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In 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of November 2020, the median pay for an experienced electrician was $56,180 per year or $27.01 per hour. With 739,200 jobs available, it is easy to see why this is an ideal career choice. Especially when the career can be achieved with a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training as an apprentice.
If you are thinking about becoming an electrician, one of the first things you may consider is an electrician apprenticeship with IBEW. Read on to learn why this is not the only choice for your career, and that attending a California approved trade school may be a better option for you.
What is IBEW?
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is a labor union that represents about 775,000 workers in the electrical industry. Their apprenticeship program provides you with on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
The disadvantages of this seemingly easy route to a good-paying career could outweigh the benefits.
What Is an Electrician Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a long-term training program. These are generally run by professional organizations combining work and instruction. You must perform a specific amount of hours in classroom instruction and hands-on training to complete the apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships generally take about 4-1/2 to 5 years to complete. You have two options when looking to complete an apprenticeship:
- Apply to a professional group and, if you receive acceptance
- Attend an electrician school, receive professional classroom and hands-on training as an electrical assistant, and apply for an apprenticeship
The Hybrid Electrical Training Program you receive at InterCoast College provides a combination of on-campus hands-on instruction,, simulated projects, and online assignments you can complete from home. And, you will participate in real-world practice in the labs at the school one day a week. This provides you with a well-rounded education.
Active students receive an Electrical Training Card (ET). This allows you to work while attending school. You graduate in less than one year.
IBEW vs. InterCoast Trade School
When looking at whether you should join the IBEW or attend a trade school, weigh carefully the following:
1. Getting an IBEW Apprenticeship can be Difficult
When applying to the IBEW there are usually a lot of applicants and only a few openings. The apprenticeship program turns away many good candidates. The program usually takes 4-5 years, and requires a longer commitment than a trade school.
The InterCoast program is only 1 year. InterCoast offers job placement assistance and you will have the opportunity to select your employer.
2. Application Requirements
To participate in the IBEW apprenticeship program, you must be 18 years old by the time of selection and indenture. Additional typical requirements may include:
- High School Diploma or GED
- Have and maintain a driver’s license
- Have a passing grade for one credit of high school algebra or one semester of college algebra
- Be in good health
- Have a qualifying score on their aptitude test
- Be drug-free
The first step to being an electrician is to complete your high school diploma or GED. InterCoast College provides an opportunity for you to receive your high school diploma at the same time you are attending their electrical program. So, you can start the InterCoast program without a high school diploma or GED. For more information on this great opportunity call (877) 227-3377.
3. Select Specialty When Applying
When applying to IBEW you often are required to select the area in which you want to specialize:
- Residential Wireman—Installing electrical systems into residential areas, a 3-year program
- VDV Installer Technician—Installing circuits and equipment for low-voltage systems, a 3-year program
- Outside Lineman—Installing distribution and transmission lines, a 3-1/2 year program
- Inside Wireman—Working in commercial and industrial settings, a 5-year program
When you are making this selection at the time of application, you are choosing a specialization in one area.
When you attend InterCoast College you learn about various areas of the field, putting you in a better position to select the specialty you want. You learn a wide range of work-related skills, also making you employable.
Safety is important to all training programs. During a 34-year study by OSHA, there were 4,255 fatal electric shock incidents, an average of 125 per year. You will learn proper safety protocols during your studies at InterCoast College.
In addition to safety procedures, you will also be learning the National Electrical Code. This is the knowledge you need when taking your journeyman exam.
3. IBEW Entrance Test May be Required
You may be required to interview and take an entrance exam for admission to IBEW. To pass the exam you must be strong in math, especially algebra.
Even if you later desire to join the union, going to an electrician school could provide you with the instruction and credentials necessary to be accepted into their organization.
By going to a school for training and working as an electrical trainee, you will get your foot in the door for possible jobs. As an electrician trainee, you will meet other electricians who can help you obtain an apprenticeship.
Attending a trade school gives employers the opinion that you are also serious about your career. You also will have experience in the work field as a trainee if you work before entering an apprenticeship.
4. Fees and Dues
When you are a member of the IBEW you must pay union dues. Union dues financially support the goals of the union.
Here is an example of the dues for the IBEW Local 1200:
- Initiation Fee—$200 per initiation
- Basic LU 1200 Dues—$20 per month
- Basic Per Capita Dues—2% of base wages or $25 per month minimum
This can easily add up to several hundred dollars per year. The $200 initiation fee must be paid upfront by new union employees.
When you attend a trade school you have no obligation to union employment and therefore no dues. You do pay for your education, but the well rounded education is worth the investment.
5. Call Board Employment
When you work for the IBEW you typically do not select your work location. You may find yourself sitting at the union and waiting for your turn to work. When a contractor calls and needs workers the people are sent out on a call board rotation.
You also usually do not select the employer. You are paid wages the union establishes, and your union dues are paid from those wages.
If you have a desire to work for yourself, an electrician is a great career. Many electricians eventually become self-employed, working as independent contractors or own electrical contracting companies.
As a self-employed electrician, you are able to choose what jobs you want in the locations you want, working the hours you want, and earning an income you set, depending on the jobs you take and the hours you work.
6. Obtaining Journeyman License
When you participate in the IBEW program you are usually taking 4-5 years to complete your apprenticeship. This means you are locked into working for the IBEW during that time.
An electrician does not need a four-year college degree nor a 4-5 year apprenticeship commitment. Completing an electrical program in a college or trade school provides you with a good option for great career opportunities.
You can decide to participate in an apprenticeship program, but this is not necessary to take the journeyman exam. Students who complete the InterCoast Electrical Training Program are qualified to sit for the Journeyman examination. Once you pass the examination, you will need to accumulate your experiential hours, working at your place of employment, under a licensed electrician.
The time to become an electrician varies depending on what your goals are. If you want to become an electrical contractor and own your own business, you need a C-10 license to become a contractor in California.
Most states have journeymen and master electrician licenses. California offers a variety of licenses depending on your work specialty. Each type of license has different requirements for hours worked, on-the-job training, and separate exams.
7. Lack of Flexibility
If you are not a member of a union you have the freedom to negotiate these aspects of your employment, independent of any union. If you only want to work certain hours or part-time, attending a trade school can be a great benefit to you.
One of the benefits of attending a trade school is learning skills such as time management, budgeting, and communication. This will assist you in negotiating your own jobs if you work independently. Another benefit is flexible schedules that allow you to work part-time while attending school. Additionally, if you decide later to be self-employed, you are able to stay on friendly terms with the employer and work out your own wages and requirements.
Start Your Path to Becoming an Electrician Today
If you have not yet graduated high school, contact InterCoast College to learn about beginning your electrical training while still in school. You can begin your steps to becoming an electrician by taking subjects in high school necessary for electricians. This includes additional math, shop, and mechanical drawing.
After high school, continue your electrician apprenticeship goal by enrolling in a college program. There you will gain knowledge and hands-on experience to pursue your career. You will receive your ET card as an active student and begin getting work experience while receiving your training.
For more information, you can subscribe to our YouTube videos and download our no-cost E-Book “What is a Trade School.”
Contact InterCoast College today, simply click the banner below or call us at (877) 227-3377 to get all your questions answered.
With thousands of enrolled students over 35 years, InterCoast College is the only way to go on starting your career.