How to join the ibew

Joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is one of the best decisions you can make for your career. The path for entry depends on if you are;

I’m new to the trade and want to join the IBEW apprenticeship

You are interested in starting your career as an electrician, and have decided the IBEW is the place for you! I guarantee you won’t regret it. Here’s a step by step guide on how to apply.

Step 1: Find out where your nearest union local is and give them a call. You’ll want to ask these questions:
  • “Are you accepting new applicants to the apprenticeship program, and if so, when?”
  • “What are the requirements to get into the apprenticeship, and what documents do I need to gather?”
  • “Are there any pre-apprenticeship opportunities like the CW or material handler programs I can join to start getting experience now?”
Step 2: Gather Documents

Based on their answers to these questions, you’ll want to start gathering your documents and submit your application. Generally speaking you will need to send in proof of your driver’s license, citizenship, transcripts of Algebra I or higher,  and high school diploma / GED. If you don’t already have your transcripts, I recommend starting that process ASAP, as it can take a few weeks for you to receive verified copies.

If you do not have the proper math prerequisites, you can take the Online Tech Math course as a substitute for Algebra I.

If they have a pre-apprenticeship opportunity to start working now, TAKE IT. This will be invaluable during your interview. Start learning everything you can about the trade and the union.

Step 3: Prepare for your aptitude test

Every union will require you to take the NJATC (National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee) aptitude test. This exam is a 69 question test, with 33 Algebra and 36 reading comprehension questions, over a total time of 96 minutes.

Two to four weeks after you take the exam, the training center will receive your score results and if you pass, will schedule you for an oral interview. Your score on this test, and the score you receive when you complete your interview will determine your place in the queue from which the apprenticeship takes on new apprentices. You don’t want to simply pass the test to get the interview. You want to ace it. Here are some free and paid study guides to help you.

Free GuidesPaid Guides
Khan Academy Algebra Job Test Prep Practice Exams
ETA Sample Test and information. (Left side has links, scroll to bottom) Electric Prep’s Reading Comprehension Course
iPrep PDF Electric Prep’s Math Course
iPrep Aptitude Test Practice (Free practice just under Youtube video)iPrep Aptitude Test Practice
Step 4: Oral Interview

  After you have completed your aptitude test, assuming you pass, you will be scheduled for an oral interview. I have written a separate article detailing how to prepare for this interview. 

Step 5: Await your answer!

After the interview, they will let you know within a few weeks of your interview score and placement in the queue. Be in contact with the training center about when you start. 

I have my state license and want to join the IBEW

You’ve been working as an electrician in the non-union sector and have decided to make the jump! The process is actually much simpler than many would have you believe. If you have not already, make sure you have your state license before proceeding below.

Call your local union and inquire about the following two things:

1. Journeyman Inside Wireman Exam: This exam is given by the union to test already licensed electricians to ensure they are up to IBEW standards. Each local designs this exam independently, so you will want to find out when and how you take it, and what you need to study. Generally speaking however, it will be a blended written test covering code and theory questions, and a hands-on portion.

Passing this exam allows you to begin working under the Journeyman Inside Wireman classification with full prevailing wage rates.

2. Construction Electrician (CE) classification: Ask if the local offers the CE program, which is a temporary program designed to let you work under union contractors while waiting to take the Inside Wireman Exam.

I have a couple years experience as an electrician but do not have my state license.

If you have been working as an electrician and want to join the IBEW, you have three options;

Option #1: Test up

Call your local union and inquire about the apprenticeship program and if you would be able to test up into a specific year based on your experience. Every local handles this differently, and many don’t let you.

Option #2: Start the IBEW apprenticeship fresh

While initially frustrating, the IBEW offers a multitude of benefits, high pay, and multiple pensions. When you add it all up, you may not even be taking a real pay cut. Your current level of experience will also look much better on your resume, and your chances of getting into this competitive apprenticeship will be much higher.

Option #3: Obtain your state license

If you can’t afford to restart an apprenticeship, or otherwise don’t want to, you can easily finish out your current program until you get your state license, and then follow my earlier instructions and join the IBEW as a journeyman electrician.

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