Why be an Electrician?
By: Dave Varga | Dec 06, 2021
This is a good question, and I would be happy to answer it. The initial question, typically, is “should I go to college, or should I learn a trade?” I have nothing against college, but I am a strong proponent of learning a trade, the electrical trade. The electrical trade has many career paths and opportunities, anywhere in the country, and there is no limit to the earnings potential. No limit! Not to mention, there is no tuition. Let’s take a closer look at why you should become an electrician, a licensed electrician.
How to Learn the Trade
Investing money into a college education and hoping for a good paying job after college is risky. Entering an employer paid electrical apprenticeship program and hoping for a good paying job when the education is complete is NOT risky. An electrical apprenticeship is a four-to-five-year commitment that virtually costs you nothing. While you are learning the trade, you are also getting paid to work. As an apprentice electrician you attend classes, usually twice a week in the evenings, while you are working for the electrical contractor who is paying for your apprenticeship. A typical starting wage for an apprentice with no experience is about $16 an hour. After your apprenticeship is complete, you don’t owe anyone anything, except the company that just paid for your apprenticeship. It is good etiquette to stay with that company for a while, allowing them to make a return on their investment. At this point you may be making about $30 an hour and are welcome to stay if you wish.
Licensing and Experience
After your apprenticeship is complete, it is time to take your Journeyman Electrician Exam. Obtaining your Journeyman Electrician License simply shows others that you have the basic training and motivation to be successful in the trade. Many electricians don’t get their Journeymen’s License due to lack of knowledge or simply because of lack of motivation. This license in your back pocket sets you apart from others and gives you more earning potential. In addition, experience and a good work attitude opens doors. Don’t worry too much about your career path at this point. Any path you pick is simply added experience. With experience, you will decide if you like working in the field at an hourly wage, or working in the office on salary, or if having your own electrical contracting business is a good fit. Regardless, an electrical contracting license should be your next goal.
Electrical Contracting License
With solid field experience and simple computer skills you can make your way into the office. The company is always looking for the next Superintendent, Service Manager, Assistant Project Manager, Project Manager, or Estimator. These roles typically pay more, and you will enjoy keeping clean, avoiding job hazards and hard labor, working with new people, and other rewards! Your daily office duties will allow you the time and energy to begin preparing for your Master Electrician’s Exam, also called the Electrical Contractor’s Exam. At this stage of your career, you will need to have well documented experience in order apply to your state to see what exam you are approved to take. Field experience, supervisory experience, and even some office experience, can be the key to passing a state exam. Holding this license opens up even more career paths and gives you unlimited earning potential as you put that license to work for you.
Move Anywhere and Do Anything
Not all careers allow you to just pick up and relocate. In the electrical field you can do just that. Electrical contractors in busy U.S. cities are always looking for good help. There could be times that you will need to “strap on the tools” all over again and get dirty, to make a location change. It is not a big deal, as you began your career with those tools and you don’t forget how to use them. Let’s say you find that the office is not where you want to be. There are so many career options out there to explore, try them all and then decide what you like the best. There may be a better paying state or a better paying company. Maybe you like the beach or maybe you like the mountains. Either way, in the electrical industry, you can make your own way and achieve your desired pay. Not to mention, the electrical industry needs you.
Part of making a career choice is of course, how much can I make? The money to be made is based on where you live. Research to see what states have better wages. Research wages between union and non-union electricians. Just to give you an idea of wages, here are some average wages in North Carolina, which is a state not known for the highest electrical pay. Don’t forget, you don’t have to pay off $100,000 in student loans!
Apprentice Electrician (1st year): $16 per hour
Apprentice Electrician (4th year): $25 per hour
Journeyman Electrician: $28 per hour
Foreman or Field Superintendent: $35+ per hour
Junior Estimator: $46,000 per year
Electrical Material Salesperson: $50,000+ per year
Assistant Project Manager: $50,000 per year
Project Manager: $65,000+ per year
Estimator: $60,000+ per year
Senior Project Manager: $80,000+ per year
Electrical Contracting Business Owner (depending on business size): Unlimited income