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On Becoming An Electrician, and Electrician's Basic Tools

Updated on August 5, 2017

Apprentice Electrician

I've once again went to work in an area in which I am pretty well versed in, but not a sector of employment I've every truly thrived in. Again, I have taken a job as an apprentice electrician.

Now I first started working in this field when I was but twelve years old, and I believe that had something to do with me never being able to see it as something I'd ever want to do. No I was not unhappy for working at twelve, that was honor of family then. I was working with my late grandfather who'd recently lost his wife, my late grandmother - and we were working in the Texas heat wiring houses here in Kaufman, County. I was with him because my family didn't want him alone in those circumstances. I am honored I was esteemed able to fill such a role.

I again worked as an electrician wiring houses at sixteen years of age during the Summers, and again at seventeen years of age, during the Summer break from school. Virtually every male in my family is an electrician - other than myself and my brother, who also happen to be very experienced as electricians..

While in need of a job in 2005, I fell back again into wiring houses as an apprentice electrician -learning a trade is forever a wonderful thing.

While I'm mostly a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technician by experience and choice, I'm finding that work as an electrician is not nearly so against my grain as I'd once thought, and the job I took literally landed in my lap as the Summer ended. Quite naturally, when one is an electrician he or she is involved with powering an air conditioner or heater, and conversely, when one is involved in HVAC, one must forever be cognizant of electricity, and furthermore, plumbing, as an air conditioner produces a lot of condensate water.


I'm totally for cute young women becoming electricians....for several reasons, actually.
I'm totally for cute young women becoming electricians....for several reasons, actually.
Much more common - the male electrician.
Much more common - the male electrician.

About The Apprentice Electrician's Licence

In 2005 when I went to work for the Fall and Winter as an apprentice electrician, that time was the first in which I was officially working in that capacity. What do I mean? I mean I had to get an apprentice electrician's license.

Before then - there was no license needed for the job, and today, it is the exact same thing - one needs no license to actually do the job; the "license" is NOT a license at all. What a "license" actually is - is a certificate received for having demonstrated knowledge or skill - but the apprentice electrician's license is ONLY a certificate received for having paid the state of Texas twenty dollars cash.

While I have no idea if the other 49 states of the USA or the provinces of Canada require money exchanged so government can hand over something called a "license" for someone to do manual labor or not, that is the exact thing done here in Texas.

With a cursory search of the term "apprentice electrician" and the powers of Google, I found this one link that looked pretty good, but this one concerns California. The job of an electrician is something that isn't going to be much different anywhere in the world - there is the job itself, and then there are only the legalities and codes for getting the job done.

So What Does An Apprentice Electrician Do?

Simply put, the job of an electrician is labor intensive. It can be hard work, and it is often repetitive busy work - especially at the entry level. Personally, I've never been involved with electrical service work as an electrician. I am primarily an hvac service technician, and there really is a lot of differences between the job of a service electrician and an hvac serviceman.

Growing up, my father owned a business called Shaw Services - and my father is a Master electrician who's had that license over forty years now. Primarily, as Texas has always been a booming place, my dad's company installed the electrical service, wiring, lights, etc, in new homes. Both of my father's brothers also did the exact same thing, as did their brother in law, their father - and virtually every male in the family.

My family of electricians always made their living wiring houses and small businesses, and lots of apartment complexes. The work is done on construction sites, so it is dirty work, and it is hard work, but with the right frame of mind, the work isn't unpleasant. One can find that doing such work whips them into a nice physical condition, as the electrician in the building of buildings is forever up and down a ladder, and carrying loads of this and that here and there.

Literally, a body can get itself into pretty good shape doing the grunt work of an apprentice electrician. Going up and down a ladder all day pulling Romex wires through the rafters of a home under construction is a lot of exercise. Work hard, get fit, get paid a bit. I've convinced myself here lately that I'm getting paid to exercise.

Of course there is a lot more to the job I'm doing than just the pulling and installing of wires, but that is certainly the most physically demanding thing. When all the wire installing is done, then one must return to the building or home under construction a bit later on when the entire project is nearer completion, and install all the plugs, switches, and lights.

Building ceiling fans is another thing, which can be somewhat interesting, as there are surely hundreds upon hundreds of designs for ceiling fans, and they do not come from the distributor house ready to hang on the ceiling, they have to be put together, as do a lot of the fancier light fixtures.

Installing all these things is one thing, and of course the goal is forever to get it right the first time, but then there is also the reality that determines that sometimes things get damaged in the construction process, or were never done correctly to begin with - so just before a home or business is ready to be used and occupied towards its intended purpose, things must be made to work that did not work. It is all, of course, very real work.

Tools For The Trade - Electrician's Tool Belts

There is simply no way around it, anyone wishing to be an electrician must have a tool belt, or a tool pouch with a belt through it to wear around the waist. In the field of HVAC, nobody carries their tools on a belt because they generally have no clue what tools will actually be needed until they arrive at a job - but the electrician's job is rather different. The electrician tends to know what he will be doing pretty exactly from day to day, and especially in the field of construction - and the electrician knows he needs tools around his waste where he can always get to them - as he needs very specific tools, and ready access to them at all times.

