: According to the Government of British Columbia’s Work B.C. program, workers in the “Electricians” occupational group generally earn between $53,000 and $66,000 per year.


United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Electricians" occupational group is $51,880 per year.



Who Employs Electricians?

Electricians are typically employed by construction, electrical and general maintenance contractors, as well as manufacturers, resource companies (such as oil, gas and mining) and other large organizations. They may also be self-employed as contractors and consultants.


Please Note: Although membership in a trade union is considered voluntary; however, some contractors employ only union members.



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has 'electrician' postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

As you gain experience and demonstrate your professional competence, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to advance into positions of greater responsibility and pay.


For example, you could become a foreman, project estimator, project manager, safety inspector, or even open your own electrical services or consulting company.


With additional education, you could also move into closely related and fields, such as electrical or industrial engineering.



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as an those of an electrician:


Avionics Technician 

• Building Inspector

• Construction Manager

• Electrical Engineer

• Instrumentation and Control Engineer

• Lighting Designer

• Lighting Technician 

• Robotics Technologist



Are There Relevant Scholarships? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming an electrician. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our  “Electrical Engineering Scholarships” and "Any Field of Study Scholarships" pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become an electrician:


• Occupational Profile: “Electrician.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 20, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Electricians.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 20, 2017.

• Job Profiles: “Electrician.” (December 6, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 20, 2017.

• Job Outlook: “Electricians.” (n.d.). Australian Government. Retrieved February 20, 2017.

• “Become an Electrician.” (n.d.). Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario. Retrieved February 20, 2017.


Please Note: Some information used for this career guide was sourced from actual “Electrician” job postings, which due to their brief online nature, are not listed here as references. 



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to this profession. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: