What to Expect from Electrician School
Modes of entrance for this career include professional schooling or an apprenticeship. Electricians are often licensed, according to the National Electrical Installation Standards; check with your state’s board to determine requirements. The licensing process may entail obtaining certification displaying technical knowledge in the electrical profession. Some states, such as California, require all licensed electricians to have completed an apprenticeship program.
An apprenticeship usually means working with a master electrician while learning the trade and taking technical training courses. This two-part process involves both classroom studies and real-world, paid work-experience showing how to perform the job. Students discover how to read blueprints and understand electrical code requirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who complete the four year training program qualify for work in both construction and maintenance. For students who enter the profession through an educational program, the BLS notes that graduates of these programs are usually awarded credit toward an apprenticeship program (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).
Classes for professional school or an apprenticeship may cover the following:
- electrical theory, wiring for industrial or residential purposes,
- blueprint reading,
- instrumentation devices,
- the National Electrical Code
- safety training
- trigonometric functions
- conduit theory for bending conduits.
Some programs allow students to focus on specializations such as power distribution systems, transformers, hazardous locations, and power distribution and motor concepts.
Not everyone at electrician school is an entry-level student or apprentice. According to the BLS, (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013) many states require electricians to be licensed, and these professionals must stay up to date on the latest regulations and technology though continuing education.
A Day on the Job as an Electrician
Daily tasks vary according to the type of job and could include inspection, installation, scheduled maintenance, or trouble-shooting and fixes. The BLS explains that "inside electricians" repair the equipment and systems in businesses and industrial settings, while residential electricians work on electrical problems in private homes.
Whatever the environment, electricians may work with the following tools:
- power tools
- wire strippers
- pipe benders (for conduits)
- voltage and amp meters (electrical measuring devices are used to make sure circuits are working properly)
Electricians frequently need to solve technical challenges. In a location that is under construction, an electrician may create an electrical conduit or a pipe for the electrical wires to travel through, either under the floor or in the walls of a structure. The creation of a conduit requires bending metal pipes to contour to the structure of a building. This is done by the use of a conduit bender, which bends a metal pipe to the desired angle. As described by Porcupine Labor Press, the necessary angle is determined through the use of trigonometry computations. In addition to creating conduits, electricians are also responsible for running and splicing wires and connecting electrical outlets that are used by the building’s clients.
In locations that are not under construction, electricians can install new electrical devices, such as AC units or elevators. Alternatively, for residential locations, they may link homes with power generation through alternative energy sources to the power grid as power providers. Electricians also troubleshoot electrical problems or update the wiring in old buildings to handle the increased power demands of modern technology. This is all done while adhering to state and local building codes and the latest NEC guidelines.
Current Career Options for Electricians
Over all, the BLS projects that electricians of all specialties should experience employment growth of up to 23 percent, nationally, from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013). This growth is expected as a result of an increase in construction and use of electrical devices. Growth is possible in the alternative power generation specialties; for example, power-producing homes need to be connected to the electrical grid in a way they were not previously connected. As old buildings age, and as new technology emerges, buildings need to be upgraded accordingly.
As of May 2011, electricians made an annual median wage of $49,320 nationally, with the highest levels of employment for the occupation in the following industries (BLS.gov/oes, 2013):
- Building equipment contractors
- Local government
- Employment services
- Nonresidential building construction
- Electric power generation, transmission and distribution
Is an Electrician Training Program Right for Me?
Individuals with technical abilities and critical thinking or troubleshooting skills can explore education options to become an electrician. It's important to consider some special challenges in this career. According to the BLS, electricians suffer a higher than average rate of injuries and illnesses, possibly as a result of electrical burns or shocks (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013). Working on construction sites, electricians may be at risk for other construction related injuries. However, if you enjoy working on your feet, traveling to locations rather than staying in an office, working outdoors and have critical thinking or troubleshooting skills, an electrical education might be an enjoyable career choice.
Electricians need to follow safety guidelines at work, and this skilled trade calls for a great deal of physical activity. In this trade, you have opportunities such as working on your feet, being outdoors and traveling to a variety of locations (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013). If this sounds better than sitting in an office all day in front of a computer, request more information about education for electricians from training schools.
Licensing Information for Electricians
As mentioned above, many states require electricians to be licensed. While requirements vary by state, the National Electrical Contractors Association provides a list of state licensing requirements. For example, in Maryland providers of electrical service must hold a master electrician license, which requires completing an exam. The Montgomery County website describes different type of master electrician licenses. Working without a license can be in violation of criminal law where licensing is required.
Be sure to check into the regulations of your own state or county.
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