I myself carry a very ancient leather tool belt - with pouches on either side of the thing - and this, my friends, is important because the construction end electrician is very often up and down a ladder of various sizes, and when standing high up on a ladder one needs to be balanced. Balance is crucial to maintaining a non injured state - and so there is a two section tool pouch or tool belt - with pouches or sections for tools and materials on either side of the body, connected to the waist via the belt.

The Claw Hammer

Quite literally, some days the claw or carpenter's hammer is in my hands more than just about anything else. On the construction end of the electrician's job, nobody but the actual carpenters are swinging hammers around more. Very often, the framing carpentry crew will be present at the same time as the rough in electricians, and so the cacophony of banging combined with pneumatic nail guns, can be rather intense.

What the electrician needs a hammer for are multiples of tasks too great to enumerate on here, but suffice it to say, wires must be secured to the wooden frames of buildings, and so too must the boxes or pans that lights, plugs, switches, and fans mount to.

Klein Electrician's Hammer - A Must Have Tool For Any Electrician

Wire Strippers, Side Cutting Lineman's Pliers, and Needle Nose Pliers

Electricians are so obviously persons dealing with electrical wiring it goes without saying, but I've here said it once more - and utilizing such wiring towards and end always involves connecting the wires - which is mostly a very simple task, but one that is most often done by using many tools, and none more or less important than the actual wire strippers used to strip away the protective insulation that keeps a home safe - and in order to connect the circuitry.

There is more to it than that, of course, as also a pair of lineman pliers or "side cutters" must be used to properly and effectively twist together the stripped wires; and then this new electrical wiring connection must be protected anew with what is often referred to as a "scotch lock," or a "wire nut."

Often are the times when coarse copper wires are in places where they are hard to get to, to manipulate towards the end of providing an electrical service, and often in such times, ye old needle nose pliers are needed to fish out, pull out, bring forth the wires for stripping, cutting, twisting, and connecting.

Screwdrivers - You Have To Have Them

In my life the only jobs I've had that didn't involve screwdrivers all involved wearing a suit and a tie, and even then I often got home and had to use some screwdrivers to do something or another. Lets face it, practically everyone on the planet at some point or another is going to need some screwdrivers, and the electrician's apprentice most certainly needs several.

I don't suppose I need to go into much detail here about the kinds of screwdriver, and what they are used for, but suffice it to say there are flat heads and Philips head screwdrivers that must be had and used virtually every work day, and I do mean of various sizes too.

A little note here about Klein Tools - my thoughts are they are the best hand tools of any and all varieties that I've ever seen or used, and so I do endorse Klein Tools. Craftsman Tools are also very good tools, and there are other brands too, of course. With Klein or Craftsman, one has a lifetime guarantee on those, and if one breaks, it can be replaced. They do cost some money to buy, and this is because those brands make tools worth having.

If you are in a pinch and need to rustle up some hand tools on the cheap - then you can always search the local pawn shop.

Now despite how awesome is the Klein Ten In One screwdriver, you won't be able to get by with just that, as you will sometimes need a screwdriver with a longer "neck" on the thing.

For some jobs the newer style "cabinet tip screwdrivers" with the swivel - those things are marvelous, I don't own one, as I tend to stick to more traditional tools - but one of those is sure on my shopping list.

Two Piece Long Neck Flat and Philips Screwdrivers - By Klein Tools

Additional Tools Needed For The Apprentice Electrician

Now it is important to know here that generally speaking, the apprentice electrician won't be expected to have every tool in the world, as the job foreman will have them, and will let you know what he expects you to have for the types of jobs you will be doing, but what I am hoping to provide here are the fundamental tools - as these are tools that will be used by any electrician of any degree of skill of license regardless of it all, and most handyman types are going to have these things around anyway.

If you don't know just what "Romex" wire is, then let me assure you - you will become intimately familiar with it, and in order to acess the wiring to even put the wire strippers on what wires need connecting, one much have a VERY sharp knife to cut the outer levels of protective insulation away, and for this, the traditional box cutter razor knife is the absolute best tool imaginable.

Now Klein tools does make an electricians knife especially for this job, but my opinion is that it is an inferior tool to the razor knife or box cutter, simply because with a razor blade knife - one merely needs replace the razor blade from time to time, and not ever worry about sharpening a dulling blade.

"Dykes" or "diagonal cutting pliers," are another absolutely essential tool for all electricians, and their entire purpose in life is to cut wires of various thickness with ease, and precision.

Tape measures - you just won't get far in the electrical field without one! Electricians are forever measuring distances from walls to determine where to cut or drill holes, or where to nail up cut pieces of two by fours for the hanging of light fixtures, and fans, and the appropriate boxes used to install them and their wiring.

