Trades are becoming more and more appealing to people from many walks of life as they see how economically uncertain some industries are on top of the costs of going to college. When it comes to trades to look at, being an electrician is often at the top of the list. Our reliance on electrical systems in all phases of life means job security, and the potential of an electrician’s salary to scratch the upper-five figures in some regions is tempting as well. Keep reading to find out the duties of an electrical apprentice.
However, you don’t start at that level from the beginning. As is the case for most trades, much of the work of being an electrician begins with apprenticeships. If you were to ask the average person on the street what the purpose of electrical apprenticeship programs are, they would probably say training you to handle jobs on your own. That is correct, but there’s a lot of specific day-to-day knowledge at this phase of the career that isn’t as well known. Here’s a look about what electrical apprentices do, and how this sets the stage for the rest of their future careers.
Apprenticeship and How To Become an Electrician
There are generally three main steps you need to take in order to start as an electrical apprentice. The first is having your high school diploma or an appropriate equivalent (GED, etc). For those who are still in high school but have ambitions to become an electrician, focusing on the following classes will help you with some basic skills:
— Shop classes
— Mechanical drawing classes
As of right now, rather than trying to get an apprenticeship right out of high school, it’s recommended you look into electrician trade school first. Electrician school generally entails taking some sort of program at a trade school, career college, community college, or technical institute. Before you commit to any single program, it’s important to look at what you would be graduating with. Some of these programs offer associate’s degrees, while others only offer certifications. In either case, these are environments for you to learn more about the industry, electrical theory, and other items that will make you a more appealing candidate when you apply for apprenticeships.
How exactly does the application process work? There are a few options you can take, including:
— Searching for newspaper/online job ads
— Looking through the Department of Labor
— Looking through professional organizations like the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) or International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
Note that some states like California require apprentices to formally register with the state before being allowed to go on job sites.
The Job Duties Of An Electrical Apprentice
At this point, you know what it takes to get to an electrical apprentice job. But what are some of the daily tasks and duties involved? Note that your work will generally involve 4 weeks of classroom training per year, along with 2000 on the job hours for around 4 years before you graduate to a journeyman electrician.
To begin, no matter what specialty you are going for or who you are working under, all apprentice electricians need to invest in their own set of personal tools to work. There may be some specific items you need depending on your niche, but your supervising electrician will let you know about those. Some of the general items to buy include:
— Needle-nose pliers
— Side-cutting pliers
— Channel locks
— Stripping tool
— Pipe reamer
— Tape measure
— Voltage tester/meter
— Claw hammer
As far as your actual tasks, that will generally vary based on your experience. However, the common thread is that you will be working to assist a journeyman electrician that you are working under. There’s a lot to learn, and in the beginning, you may just be doing basic work like learning how to read schematics and gathering materials for the professional you are working under. However, as you get more experience, you will likely be tasked with doing certain jobs under supervision.
Electrical Apprentice Tasks:
— Installing conduits
— Installing new wiring
— Replacing old or damaged wiring
— Installing systems like lighting, fire alarms, and security system
— Mounting panel boards, switches, and other equipment
— Troubleshooting and repairing equipment as needed
This is not a complete list, mind you. Most apprentice electricians are going to be focusing on a specific niche of work, like residential work, industrial work, and commercial work. All of these require different techniques and equipment. An apprenticeship also allows for improving your soft skills, like interfacing with customers out on the job.
Your classroom instruction will generally cover things that are a bit harder to explain out in the field, like further electrical theory, the latest safety measures, and other information.
Last but not least, we should talk about your earning capacity. On average, the electrical apprentice salary in the U.S. is $49,000. Variance is generally based on location. This will likely immediately increase when you graduate to a journeyman electrician.
Taking part in an electrical apprenticeship is all about learning the essential trade skills that will make you a successful professional. However, while you go about doing this, it’s also important that you learn some of the tangential, but essential skills that go into this work. For example, while you’ll be well-versed on how to use different tools and equipment, what about supplemental technology?
Project management software like eSUB is the perfect example of what you want to master sooner rather than later, no matter your job ambitions. For those that are interested in working for a larger electrical company, almost all of these use some form of project management software, and you will need it to chart your job progress. If you want to set out on your own in business, this is arguably more important. Project management software makes sure you are efficient and your company is in good financial health.