What is a Journeyman Electrician and How Do You Become One?
WE OFTEN TELL PROSPECTIVE ABOUT HOW BECOMING A JOURNEYMAN ELECTRICIAN IS THE DOOR TO A GREAT CAREER. BUT WHAT DO THEY ACTUALLY DO, AND WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING ONE?
November 2, 2018
When someone is looking to begin a career as a tradesperson, their eyes will light up when they stumble across a website breaking down the duties of a journeyman electrician, and discover that in California they can make up to $100,000 per year, about $50 per hour. Better yet, the current prevailing wage for journeyman electricians in Sacramento County is $66.20 per hour, after benefits. It all depends upon your talent, drive, effort, and willingness to learn (one of our graduates currently makes more than $200,000 per year as a journeyman).
Any time a student hears the above, after a bit of dreaming about what it would be like to make that kind of money, they inevitably ask, “How do I get from here to here? How do I become a journeyman electrician and make a hundred grand per year?”
To answer this question, it’s important to understand what a journeyman electrician does.
A journeyman electrician has the qualifications necessary to work independently, though they cannot own their own electrical business or work as a licensed contractor.
Journeyman electricians have the experience and training necessary to perform many of the important core tasks common in electrical work. For instance, they can inspect, install, and repair wiring, transformers and circuit breakers, work with electrical fixtures, install lighting and security systems, wire circuit breakers, switches, and outlets, and much more. To do all of this, they must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of building code regulations. All their work must adhere to these codes, and not undermine the work done by construction workers and other personnel.
However, there are many things that a journeyman electrician is not qualified to do. They generally do not handle the overall planning, design, and implementation of entire electrical systems. In addition, to be able to run your own business offering electrical services and supervise other electricians, you must obtain your C-10 electrical contractor’s license. For those dreaming of the day they can open their own business, this last point is especially important to understand—you will need to work as a journeyman electrician for at least a year before you can take the exam.
Becoming a journeyman electrician is a key step in the path to becoming an independent electrical contractor. But how do you start?
To become a journeyman electrician, you need to enroll in a state-approved electrical school or apprenticeship program, and attain the necessary practical experience.
There is a lot you can learn by getting your hands dirty, but you need knowledge as well. To fulfill the requirements for taking the journeyman electrician certification exam, trainees generally take one of two routes:
- Enrolling in a long-term apprenticeship program while working in the field as an electrical trainee.
- Completing the necessary schooling beforehand in a condensed trainee program, and then getting a job as an apprentice electrician.
Which route you take is dependent upon your financial circumstances and personal preferences. However, we have found that our students generally have a better rate of success when starting out by enrolling in our 6-month trainee program. While this is an intensive program, it is easier to retain and build upon your knowledge when you don’t have to recall what you were learning during your previous stint of classes months before. Our 6-month full-time students can typically find grants and scholarships to cover up to 85% of their tuition.
An added benefit of the trainee program is that when you apply for jobs as an apprentice electrician, you are competing against applicants who may not have even started their formal training. You will bring knowledge to the table that those in long-term apprentice programs won’t learn until their third, fourth, or fifth year.
When looking for a job, make sure that you only apply to companies that are licensed C-10 electrical contractors. Working for a fly-by-night operation that lacks the proper licensing will not contribute to your experience hours.
To meet the requirements for becoming a journeyman general electrician, you will need to accrue 8,000 hours of experience building, installing, or maintain electrical systems. This will allow you to work as a commercial electrician and take advantage of California’s booming economy, rather than being limited to residential work. Demand for commercial electrical trainees has never been low. Even during the last recession, commercial electricians were in great demand, so going the commercial route is a surefire way to maximize demand for your skill set.
The hours you earn towards the licensing requirements must fall into two or more categories of experience, with the maximum number of hours per category that can count towards the required 8,000 hours being as follows:
- Commercial wiring: 6,000 hours
- Finish work and fixtures: 600 hours
- Fire/life safety, nurse call: 600 hours
- Industrial wiring: 6,000 hours
- Residential wiring: 3,000 hours
- Stock room and materials handling: 300 hours
- Troubleshooting and maintenance: 1,500 hours
- Underground conduit installation: 750 hours
- Voice, data and video installation: 1,500 hours
However, you can take the certification test as soon as you complete your schooling. This is another great benefit of our 6-month program—you can learn the technical knowledge, graduate our program, then fill out and submit the Application for Electrician Examination and Certification to California’s Department of Industrial Relations and take the test. Bear in mind you’ll need to pay a $75 fee, plus $100 for the certification exam. But all of the knowledge will be fresh in your mind and you’ll have a great chance at passing the test on your first try. Then it’s just a matter of accruing the necessary hours to become a journeyman electrician!
On the other hand, our 5-year students have to wait until completing their last class in their fifth year before sitting for the exam. While they have much more first-hand experience, they can sometimes struggle, as some of the technical knowledge they learned early on has faded.
No matter what path you choose, becoming a journeyman electrician is a rewarding experience. It’s challenging at times, but if you persevere, you will secure for yourself a lucrative career in a field that is growing at a breakneck pace. There is no better time than now to start down the path to becoming an electrician.
Ready to learn a skilled trade and work on some of the most exciting commercial construction projects in California and beyond?
I-TAP is an electrical apprenticeship program that helps you find your passion, grow your skills, and place you in the perfect electrician job.