Electricians prepare, assemble, install, test and troubleshoot electrical wiring, fixtures and control devices. They are employed by electrical contractors and building maintenance departments or may be self-employed. In order to become an electrician, you need a high school diploma or equivalent and undergo vocational training. This can be achieved through an apprenticeship or by completing a formal trade school program. In either case, you must follow your state’s guidelines for apprenticeship hours and licensure to become fully qualified as a professional electrician.
During your education, it is recommended that you take courses in math, science and computer programming to develop the skills needed for this career. English and physics classes can also help you develop the technical vocabulary used in this field. Taking classes in shop and mechanical drawing is also beneficial. These skills will be useful as you progress in your career, particularly if you plan to work on larger projects.
If you choose to enter the unionized field of electrical work, it is important that you pursue a four-year apprenticeship through a trade school program or a Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). You must pay dues as part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, but the wages and benefits are quite good. Non-union schools and programs may be found through Independent Electrical Contractors or local community colleges.
The most important qualities for a successful electrician are attention to detail, critical thinking and communication skills, along with physical stamina. The ability to read technical and wiring diagrams is vital, as is the skill to adhere to all relevant safety codes.