Electricians who work in construction and home remodeling begin most days by looking at a blueprint. All of their conduit, wiring, switches and breaker panels are located according to a plan prepared by the building architect. The electrician then proceeds to install the electrical system according to the design on paper, the nature of the building’s structural components and according to the local electrical codes. Electricians working on construction projects are often called on for creativity, much as carpenters are, in order to solve conflicts between architectural drawings and realities imposed by the building site.
Four out of five electricians work in the construction industry or for themselves. Many do some of each. As a construction trade the salary scale for electricians is excellent, and those that augment construction work with repair work on the side make a good living. Electricians are trained principally through an apprenticeship program, most of which are co-sponsored by the National Electrical Contractor’s Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the electrician’s union. This article is about becoming an electrician today.
Apprenticeship is a four year program that includes both on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. Some electrical apprentices can obtain the classroom instruction, or some of it, through an accredited online program. Apprentices in the field will generally be under the supervision of an experienced electrician and will provide support services such as drilling holes, attaching empty conduit in place and pulling electrical wire through it. Later in the apprenticeship they learn how to attach wire to switches, install electrical fixture boxes and other principal pieces of the electrical system.
In the classroom apprentices study electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety practices. In some cases they may have the opportunity to get specialized training in soldering, fire alarm systems, and cranes and elevators. There are also special instructional programs for communications systems.
The key to accelerating your electrical apprenticeship is to begin the classroom work before actually starting the apprentice program. Apprentices are hired on just like journeymen electricians, and many employers prefer to hire apprentices with some classroom experience. Often students that come on the job with previous training will also start at a higher level than beginning apprentices.