How To Become a Licensed Electrician in California in 2023
Electricity is the backbone of our modern society, and California’s booming economy and large infrastructure investments are contributing to a high demand for electricians. This demand has led to excellent job security and high wages, with union electricians in California earning an average of $55.34 an hour and rising.
However, becoming an electrician in California can seem like a daunting task. That’s where this article comes in – we will guide you through the prerequisites, state requirements, and options for training, including debunking the myth that trade schools are the best option. Plus, we’ll show you how to find apprenticeship programs near you, so you can take the first step towards a rewarding career in electrical work.
Prerequisites To Becoming An Electrician In California
To become an electrician in California, you will need to join an apprenticeship program or an approved school through a community college or private institution. These programs typically have the same prerequisites, which include:
- A high school diploma or GED
- Completion of an Algebra I class or equivalent
- Possession of a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation
- Proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport, or other government ID
If you haven’t completed an Algebra I class, you can still fulfill this requirement and prepare for the apprenticeship program by taking an online tech math course through the Electrical Training Alliance. This course will ensure that you have the necessary math skills to excel in the program and in your future career as an electrician.
State Requirements for Electrician License California
In California, the state requires all unlicensed electricians working for an electrical contractor to be registered with the state as either a registered electrical trainee (ET) or to be enrolled in a state-approved apprenticeship program.
To become an electrical trainee, you need to enroll in a state-approved school and complete a certain amount of schooling hours each year to maintain your enrollment. Once you have accumulated 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, you can apply to take your state certification exam and become a licensed journeyman.
On the other hand, if you choose to pursue an apprenticeship program, you will need to find the nearest one to you and apply. These programs not only provide the required theory and coursework to pass your exam but also connect you with employers and ensure you complete your necessary hours to pass your state exam. As we will explore in the next section, I highly recommend the apprenticeship route over the trade school route.
Trade Schools Vs. Apprenticeship Programs
If both trade schools and apprenticeship programs lead to obtaining a state license, then why are apprenticeship programs better? There are several reasons.
Firstly, to qualify for a state license, you need to complete not only the required school curriculum but also work 8,000 hours OJT (On-The-Job Training). Trade schools usually require full-time or part-time enrollment, which means students cannot work to earn the required hours. Although some trade schools may recommend that students find employment on their own, they do not offer direct connections to employers.
In contrast, apprenticeships provide direct connections to employers, who provide on-the-job training and wages. If a contractor no longer needs the apprentice’s services, the apprenticeship program will find another employer for the apprentice.
Furthermore, trade schools charge tuition fees ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per semester. Apprenticeships, however, only charge the cost of books for the entire 4-5 year program.
Moreover, apprenticeship programs provide apprentices with higher wages than they would earn if they negotiated independently with an employer. Apprentices also receive guaranteed pay raises every six months until they obtain their state license.
Considering these factors and others, it is highly recommended to explore all available apprenticeship opportunities before applying to any trade schools.
How To Find Apprenticeship Programs In California
There are three nationally recognized electrical apprenticeship programs that can provide you with the necessary skills and on-the-job training to become a licensed electrician. These programs include the Electrical Training Alliance (ETA), Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).
The Electrical Training Alliance is a union apprenticeship program and is widely considered to be the top option due to its comprehensive curriculum, high-quality training, and competitive wages and benefits. If an ETA program is not available in your area, or if you are not accepted into the program, ABC and IEC are also great options that can provide you with valuable training and preparation for a successful career in the electrical field.
To locate an apprenticeship program in California, visit our apprenticeship finder page by clicking here. Simply type in your zip code, and our interactive map will show you all the available apprenticeship programs in your area. It is highly recommended that you explore all of your options and apply to multiple programs, as apprenticeship programs can be highly competitive and may have limited spots available. By researching and applying to multiple programs, you can increase your chances of being accepted into an apprenticeship and starting your journey toward becoming a licensed electrician.
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