Becoming an Electrician as a Veteran
Electricians Are in High Demand
If you like being hands-on, doing work that requires practical knowledge, and hope to earn while you learn instead of paying tuition, becoming an electrician may be the choice for you.
Electrical work isn’t repetitive or monotonous. Most electricians encounter and solve new problems every day. The job’s not glamorous, but it’s important.
Electricians are among the highest paid workers in the construction sector. They’re needed everywhere from Hollywood movie sets, to field jobs in all settings and locations, to the neighborhood you live in.
This broad spectrum of opportunities means you can move, travel far and wide, or stay right in your own hometown, without risking reliable employment.
Growing Opportunities for Electricians
Not only are there plenty of job opportunities today, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for electricians continues to be on the rise. The BLS estimates that job opportunities for electricians are growing 10% faster than average with no leveling off in sight. Meanwhile, many working electricians are moving toward retirement age.
Electricians need to be licensed, but no college degree is required. If you want to become an electrician you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship that includes both on-the-job training (OJT) and classroom instruction. You can go about this two different ways: get pre-apprenticeship training at a trade school or vocational college, or you apply for an apprenticeship directly and then take classes as you go.
Your Best Strategy?
Depending on your education and experience, your best strategy may be to get some schooling under your belt first. Most apprenticeships require an interview and an entrance exam that includes a lot of math questions — particularly algebra. If you lack-real world electrical experience and need some remedial math, don’t be discouraged. You can complete a trade school program in as little as nine months, and then go to work as an electrician assistant. But bear in mind that all vocational schools aren’t created equal. If you have a specific apprenticeship in mind, make sure to enroll in a certification program that your apprenticeship of choice will recognize.
Using your certificate or prior experience to get your foot in the door as an electrician assistant will allow you to meet other electricians who can help you land your apprenticeship. When it comes to apprenticeships, again, there are several options to choose from.
There are union apprenticeships which are usually run by a group called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), There are non-union apprenticeships, that are usually run by two groups: one called the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the other called Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC); and there are local apprenticeships that you can find through a database kept by the federal government.
As an apprentice, you’ll work under a licensed electrician. Rules and requirements vary by state, but most apprenticeships take about 4 years and require 2,000 hours of on-the-job training per year. The average apprenticeship costs anywhere from $250 – $1,420 a year, but most apprenticeships are paid, and that more than offsets the cost. Wages vary by state and employer, but on average apprentices earn $10 to $20 per hour. After your apprenticeship, you’ll be a journeyman and can expect to earn about $32 – $43 per hour.
Use Your GI Bill to Cover Expenses
As an apprentice, not only will be you be earning while you study, but your classroom training will be paid for by the contractor you work for, so your only expenses will be textbooks and supplies.
The great news is that you use the GI Bill to cover those expenses as well as housing. GI Bill payments are issued each month after your employer or union reports your hours. The VA offers a list of employers that offer apprenticeships (at the top of the page in Search Filters, select Program Type “On-The-Job-Training/Apprenticeship”, then select your state on map.) You can also get more more information from the Troops to Trades organization.
There’s nothing like knowing you’re highly skilled in a field that’s in demand, having lots of options, and pursuing a line of work where no two days are the same! In other words, there’s nothing like being an electrician.
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