There are few jobs more essential to modern life than that of the electrician. Everything from basic lightbulbs to cutting-edge medical equipment relies on electricity to work properly. Without it, life as we know it would cease to exist.
Because of the importance of electricity, there is likely to be continued demand for electricians who can install new systems, repair faulty wiring, and ensure power is safe and consistent. Electricians also must be able to read blueprints and schematic diagrams, as well as comply with state and federal laws. Since faulty electrical wires are dangerous, states don't allow just anyone to work as an electrician. Instead, people need to receive appropriate training and be licensed before they begin working.
While some workplace apprenticeships can be started with only a high school diploma, employers often prefer to hire graduates of electrician degree programs. Plus, some states might require a certain level of formal education before a license can be granted. Even if your state doesn't require training beyond an apprenticeship, you may find you can gain a stronger skill set and more career options if you earn an electrician diploma or degree.
What to Know About Online Electrician Degree Programs
It might seem as though electricians have the type of job that would demand in-person training, but much of their education can be done over the computer or via other distance learning methods. Today's online colleges may even provide workbooks or interactive programs to help students master concepts.
Both on-campus and online electrician training programs are available at various levels. These are the two most common options:
- Diploma programs: Electrician diploma programs may be completed in as little as four months from some schools. Curriculum generally covers the basics of electrical systems and government requirements. This education path is best for those who want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible, and who plan to work exclusively in electrical installation and repair.
- Associate degrees: Associate degrees typically take two years to complete, and may be offered by community colleges or technical schools. These programs provide in-depth training and often let students specialize in a particular area such as residential construction, maintenance, or advanced electrical controls. An associate degree is a good option for those who want to work in a particular niche of the field or in an advanced or supervisory role.
Those who earn a diploma or degree may still have to complete an apprenticeship program before they can be licensed to work independently. These programs run from 3-5 years, and require working under the supervision of a journeyman electrician.
However, those who have earned a degree may find their education can be credited toward the apprenticeship and, therefore, shorten the length of time required to become licensed. In addition, some community colleges have special apprenticeship programs which allow students to begin working with a journeyman electrician while earning an associate degree at the same time.
Job Outlook for Electricians
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians should see above average job growth over the coming decade. Similar occupations are also expected to experience strong growth through 2024, so professionals could have many options when it comes to finding a job.
The following chart takes a closer look at some of the career options available to graduates of electrician degree programs:
|Occupation||Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||National Average Income (2015)|
Solar Photovoltaic Installers
Line Installer or Repairer
Wind Turbine Technician
Choosing the Right School
First and foremost, check with your state's licensing division to learn the legal requirements in your area. This is particularly important if you are considering an online electrician degree program that is based in another state. You want to ensure that your education meets your state's licensing requirements.
Then, review the curriculum to make sure it aligns with the most recent version of the National Electrical Code. You'll also want to investigate whether the program can adequately prepare you for your state's licensing exam. Finally, if you want to earn a certification from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies, check to see if the program you're completing is designed with those exams in mind.
If you're considering an online program, pay attention to how classes are structured. Will you need to log in at a certain time, or can work be completed whenever is convenient for you? Also, check the technology requirements to be sure your computer is adequate. You may also want to ask if the school offers any assistance to place students in apprenticeships.
Choosing an electrician degree program can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be. Most schools have admissions representatives who are happy to answer questions and guide you through the process of selecting a school.
- Electrical Technology, New England Institute of Technology, http://www.neit.edu/Programs/Associate-Degree-Programs/Building-Technologies/Electrical-Technology
- Electrician Training Online, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/career-diplomas/electrician-training/
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
- Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oes/
- Red Rocks Community College Electrical Program, http://www.rrcc.edu/electrical
- What Certifications Are Available? NICET, http://www.nicet.org/become-certified/what-certifications-are-available/