Jul 8, 2022 | 12 min read

How to become an electrician step-by-step

Electricians provide expert services in installing, maintaining, and repairing the vast electrical systems that keep our modern world thriving. Whether you are an industrial, commercial, or residential electrician, training as an electrician allows you to earn as you learn, plus you’ll be working towards a career in a valuable skilled trade.

If these possibilities spark your curiosity about the electrical field, you might find yourself wondering: how do I become an electrician? 

However, becoming a licensed electrician is not just about getting the electrician license. Understanding what to expect and how to prepare for it to help pave the way toward your success. Here we will walk you through the steps you need to take to become an electrician.

Electricians can specialize in various categories based on their skills, training, and expertise. Here are some common types of electrician specialties:

Type of Electrician

Training and Education

Certification Goal

Specialization Focus

Residential Electricians

Electrician trade school

Certified electricians/
electrical technicians

Residential electrical systems

Commercial Electricians

Trade or specialized schools

Certified electricians/
electrical technicians

Commercial electrical work

Industrial Electricians

Electrician trade or specialized school

Certification in industrial systems

Complex industrial electrical systems

Maintenance Electricians

Specialized training in system upkeep

Certification in maintenance

System maintenance and upkeep

Master Electricians

Rigorous training at electrician trade or advanced school

Master electrician certification

Advanced electrical knowledge and skills

Journeyman Electricians

Electrician training and field experience

Journeyman certification

Gaining experience as certified electricians/

Construction Electricians

Electrician trade school

Certification in construction field

Electrical work in construction projects

Low Voltage Electricians

Electrician trade or specialized school

Low-voltage systems certification

Expertise in low-voltage systems

Solar Electricians (Solar Photovoltaic Installers)

Electrician trade or solar-focused school

Certification in solar energy systems

Installation and maintenance of solar energy systems

Emergency Electricians

Specialized training in emergency response at electrician trade or advanced school

Certification in emergency electrical work

Emergency electrical services and response


These categories highlight the importance of training for certification as an electrician or electrical technician, stressing the value of education at a trade or specialized school.

How to become an electrician step by step:

Step 1: High school diploma or GED
Step 2: Receive formal education from an electrician program or be an electrical apprentice
Step 3: Obtain the electrician license
Step 4: Start the career

Step 1: Earn your high school diploma or GED

Before you can begin your education and training as an electrician, you’ll need to earn a high school diploma or an equivalent. 

Most electrician trade schools and apprenticeships require a minimum of a high school education. Aside from that, however, the daily work of an electrician demands many of the skills you can learn in high school. 

In general, the knowledge you might need includes mathematics, some basic understanding of scientific concepts, and the ability to design projects and use skilled tools. One of the most important skills in the electrical industry is being able to comprehend technical documents such as instruction manuals, blueprints, and training materials. That means advanced reading, writing, and comprehension skills are a must for this position.  

You can earn a head start by taking relevant courses if you're currently in high school. These include:

  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Physics
  • Workshop
  • Mechanical drawing
  • English literature

If you never earned your high school diploma, don’t worry—you can still make meaningful steps towards becoming an electrician.

Before you can begin formal training as an electrician, however, you will need to earn a General Education Diploma, or GED

A GED certificate allows you to prove that you have a high school level of education. To receive your GED certificate, you must take an exam that tests your knowledge. If you need help preparing, many local schools, community colleges, libraries, and even online programs offer GED courses that can get you up to speed.

Do you have to start training as an electrician right after high school? 

Because you can become an electrician trainee as soon as you turn 18, many people can start their careers right out of high school. On the other hand, if you’re looking to make a career change later in life, you still have plenty of possibilities as an electrician.

Take it from Marten Messerly, an electrician with Ohio-based Claypool Electric, who started his electrical career after three decades in another field. 

“I always thought that it was something that you had to do right out of high school,” Messerly said, speaking to US News. “Now, I just finished my fourth year of apprenticeship training, and with a few more [on-the-job training] hours, I will be a state-certified journeyman electrician." 

Messerly demonstrates that you can jump into this promising career path with success no matter where you are in your life. 

Step 2: Start your formal education as an electrician

Before you can begin working as an electrician, you’ll also need to complete some formal education requirements. Most states require you to earn 8,000 hours of on-the-job training before becoming licensed. Some also require a certain number of classroom hours. 

In terms of how you meet these requirements, however, you have several options:

  • Attend a trade or vocational school
  • Earn an associate’s degree
  • Apply to be an apprentice electrician 

In most cases, you will need to complete an electrical apprenticeship program regardless of obtaining additional education. This is where you’ll shadow a journeyman or master electrician and earn most of your practical on-the-job experience. However, there are advantages to seeking more electrical education before you start as an apprentice electrician. 

Attending a trade or vocational school or earning an associate’s degree can provide valuable advanced knowledge in multiple areas, including:

  • Electrical theory and principles
  • Mathematics for electrical systems
  • Electrical wiring, voltage, and currents
  • Electrical safety practices
  • Residential and commercial wiring
  • Electrical drawing and reading blueprints
  • Electrical code and regulations
  • Lab-based training

In addition, one of these electrician programs can often help you find apprenticeships and guide you through becoming licensed and starting your career.

How long does it take to become an electrician?

