To be a successful electrician, and to qualify for most apprenticeship programs, you need to have the following;
- A high school diploma or GED
- Completed Algebra I or higher
- Valid driver’s license
- Reliable Transportation
Typically electricians make a straight hourly wage, and are not salaried workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians made an average wage of $56,900 in the year of 2020, or an average of $27.36 an hour. However, this doesn’t tell the full story. Undoubtedly this number is brought down by the number of apprentices who are still earning as an electrician, but do not have their license yet. Generally when looking into a new career path you want to find out what you can or will be earning once you get your degree, license, or certification for said career.
So, I have collected the data of over 150 union locals across the US, with their base hourly pay and benefits for licensed electricians. It turns out if you take the average of all of those, you come out to an average hourly rate of $38.20, or just shy of $80,000 a year. Quite a different figure, and that’s just the average. Some locals pay $80 an hour as the BASE pay, not counting everything that goes into a pension fund or 401k. Click below to find out what your city ranks at!
This is one of those questions where the real answer is rather annoying. You can ask 10 electricians this question and get 10 different answers, all based on their personal experience. My answer? It depends. It depends on the company you’re with. It depends on the projects you are on. It depends on the city you are in and what’s available. It depends on if you even WANT to do overtime.
I will say this however; if you want to do overtime, it’s not usually difficult to find. And if you don’t want to do it, most companies have no problem allowing you to do your straight 40’s. Construction is one the industries that is always in a state of flux. When it’s booming, it’s booming. Overtime opportunities are everywhere. Work is everywhere. When it’s slow, you’ll have a harder time finding it. Sometimes you may even have a hard time finding 40 hour weeks. This all depends on what city you live in and the state of the industry. If you’re willing to travel however, you can always be where the work is booming and work as much as your heart desires.
A standard workday in construction starts around 6am and ends around 2:30pm, give or take an hour each way. This early schedule is usually based around “beat the heat” safety ideas, to get as much work done before the days get hot. The early days aren’t so bad, they’re balanced by the lack of traffic on the way home everyday!
Residential electricians have their own state license that allows them to perform electrical work in residential settings. Just as the name suggests, that generally means working on houses. Sometimes this also extends to apartment complexes and condos, but often these are considered to be commercial buildings, and thus different licenses are required.
Commercial electricians have what’s called a “general” electricians license. This allows them to perform electrical work in all types of settings, typically commercial and industrial. Commercial work is work on any commercial building or setting, which includes anything from fast food joints to hospitals, research facilities to amazon warehouses.
Industrial electricians also hold a general electricians license, they just work in industrial settings. Industrial settings are different in a number of ways; they often involve PLC’s, or programmable logic controllers, start-stop buttons, conveyor belts, heavier equipment.
Commercial and general electricians, or anyone with a general electricians license, can do residential work. Those with residential licenses can ONLY do residential work.
Yes! Many apprenticeship programs are affiliated with local community colleges and grant college credits, and even an associates degree, upon completion of the apprenticeship program. This varies with location, so be sure to contact your local apprenticeship program for details!
Absolutely! Depending on which GI Bill program you’re using, you can qualify for 100% of your benefits. For example, upon entering an approved apprenticeship program, The 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance can get you 100% of applicable housing allowance during the first 6 months of training, 80% the next 6 months, and so on until you get down to 20%. From here you will earn 20% of your housing allowance until you finish the apprenticeship program. Check out the GI Bill comparison tool to see your estimated benefits!
The trades are very friendly to people of all backgrounds, even people who were previously incarcerated. It’s not at all uncommon to meet people who have done time and you should not worry about it affecting your ability to get into an apprenticeship program, even if it was for a serious offense. If asked, honesty is always the best policy.
It depends on where you are located. If you live in a very remote area, you will probably have to commute to find work. If you work in a busy city, you can most definitely find work near you. Most companies only take on work in specific cities, and rarely venture outside those lines. If they do, they will either hire electricians in that area to take on the work, or offer you per diem as a traveling bonus.