Lastly, when it comes to light fixtures, and especially in homes - those things must be level, lest they become an eyesore, and jobs done right are the jobs a worker can be proud of having done. So a simple torpedo level is something that any electrician's tool pouch needs to have in it

Box Cutter Razor Blade Knives - Must Have For Romex Wire Access

That Would Be Me, An Electrician

Me | Source

Conclusion - Just Do It

So I hope here to have given a broad enough overview concerning the entry level aspects of an electrician, or as your state may or may not have it, a licensed apprentice electrician. I also hope to have through the description of some of the most basic and essential hand tools used for such a job, increased the probability that the reader can grasp what all the job of entry level to wireman's license electricians do, and especially in the realm of new home construction, or small business construction, i.e., small commercial buildings.

Now how in the world is it, you may wonder, that I never got into the theory of electricity, or the use of electrical multi-meters here at all? Well, the entry level electrician isn't going to be expected to much know anything about voltage, amperage, ohms law, voltage drop - so forth, and so on. Those are all things that will become essential knowledge, and as an HVAC tech, I'm well versed, but only seldom have I ever encountered anyone working on any live voltage in the residential to light commercial market. The apprentice just won't be expected to handle live voltage unless it is behind all the protections the typical person or home owner experiences electricity with.

Cordless drills weren't brought up either - those things made life in the skilled labor markets and trades infinitely better, but they deserve more than I felt I had time to get into here.

Thanks for reading.


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    • profile image

      christopher mejarito 

      5 years ago

      yes im already experience 5 years in NDIA DOHA QATAR

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Right! I'm working for an entire male end of the Shaw family is involved with electrical work...except for my brother, who runs a BBQ House.

      I'm really more of an HVAC tech by experience...but I'd sure doing the Winter as an electrician! My uncle used to have a not unattractive at all woman working for him as an apprentice. I'd like to see more of those!!!!!!!!!!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Yes, the "license" in Idaho is like that in Texas; pay the state for the privilege of working but that's all. Sure, schooling is available and the state will keep track of your hours (if the employer reports them) so that one day you can get a Journeyman license, but that's it. It certainly doesn't mean you're trained in anything but opening your wallet.

      I have to add that I love your second photo. I've worked with women electricians, and not one of them had beautiful, clean face and hands, with long hair gently curling around their face. At least not on the job. Off the job, sure, but working a job site isn't conducive to sort of thing. :-)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas


      Oh heck to tha NO!

      OH the hazing...well, folks are forever up to that....and the U.K. and the rest of Western Europe is famous for having much the better education at....EVERYTHING than does the U.S.

      Insofar as HVAC goes - that really is a deep trade...and serving as an actual apprentice for years before being given a bit of serious definitely the way to go.

      Here in the states....there is nothing like that in the private sector...but there should be.

      Nobody should be turned loose to go wire a house or be responsible for gas furnaces, etc, unless they've spent some time under someone that damn well knows what they are doing.

      In HVAC in the US....shoot, it's just an EPA license, and your on!

      At least in plumbing and electrical a body has to serve as an apprentice for a certain number of years under a Master....and me, I've got those years already, really....but not consecutive, you know.

      If I keep at this - then all I'll have to do is go take a test to be a "Journeyman" which is someone capable of being a foreman on a job....but I do need more experience for that.

      I dunno what I'm going to actually do though (ever)...I might break back to air conditioning repairs and big money in the Spring :)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Chris don't do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      LOL! Oh I bet a Summer job in the U.K. doing this stuff would be very very nice!!!!!!! All that rain you folks get...and the cool cool Summers.....oh the days would be pretty pleasant....even were one to have to go into an existant attic to do some service/repairs.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      So now we call you Wes 'Can you fix my kettle' Todd Shaw!

      This seems to be pretty much the same as I've seen here, except I think apprentices go through an apprenticeship that lasts a few years, going to technical college classes on 'day release' from work once or twice a week and making tea for the lads. There's usually (like all industrial/trade apprenticeships in the UK and Europe) some sort of 'graduating ordeal' like having your trousers stapled together at the foot when you're in the shower and having to walk home in your 'Y' fronts! After that it all depends on how good you are at various tasks and you have to be on a trade register with fellowship of a trade association. (you see we have rogue tradesmen in all fields we call 'cowboys', who go around 'botching' jobs at expensive rates and leaving unsuspecting customers out of pocket after being told 'they have to buy this, that or the other', whereas trade inspectors say they're talking 'tosh').

      'Oi, Dad, it's the leccy man!'

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      After reading your really comprehensive article, I'm tempted to try rewiring the house. I don't think my landlady would be too impressed though if I did.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I like the sound of all that Paula!!!!!!!!

      It is "day to day," as the work comes and goes...sometimes it is a rush rush thing, then sometimes there ain't nothing to do for several days.

      It's all fine with me, really.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Very interesting, Wes and I wish you much luck and success in this field you're now working in.

      I can remember so clearly, how my Dad, who LITERALLY could do anything...and extremely well, at that....was not the least bit shy to admit he would rather NOT mess with electricity. When it came to major jobs, that required wiring, he'd tell my Mom to get a certified electrician.

      Sounds like you are enjoying this and you certainly know an awful lot about it.......Electricians make a LOT of money, Wes. So, now all you need to do is get your wires crossed with some cute little female electricians and you can have yourself a bunch of little 15 watt bulbs!


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