The length of time you might need to complete your education as an electrician depends on your chosen path. The number of years you need to complete those 8,000 hours may also vary. In general, here’s how long you can expect your training to take:

    • 1 year – Trade or vocational school

  • 2 years – Associate’s degree

  • 4–5 years – Apprenticeship

It may seem like going straight to an electrical apprenticeship program will take you the least amount of time, but that isn’t always true. Depending on the state where you’re seeking your license, you may be able to count as many as 1000 classroom hours toward your on-the-job experience. Some states even allow you to count an additional 1,000 hours for each year of school you attend.

The unique opportunities of an electrician’s education

An electrician’s training and education comes with several bonuses. One is the possibility of paid on-the-job training. Before committing to becoming an electrician, it’s important to understand how much electrical contractors make. The other is the opportunity to experience a diverse range of hands-on professional experiences. 

Raul Santa Ana, an electrician apprentice with Minnesota-based business Javens Electric, spoke to the benefits of his apprenticeship in an interview with the Minnesota Electrical Association. 

“I just can’t express how enjoyable the job is. The benefits are great, the pay is fantastic,” he said. “It’s just something that always keeps you thinking. You’re always on the move, it’s never the same thing.”

Step 3: Obtain your electrician license

Once you have completed your education requirements and earned your hours, the next step is to become a licensed electrician. This usually entails taking an exam on topics you’ve learned during your apprenticeship and any classroom training, such as:

  • The National Electric Code
  • Your state and local area’s electrical code
  • Electrical theory and principles
  • Safety protocols
  • Building codes

Once you pass the exam, you may also need to complete continuing education courses to renew your license each year. These courses help you to build and maintain your knowledge and stay updated on any new electrical technology and changes to the electrical code. 

Some states also offer multiple levels of licensing for aspiring electricians. When you’re first starting out, for example, you may seek licensure as a journeyman electrician. After you obtain several years of work experience, you may have the option of obtaining a higher-level master electrician license. This advanced certification can lead to even more opportunities and supervisory roles.

Step 4: Start building your career

After earning your license, you’re ready to begin your career as a full-time electrician. Some electrical workers opt to continue working for the company where they completed their apprenticeship. Others may find electrician job connections through their trade school or decide to become an independent electrical contractor. 

However, one thing is clear: the growth opportunities don’t end when you get your license.

In an interview with Job Talks, electrician Virginia spoke about the career path and its possibilities for growth. “The misconception is that you stop when you get your license, but truthfully that’s just the first stage,” she said. “After that, that’s when the doors really open up. You get five years experience under your belt, you pick where you want to go.” 

Once you’ve gained some work experience as a licensed electrician, you may wish to seek out leadership positions within your company. These positions may include:

  • General manager
  • Service manager
  • Field supervisor

However, if a supervisory role doesn’t suit your personality, don’t worry—there are plenty of other ways to continue growing as an electrician.

Finding your niche as an electrician

Aside from any leadership opportunities, you may also wish to obtain additional certifications and specialize within a certain field area. These can include positions such as:

  • A residential electrician, working to install, wire, and repair systems in homes and apartments 
  • An industrial electrician, completing electrical work in large facilities such as manufacturing and power plants
  • A commercial electrician, providing electrical services for commercial buildings such as stores and office buildings

These are just a few of the possibilities. According to John Williamson, a chief electrical inspector in the state of Minnesota, the opportunities only grow as your career progresses:

The electrical industry is very diverse. Master electricians with 15–20 years of experience under their belt are great candidates for electrical inspector positions, or as teachers, project managers, estimators, quality control engineers, consultants, sales, and numerous other job opportunities in the wider electrical industry.

Down the line, you may even want to start your own electrical business, supervising whole teams of electricians and training your own apprentices.

Grow your electrical business with Nextdoor

Once you’ve established yourself as an electrician, the opportunities can be endless. You may be an independent electrical contractor, or starting your own small business is a natural next step. Once you’ve started a business, nothing is holding you back from endless success. Learn about marketing tips for electricians that can help advance your electrical career. Whether you set out as an independent contractor or start an electrical empire of your own, however, one thing is for certain. You’ll need a way to communicate with the neighborhood around you.

A Nextdoor Business Page makes it easy to connect with your community, share your services, and help your business grow. It also allows you to engage with nearby customers and businesses who need your expertise the most.  

When it’s time to take your electrician career to the next level, stay connected with Nextdoor.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to undergo an apprenticeship to become an electrician?

Completing an apprenticeship is a common and often mandatory path to becoming a licensed electrician, providing a blend of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Apprenticeships typically last three to five years, allowing individuals to accumulate necessary training hours and gain practical experience. These programs are crucial for developing the skills and knowledge essential for a successful electrician career. Specific requirements vary by location, so it's important to check local regulations and licensing criteria to determine the most suitable pathway for your career goals.

Can I become an electrician later in life, or is it limited to post-high school?

Absolutely! You can start your journey to become an electrician at any age. Many individuals transition to this career later in life, as highlighted by electrician Marten Messerly, who began his electrical career after three decades in another field.

What options do I have for formal education as an aspiring electrician?

You can pursue formal education through various paths, including attending a trade or vocational school, earning an associate's degree, or becoming an apprentice electrician. These options provide valuable knowledge in electrical theory, safety practices, and hands-on training.

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