In this article:
What is an Electrician Degree?
This degree field prepares students to work as electricians – the tradespeople who install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring and systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, security, lighting, and computer networks. Programs may cover all types of electrical work, while others may focus on one specific category of the four principal classifications of the electrical trade:
- Residential Electricians – work in single-family homes and apartment complexes
- Commercial Electricians – work in schools, hospitals, commercial/office buildings, retail settings, and on new construction and renovation projects
- Industrial Electricians – work with high-voltage electricity in industrial environments, such as manufacturing plants
- Low Voltage Electricians – work with low-voltage systems like voice, data, and video networks
Electrical Apprenticeship – Four to Five Year Duration
An electrical apprenticeship is the most common educational path. Most electrical apprenticeships are composed of between 576 and 1,000 hours of classroom instruction and between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of on-the-job training with an experienced electrician.
Credits earned in a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program may be applied to the classroom requirement, which includes blueprint reading, safety, mathematics, and electrical theory. The hands-on component comprises drilling holes, testing wires and switches, and installing conduit according to the National Electrical Code (NEC) and jurisdictional regulations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists four organizations as sponsors of electrical apprenticeship programs:
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
- Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)
In addition to passing a job interview, apprentice applicants need to take and pass a basic aptitude exam, which tests reading comprehension and ability to perform simple math and first-year algebra. In most cases, candidates must also meet specific physical requirements, pass a drug test, and be able to demonstrate a certain level of mechanical aptitude.
Electrical Diploma / Certificate / Associate Degree – Nine Month to Two Year Duration
Increasingly, the first part of formal education for prospective electricians is training at a trade school or vocational college. Diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs allow students to learn the fundamentals of the trade and prepare them for the apprenticeship application process. Programs typically focus on the National Electrical Code, workplace safety, electric theory, and some hands-on training.
Here are some of the topics covered in classroom and lab sessions in both school programs and apprenticeships:
- Introduction to Electricity – electrical theory, electrical drafting
- Electrical Components – conduit and conductors, feeder circuits, panels, switchboards, motors, controllers, generators, transformers, raceways and boxes
- Grounding Systems and Overcurrent Devices
- Electrical Power Distribution
- Alternating Current Fundamentals
- The National Electrical Code
- Electrical Safety and Accident Prevention
- Electrical Drawing and Blueprint Reading
- Electrical Systems Analysis and Problem Solving
- Jobsite Management
- Residential Wiring – materials and methods
- Commercial Wiring – materials and methods
- Electrical Tools and Technologies – cable reels, stripping tools, wire and cable cutter, voltage meters, ammeters, frequency meters, tension gauges, infrared scanners, Construction Master Pro software, SAP software, Craftsman CD Estimator software
Degrees Similar to Electrician
Programs in building inspection teach students the skills needed to examine structures and verify that they have been constructed according to building codes and other related laws and regulations.
Carpentry training programs teach the skilled trade of cutting, shaping, and assembling wood for buildings and other structures. Students of the trade learn about the two basic types of carpentry: rough carpentry and finish carpentry.
Civil engineering students learn how to design and plan civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. Classes include math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, and building codes.
Students of electrical engineering learn how to use physics, electronics, and electromagnetism to design devices that are powered by or produce electricity. Most degree programs in the field start with foundational classes in calculus, physics, and chemistry.
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.
Some of the subfields of engineering technology are civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, aerospace engineering technology, and automotive engineering technology.
Plumbing degree programs teach the skilled trade of installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing fixtures and systems. These systems include water, heating, irrigation, sewage, fuel, medical gas, and compressed air.
Welding students learn the process of joining metals using extreme heat. They study metallurgy, the properties of different types of metals, and different types of welding.
Skills You’ll Learn
Physical strength and stamina
For the most part, electricians work on their feet and they often have to crawl through tight spaces and lift heavy mechanisms.
Attention to Detail / Hand-Eye Coordination / Manual Dexterity
The work of an electrician involves manipulating wires and tiny components and distinguishing between subtle colors to ensure safe and proper wiring.
Electricians are consistently called upon to consider reasons why an electrical component is not working. The reason, of course, is not always evident. Determining the answer takes a critical approach to solving problems.
Teamwork, Communication, and Customer Service
While it is true that electricians often work alone, they may also work in teams, especially when designing and installing electrical systems for new residential or commercial projects. They must be able to effectively communicate and collaborate with colleagues, construction crews, and homeowners.
Numeracy and Technical Ability
Electricians must be comfortable working with numbers and interpreting technical plans.
What Can You Do with an Electrician Degree?
As electricians perform very specific work, they are typically employed directly in the field. The largest employers of electricians are electrical contracting companies and residential, commercial, and industrial construction contractors. Electricians also find jobs with heavy and civil engineering construction firms. Some are self-employed.
Within each of these employment sectors, they install and repair lighting fixtures and equipment, switches, and circuit breakers; connect power to communications equipment, signaling devices, and heating and cooling systems; troubleshoot electronic systems and replace faulty components; and conduct maintenance programs.
Learn about your career prospects after graduation.Read about Career Paths