Becoming An Electrician

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Old 04-09-16, 04:03 PM
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Becoming An Electrician

Once upon a time I went through classroom time and on the job training as a gas fitter.

My impression is that the knowledge needed to qualify as an electrician is a good deal more extensive and complex than that. Washington State requires a generous number of hours of practical experience being supervised in work as a electrician or helper plus an exam for various kinds of licenses as an electrician.

For example, there is a license available for residential electricians, and others requiring far greater training and experience.


Personally, I'm retired and don't need to work any longer.

However, there are lots of young people who might benefit from working their way into the electrical trades.

Frankly, I've been VERY impressed over the years with the advice handed out on this board. It occurs to me that a budding electrician might be well served by studying the issues and advice handed out on this board and using it to improve their knowledge and skills.

What advice or recommendations do people have for those who might be interested in becoming an electrician?

Personally, I have the greatest respect for utility lineman, who pretty often are called out under VERY adverse circumstances to repair electrical systems damaged by storms that could have been damaged by a regiment of terrorists (or so it seems to me). These are some of the greatest of Working Class Heroes, in my opinion!

I used to work for Puget Sound Energy (gas/electric utility in western Washington) and I believe that the local union provided much of the training for lineman.
 
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Old 04-09-16, 06:02 PM
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I agree and I've learned much from reading the threads here in the electrical forum. For young people looking for a career, getting their license is like getting a college degree, but all focused on the subject.

Where the 5 years as an apprentice (or whatever it is) may seem like a burden, it is also a layer of protection in that "just anyone" can't take up the trade. If you compare it to 4 years of college, I never found a college that would pay me while I learned. Not a bad deal.

Bud
 
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Old 04-09-16, 08:05 PM
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What is required to become a licensed electrician can vary to from state to state, but I think many states are similar to where I live. Minnesota requires 8,000 hours (4 years) of on the job apprenticeship before you are allowed to take the journeymen exam. Typically the schooling required to get a job as an apprentice is a two year program at a trade school and that program will count for 2,000 hours of your apprenticeship. There is another program here in the Twin Cities called a pre-apprenticeship program that sounds like it will get you hired without going through the trad school, but I can't confirm that.

I took a different route because I knew a guy, who knew me, and was willing to take me under his wing and show me the ropes. I still took night apprentice classes that taught me the code, and after my 8K hours I took the test and passed the first try. The masters license is the next step up, but realistically unless you are planning to open your own shop, a master license does nothing except sound impressive. I do everything a master would do except pull permits.

It just so happens that I recently worked directly with some linemen on a job. I was surprised at how little they knew about how our side of things are done. It just goes to show you how different the two jobs are because I didn't know much more about their jobs.

On a side note, the low voltage side of things is another option. Guys that install cabling for power limited (voice and data) while are not licensed electricians, are quite in demand these days even with the availability of wi-fi systems. There is also fire alarm, security, and building access that requires power limited cabling.
 
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Old 04-09-16, 08:43 PM
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My good friend and neighbor back in VA was a Master electrician and was partners in one of the largest contracting firms in the area. I believe he told me it took him something like 8 years and even then he was not in charge most of the time. His main expertise was in industrial and military areas but he knew residential as well. He'd often say he had guys applying for jobs but all they had was residential experience. I guess there's a pretty big difference.

I'd say he's done pretty well since starting his own company...Residential Commercial Government Electricians - Security Systems
 
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Old 04-11-16, 07:34 AM
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Personally I think the first thing one should do is try to get a general laborer / helper job with an electrical contractor for a season or two. Get on some job sites and see if you actually like it and have some aptitude in the trade. Take the time to meet some people and absorb knowledge and then make a choice about what you want to do.

Other options are to visit the local trade / vocational school and see about their programs. If you're in an area where there is a lot of union labor, call up one of the nearby union halls and talk to someone there.

Most states have several levels of tiered licensing with different areas of practice. You need to be somewhat familiar with the trade to know which way you want to take your career, how much you want to learn by study vs. learn by working, if you want to stay where you are or move around the country, do you want to own your own business or work for a larger contractor, etc...
 
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Old 04-11-16, 10:52 AM
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encountered a guy here n Washington State who wanted to be an electrican, but had no training.

He got a contractor's license and hired a licensed electrician to do work he obtained and to instruct him as his helper. Over time, that qualified his with the hours of work needed to take the licensing exam.

Here in Washington State, the electrical licensing board has gone nuts (in my opinion) licensing all kinds of trades as specialty electricians.

That included furnace repairman, those installing low voltage and digital/cable wiring and many others. They suck up large amounts of money and create significant impediments to entry to quite a variety of trades.

They did that entirely on their own initiative -- without any special authorization by the legislature.

I've heard that kind of thing has been happening in other states as well.
 
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Old 04-11-16, 12:36 PM
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Here in Washington State, the electrical licensing board has gone nuts (in my opinion) licensing all kinds of trades as specialty electricians.
Got that right!

When Washington state first instituted licensing electricians, at least forty years ago now, the exam was to see if you could write a check for thirty dollars and not have it bounce. I missed that period by a matter of a few months. Last time I checked, at least fifteen years ago, you had to submit affidavits from current or former employers that you had X number of hours in several different categories BEFORE you were even allowed to submit a request to take the license exam. These affidavits not only had to be signed by an "officer" of the company but also had to be notarized.

That included furnace repairman, those installing low voltage and digital/cable wiring and many others. They suck up large amounts of money and create significant impediments to entry to quite a variety of trades.
And usually with no benefit whatsoever to the general public. It DOES benefit both the state treasury and the egos of the board members.

They did that entirely on their own initiative -- without any special authorization by the legislature.
Well, not quite. The original legislation creating the licensing board gave that board a huge amount of leeway to promulgate rules that would cover just about anything they might desire in the future.


Funny thing, though. The company I retired from had numerous "electricians" as well as "plumbers", another licensed trade. Most of these people did NOT hold the state license that would normally be required if they did any work outside of the company. The utter lack of knowledge of some of these people was downright scary.
 
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Old 04-11-16, 08:24 PM
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But hey, at least WA has recreational MJ use, right?
 
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Old 04-11-16, 08:40 PM
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Yes, Vic, we do. Of course it is so heavily taxed that the black market is still a viable alternative.
 
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