Electricians play a vital and practical role in contemporary society. Most of us don’t know how to wire a house for electricity or plan an office compound that serves the needs of thousands while being energy efficient. Electricians are trained specifically to plan, test, diagnose, and evaluate all manner of electrical work.

Licensure requirements vary by state, but all electricians will need to participate in a training program and pass a test.

The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) is nationally recognized as a leader of  accredited trade examinations.

NASCLA offers three trade exams:

  1. Electrical Contractors (Master/Unlimited Electricians)
  2. Journeyman Electricians
  3. Residential Electrical Contractors

While the Journeyman Electrical exam is nationally recognized, you must still check your state requirements to obtain an electrician’s license. In some states, individual municipalities will issue licenses. Once you know where you plan to work, research the requirements.

How to become an electrician

To get started as an electrician, one must have a GED and the proper training. There are Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in electrical technology as well as Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in electrical technology available. While neither are required, both can be helpful in providing a knowledge base for what electricians need to know.

A white male electrician looks at a breaker box that's shooting out sparks. Illustration.
Most technical programs take between 2-5 years to complete. Some will include paid apprenticeships.

Regardless of your background or where you live, there are some basic steps to follow to begin a career as an electrician.

1. Research Requirements

Begin by researching the requirements for becoming a journeyman electrician in your specific location. Check with local electrical licensing boards, trade organizations, or government agencies to understand the specific qualifications and regulations you need to meet.

2. Education and Training

Enroll in an accredited electrical training program or degree program. These programs are typically offered by vocational schools, community colleges, or trade unions. Some larger companies (like Home Depot) also have free training resources. Most programs last two to five years. During the program, you will learn about electrical theory, electrical codes, safety practices, and gain hands-on experience through practical training.

3. Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are sometimes built into training programs, but not always. If your program did not include an apprenticeship, you’ll need one to gain the necessary supervised hours to complete your electrical training. Apprenticeships may be paid or unpaid, depending on the location and specific arrangement.

Throughout your apprenticeship, you will work alongside experienced electricians, gaining practical experience in various aspects of the trade. The required number of hours can vary, but it is typically around 8,000 to 10,000 hours of supervised work experience.

4. Prepare for the Licensing Exam

Once you have completed the required education and work experience, you will need to prepare for the Journeyman Electrician licensing exam based on your state’s requirements. This exam assesses your knowledge of electrical codes, regulations, and practical skills. The Journeyman Electrician exam provides candidate information about what to expect on exam day.

5. Take the Licensing Exam

Register for the licensing exam through the appropriate licensing board or regulatory agency. The exam may consist of a written portion and a practical demonstration of your skills. Upon successful completion of the exam, you will be awarded a Journeyman Electrician license.

Electrician job outlook

How much does a Journeyman Electrician make? Salary varies by state, but here are some median annual incomes for Journeyman Electrician as reported by salary.com.

  • North Carolina – $64,800
  • Alaska – $74,400
  • California – $84,400
  • Indiana – $65,700
  • New York – $79,300

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% growth rate (which is considered average) for electricians from 2021- 2031.

If you’re interested in working in electrical, there are a lot of options and opportunities for growth once you’re licensed. Electricians can go on to take more specialized licenses or open their own businesses.