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A Traditional Electrician Apprenticeship VS A Trade School

Updated on August 1, 2015

After deciding to become an electrician, the very first decision you will want to make is how you want to pursue your electrical apprenticeship.

I outlined what you can expect with a typical electrician apprenticeship program in this previous article. That's the path most wanna-be apprentice electricians take.

But it's not the only way.

There are trade and vo-tech schools that offer electrician training programs. Your local Community College may also be an option.

This is the Truth about Electrician Trade Schools

I'm sure that there are many vo-tech, technical trade schools and community colleges around that will provide you with outstanding training

But if you really want to become an electrician, they're a complete waste of time.

This is why.

With very few exceptions, to become a licensed journeyman electrician you will need to complete a state approved electrician apprenticeship program and then eventually pass a state or local journeyman electrician exam.

It doesn't matter what area of the country you happen to live in, this is pretty much how it works.

State approved apprenticeship programs are administered by either a local chapter of the NJATC (National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee) which oversees the IBEW or union side of things or....

.... a local chapter of either ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) or IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors), both of whom administer electrician apprenticeship programs for non-union, open-shop or 'merit shop' electrical contractors.

These state approved electrician apprenticeship programs consist of approximately 180 hours of classroom time in addition to 2000 hours of actual on-the-job training.

That's per year for four years!

These requirements are all typically met while working for an electrical contractor participating with one of the above apprenticeship programs.

The electrical contractor that you begin working for pays the tuition for the 180 hours of classroom time. The apprentice electrician is usually responsible for buying their own books and tools.

You will not be able to take the local or state journeyman electrician exam without documented proof of completing a state approved electrician apprenticeship program!

Where Does That Leave an Electrician Trade School?

To be honest, mostly irrelevant.... at least for the 'inside wireman' or electrical construction field anyway.

I'm not saying that these schools don't provide valuable training. The question you should be asking is.... can any of this training be used in place of your state's licensing and apprenticeship requirements?

The answer to that question is normally NO!

If you could somehow get your state electrical licensing board to accept the trade school's electrician training program in lieu of the state's requirements for classroom instruction, then that would be an entirely different situation.

If you feel compelled to attend a trade or vo-tech school however, the very first thing you should do is contact the agency that is in charge of electrician training and licensing requirements in your state and see what they have to say.

When it's all said and done, they will be the ones issuing your journeyman electrician license.

Here is a very simple way to look at this issue.

If you attend an electrical trade school for a year or two, you will be paying them a nice chuck of change for training that most likely will not help you to actually become an electrician.

If you get involved with a state approved electrician apprenticeship program, they will not only send you to school for free, but will provide four years of on-the-job-training. You will then be totally prepared to take and pass the journeyman electrician exam.

This is Not a Very Difficult Choice to Make

Then why do construction electrician trade and vo-tech schools even exist? They understand that some people just love to go to school.

Schools are certainly a safe, secure and expensive place to hang out.

But why pay for and spend time doing something that ultimately won't help you along with the process of becoming a journeyman electrician?

Okay.... now that you have the low-down on how an apprenticeship program works and that trade schools are NOT the way to go, you need to make one more decision....

.... union or non-union.

You can find out about the pros and cons of each right here.

© 2013 Jerry Higgins

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