How to Become an Electrician

Photo of an Electrician

Suzy Carver is a journeyman inside electrician for Oregon Electric Group, where she has worked for the past seven years. In order to become an electrician, she underwent 2,000 hours of classroom training, followed by 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

Suzy enjoys the variety and financial independence that her career provides, and only regrets that she did not get into the trade sooner.

What is an electrician?

An electrician is a tradesperson specializing in the installation of electrical wiring of homes, buildings, machines, and equipment. We install and design new components and also repair, upgrade, and maintain existing systems. We bring the lights and power to your homes and offices.

Why did you to decide to become an electrician?

Before I became an electrician I worked a slightly above-minimum-wage retail job. I have always been independent and wanted a way to support myself. My brother, a sprinkler fitter, encouraged me to look into the electrical trade after talking with some of the guys on his jobsite. After looking into it and taking some classes through a local college to see if it was something I would be interested in, I decided it was the right move for me.

Are there common misconceptions about your profession?

Most often, I hear that it is a man’s job. When I first started I didn't see many women on the job. It may be that I was just on smaller jobs to begin with, but in the last few years, I have worked with quite a few women and am seeing more and more all the time.

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day for an electrician. One day we could be installing conduit and pulling wire for a new building or testing a fire alarm system, and the next we could be digging a ditch or working on lights 20 stories up on a building. We could be working off scissor lifts or crawling under a raised floor at Intel with hazardous chemicals overhead.

My typical work day is 10 hours, from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a half-hour lunch. Lately, my workweek is from four to six days long.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?

I always get to meet new people and there is always something new to learn. There are always new places to go and new opportunities.

What are your least favorite aspects of your job?

Waiting around for paperwork or plans to be finalized so we can start working.

What personality traits do you think would help someone to be successful as an electrician?

Positive attitude and people skills would be a plus. Ability to compromise and see others’ points of view, as well as being hard working.

What personality traits might hinder someone’s success as an electrician?

Stubbornness, hard headedness, and laziness.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently while studying to become an electrician?

I wish I would have gotten into the trade sooner.

What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering studying to become an electrician?

A "C" or better is required in high school algebra to even apply for the apprenticeship, so don’t screw around in school. Study hard and work harder, and this career will be great to you.

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