Being an electrician takes skill, training and problem-solving abilities. And the job is in high demand, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a higher job growth rate than other construction trade areas between now and 2030.1 So if you want to know how to become an electrician, you picked the right time to ask.
But you can’t simply set up shop and expect to begin making money as an electrician. You must check several items off the list before you get anywhere near electrical wiring or electronic control systems. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you understand what it takes to go from wondering how to become an electrician to launching your own business.
Step #1 – Decide what kind of electrician you want to be.
While all electricians perform similar functions through installing and maintaining electrical systems, there are important distinctions between the different types of electricians. So, when you’re considering becoming an electrician, it’s good to understand the differences to better plan your business future.
For example, wirepeople and linespeople — two types of electricians — work on different areas of electrical infrastructure. Wirepeople are the types of electricians you’ve likely hired to fix issues within your home. Also known as “inside electricians,” they typically install and repair electrical systems in homes and other buildings.
On the other hand, linespeople work outside on high-voltage electrical lines that run electricity from power stations to buildings. That’s why they’re sometimes known as “outside electricians.”
In addition to the differences between wirepeople and linespeople, electricians can also be distinguished by whose electrical issues they assist. For example, residential electricians help people in their homes; commercial electricians work on businesses and other non-residential facilities; and industrial electricians work in factories, manufacturing plants, or even areas like mines.
Each of these different types of electricians is important, and any one of them can make a good career path for an aspiring electrician. But they all require the proper knowledge and education. That brings us to step two.
Step #2 – Get the right education
While nothing more than a high school diploma is required to start the path to becoming an electrician, it can be beneficial to attend an electrician trade school or community college electrician program. These educational opportunities can teach the fundamentals of electrical work, and they can help you stand out from the crowd when you start applying for apprenticeships.
Step #3 – Secure an apprenticeship
The apprenticeship process is one of the most important parts of becoming an electrician. Electricians are required to work and train under more experienced professionals for several years to progress in their careers. Typically these apprenticeships last between three and five years, depending on the particular program and specialty you choose. And this is only the first level of the process.
Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’re ready to become a journeyman electrician. Most states require an exam to achieve this level. As a journeyman, you’ll be fully licensed and allowed to work without the supervision of a more experienced electrician.
After working as a journeyman electrician, you may choose to continue progressing in your career and become a master electrician. These electricians often supervise teams of journeymen and apprentices or work as contractors within the industry. Most states require a certain number of hours worked and passing licensing exams to become master electricians, and requirements vary by state. So check on the specific requirements for your state as you progress in your career as an electrician to ensure you’re meeting the proper requirements and have the necessary licenses at every level.
Step #4 – Acquiring licenses and certifications
Because of the inherent dangers in the job, the vast majority of states legally require you to receive a state license to practice independent electrical work. Passing your state licensure exam demonstrates your understanding of the National Electric Code (NEC) and local electrical and building codes. To achieve your credentials, you must:
- submit exam fees
- have proof that you completed an electrician apprenticeship and work experience that lasted the required number of years
- take and pass the appropriate exam for your level
In addition, some electricians opt to get an electrical contractor license, an optional business that only master electricians can obtain.
Similar to your license, certifications demonstrate to customers that you are a professional tradesman. Specific certificates also establish that you’re an expert within particular areas or niches of the business. Often, you can leverage such credentials to charge higher prices. Trade organizations and professional associations may offer these types of certifications. These groups can also be helpful as you step out on your own and launch your electrician business.
Step #5 – Launch and market your electrician business
To successfully strike out on your own as an electrician, you need to understand both electricity and business. It’s not enough to be a master of your craft; you also need to know how to make money to make a living as an electrician. That means understanding the realities of legal compliance and market drivers that govern the electrician industry.
To operate legally, you must register your electrician’s business with the local, state and federal authorities and obtain a business license. To do so, you must select a legal structure for the company. You can choose from several, including an LLC, sole proprietorship, S Corp, etc. Before you decide on one, speak with an accountant or business attorney. They’ll know local, state and federal tax regulations and should be able to help you select the most appropriate structure. In addition, you’ll have to register for an EIN, which lets you file the business’ taxes to state and federal revenue services.
Once you’ve registered your business, it’s time to build your business and marketing plans to ensure you’re prepared to help clients and make money as an electrician.
- Business Plan – This encompasses everything about your business, including the business name, the optimal customer profile, projected costs and pricing structures. It will be your guide in the early stages of the business and will be a crucial part of securing any loans or outside investment you may need to get started.
- Marketing Plan – Aside from the relationships you’ve already established with contractors, interior designers and real estate agents, you need to develop a marketing plan to target customers directly. There are a variety of avenues worthy of pursuit, including your website, social media profiles, and online and print advertising. You may also want to consider placing ads on job service websites.
As you build your business, it’s also essential to plan for the unexpected as best you can. One crucial way to do that is to buy insurance (we’ll get into details below).
Step #6 – Get Thimble’s Electrician Insurance
During your electrician apprenticeship, you may see a variety of incidents of varying levels of severity. The electrician’s field is inherently dangerous and filled with opportunities for things to go wrong. We call that liability.
Electrician Insurance is a customizable package of policies that includes general liability insurance to help protect you in the event of an accident or other catastrophe. For example, imagine what would happen if you wired a home and an electrical fire broke out. The owners could sue you for third-party property damage. Your insurance policy will shield you from the cost.
You need a policy that lets you pay when you’re working and lets you save when you’re off — a policy that you can choose by the job, month or year.
Thanks to Thimble’s fast and flexible Electrician Insurance, you can go from having no coverage to purchasing a policy in less time than it takes to turn on the lights. Simply sign up, receive a quote, purchase a plan and get your Certificate of Insurance right away.
Electrify your career
Now that you understand the fundamentals of becoming an electrician, you can get started on your new career with confidence. You know what you need to do and how to protect yourself as you learn the trade, launch your business and help your clients with all their electrical needs.