Some electricians want to travel for work, as you can visit new cities and go to areas where the pay is high and overtime bountiful. This is very common, and traveling electricians are definitely a thing, especially in the IBEW. Apprentices are (generally) not allowed to travel during their time in school, but once they graduate and become journeyman electricians, the world is their Oyster. Many electricians use where2bro.com as a great reference to where the work is busy and the wages are high. It’s not uncommon to meet people who travel to northern California and make $200,000-$300,000 a year working overtime. Take note though, that is working 60-80+ hour weeks, every week.
This is a question I hear all the time. I want to make this loud and clear; YES! The electrical trade is hurting for skilled labor across the sexes. With less than 4% of field construction workers being women, companies are looking to hire you to help bring diversity and unique perspectives to the job site.
If you are nervous about the gender gap in the industry, there are many resources here to help. I won’t lie, the construction culture can often be a bit blunt, and shit talking and crude humor is a natural part of that. That doesn’t mean that sexism and harassment is though, and every company I’ve ever worked for has zero tolerance of it.
Well to start, one belongs to a union, and the other doesn’t. I’m sure you already deduced that. There are a number of practical differences however, as things work a lot differently inside the electrical union, called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW. Life as a non-union electrician is pretty much as one may imagine it; you apply and interview with different electrical contractors, and negotiate your wage personally. Some companies provide medical insurance, some don’t. Some may provide 401ks, or supply workers with power tools. You shop around, trying to find the best company with the best work.
In the union however, you don’t shop around. All companies that are affiliated with the union only hire union workers, and they all fall under the same local contract. That means ALL licensed journeymen earn the same minimum pay (foreman or other higher positions can earn more) and all have the same benefits, including full medical coverage, a pension, and access to a 401k, and provide power tools.
When a part of the union, you also don’t have to apply to new places. The union will look for work for you. If you get laid off, you sign what’s called the books. This enters you into a queue of sorts, from which the electrical contractors hire from. When you’re on the books, you enjoy the time off and file for unemployment. When it’s your turn, you’re hired. This is actually a simple version of how it really works, and if you want to know more, visit our union page.
I started my career as an electrician at the age of 19, and have been to many different companies and met hundreds and hundreds of electricians. I would estimate that 10% or less of electricians start out this young. It is extremely common if not the norm for people to become an electrician as a second career. Seeing an apprentice in their 20’s or 30’s, and even older is nothing new and no one looks twice. My only warning to those who are in their 40’s and up would be to prepare for the possibility of people half your age teaching you the trade and giving instructions.
Yes. Layoffs are an unfortunate but common theme in construction, especially if you are working for a larger contractor. Construction is a very cyclical industry as job sites start and come to an end. There’s really no telling how often or when you will get laid off. Some companies will bounce you from job site to job site, but if they don’t have another one lined up, layoffs can happen. It’s important to be financially prepared for it, but with that said, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. The construction trades are always hurting for more talent, and so we are very in demand. I’ve been laid off multiple times on a Friday end of day, made a couple phone calls and had work lined up for the next Monday at a new company. If you’re part of the union, you don’t even need to do that, as they will place you with the next contractor.
Licensing varies on a state to state basis. On the job experience is a must, usually around 4 years. Many states also require a minimum amount of classroom hours. Once you have the required work and classroom experience, you have to pass your license exam which tests you the NEC (National Electric Code) and electrical theory. Click below to see the license requirements based on each state.
It takes roughly 4 years to become a licensed electrician depending on what state you are in. Click below to see the licence requirements by state.
It depends on your companies policies and if you are part of the electrical union, the IBEW. Most IBEW locals do require a yearly drug test. Some non-union companies require it as well, as many can get lower insurance premiums if they routinely drug test their employees for safety. Even if your company does not drug test, they may have job sites that do require them for either similar insurance reasons or because it is a government / city contract that requires it. Drug tests are also routine after a safety incident that caused harm.