Become an Electrician in Colorado

Introduction

There is, and always has been, a need for more tradespeople in the United States. This is because our country’s economic infrastructure is trending upwards and has been since our country was founded. Basic supply and demand rules apply: the need for more infrastructure means the need for talented individuals to work on that infrastructure. However, a PBS article reports what we are feeling here at home in Colorado, a state capitalizing on a good economy— there is a shortage of tradespeople, especially electricians. In fact, because of this shortage, there has never been a better time to become an electrician.

The need for trade is likely due to a hidden truth. In our culture, we are taught an academic degree at a liberal arts college is the only way to get employed and receive a fair wage. This is not true. There are actually opportunities to become a tradesperson in less time and at a lesser cost compared to a traditional university. These opportunities are here at home in Colorado.

Interesting Fact- From PBS: “People with career and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.”

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/decades-pushing-bachelors-degrees-u-s-needs-tradespeople/

To help educate on the demand for trade in Colorado, The WireNut has created this resource to help anyone interested in becoming an electrician pursue that goal. This resource describes why this is a smart, stable career choice, outlines exactly how to become an electrician in Colorado, and provides additional resources for further reading.

What is an Electrician?

The primary job duty of an electrician is to install, maintain, and repair all electrical systems for all industries–residential, commercial, manufacturing, and otherwise. The skill set that an electrician possesses is invaluable for every industry that is undergoing new construction, and necessary for any building that needs electrical work done throughout its lifespan.

An electrician is responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems, which includes everything from lighting, wiring, communication lines, control systems, and so much more. Electricians not only need to have an extensive knowledge on how electrical systems work, but also need to have a firm understanding for the state codes that oversee electrical work. This ensures that every electrical job that is completed is up to state standards regarding both quality and safety. In some instances, as an electrician advances in their careers, they will also be able to create, read, and interpret blueprints and other technical diagrams to complete advanced electrical work for large projects.

Electricians have a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to how electrical systems function in all of the buildings that make up our cities. In fact, electricians are one of the fastest growing trade industries in the United States; the industry is predicted to grow in demand by 14% by the year 2024. (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm) This being the case, being an electrician can almost guarentee job security, as there will always be a need.

What are the Benefits?

Becoming an electrician is an incredibly wise career choice that can secure your future in more ways than one, ranging from pay grade to job stability.

Pay

One of the most evident benefits of becoming an electrician is the pay grade.
As of May, 2016, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for an electrician in the state of Colorado was $50,580, (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm) the national wage being $52,720.

(https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm)

Electrical Career Now reports that the starting wage for beginner electricians starts around $35,000 and the highest wage runs upwards of $80,000 a year. (https://electricalcareernow.com/careers-in-electrical/electrician)

Opportunities to Advance

This massive jump in pay grade means that there is always room to advance in your career as an electrician. It is not a stagnant job where you will only earn so much for the remainder of your career. You have the choice whether you want to stay a Journeyman electrician with a starting salary of $38,000, or if you want to advance in your education to become a Master Electrician with a starting salary of $40,000. There are multiple schooling opportunities and licensure programs that will advance your status as an electrician, which means that you have the freedom to choose how much you can earn. As a Master Electrician, you have the ability to start your own company, as well, or you can choose to be employed by prominent companies in your city.

Job Security

Because the electrical industry is a rapidly growing trade, there is an almost 100% guarantee that you can find a job anywhere in the US. Colorado happens to be one of the top states for electrician work, and other major cities include Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and more. https://electricalcareernow.com/careers-in-electrical/electrician . This makes electrical work an incredibly stable job choice that will greatly benefit you in the future.

Affordable Schooling

As mentioned before, trade schools are often looked over because of the false belief individuals need to go to a four year university to obtain a job and receive a fair wage. However, trade schools are much more affordable compared to getting an academic degree at a college. Going to a technical school to be an electrician will save you both money and time, as it is a cost efficient program that will get you done in two years or less. This primary education will jumpstart your career as an electrician, allowing you to apply for an apprenticeship, become a Residential Wireman, a Journeyman, and even a Master Electrician.

How to Become an Electrician

There are 4 primary steps to becoming an electrician*:

*One important note— a national requirement to becoming an electrician is having a high school diploma or a GED.

Step 1- Trade School

Technical schools generally teach you safety practices, electrical code, and manufacturer’s products and training. Most schools start registration in the spring for the following school year. Students of trade schools are still eligible for certain forms of financial aid. What you are looking to get at the end of your schooling is a certificate for electrical work (Sometimes referred to as an Electrical Occupations Certificate).

From a local college in Colorado, Pickens Technical College in Aurora, here is their description of what you can expect in a technical program: “Students will learn basic electrical theory, required mathematics, and manipulative skills to successfully work with alternating and direct currents in the wiring of residential and multiple family dwellings”.

~http://www.pickenstech.org/documents/Electrician.pdf

Programs vary in cost and length depending on the school. Most schools offer very cost-effective programs, with prices as low as $2,925 for the entire program in Colorado*.

*this is not the cost of schooling across the board, just for this particular school.

Step 2- Apprenticeship

Once you have your certificate, you can apply to become an apprentice. At this stage you will select which area you want to continue training in: residential, industrial, voice data and/or video technician.

As an apprentice, you’re paid to learn. You can be employed while learning on the job. Again, this is opposite of college, where you pay to learn and often go into debt during the process. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Apprenticeships generally are a 4-5 year program, where you “complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training”

~https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm#tab-4

Tip- It is good practice to network while you are in college, looking for opportunities for employers before you graduate. Most employers (The WireNut included), like to see proactive candidates who are looking to be hired as we budget to hire far in advance anyway.

Step 3- Journeyman

Once an apprentice completes his or her apprenticeship, they will be able to test to become a journeyman electrician. In Colorado, this test can be taken on the Divisions of Professions and Occupations’ website.

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/Electrical_Applications

If you pass your test, you are now considered to be a journeyman electrician, which means that you are able to do work on your own, as long as it is in accordance to local and state licensing requirements. As a journeyman, you will have more freedom than an apprentice, but will still work under the supervision of a master electrician (if you are employed).

“A journeyman is licensed to work by himself, without direct supervision, installing wiring, outlets and fixtures. A journeyman also does service work, troubleshooting when a breaker fails or a light stops working. A journeyman cannot get permits, but must work under those issued to a master. A journeyman follows a master’s plans and directions. A journeyman’s duties will vary with the employer. Some journeymen do mostly residential work, others mainly commercial and industrial installations.”

~http://work.chron.com/differences-between-journeyman-master-electrician-2158.html

The base salary for a journeyman electrician is $38,000, with plenty of room for growth.

Step 4- Master Electrician

At this stage, you will have the knowledge and qualifications to plan, lay out, and supervise electrical work. You can apply for permits, create projects, and can have apprentices and journeymen under you.

In order to become a master electrician, you must have completed your apprenticeship, as well as 2,000 hours in your field that spans over the course of 1 year. Then, you will apply for your license through the State electrical board of Divisions of Professions and Occupations.

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/Electrical

Master electricians have the opportunity to either work for another company, or work for themselves. As stated above, the national average wage for a master electrician is $52,720.

Honorable Mention- Residential Wireman

In Colorado, once you complete your apprenticeship, if you have 2,080 verifiable hours (affidavit hours), you can become a Residential Wireman. To become a residential wireman, you have to register through Colorado State Government (DORA) and take a test. This can only be done once you have completed your hours.

Residential Wireman are restricted to only working on residential properties. Keep in mind this limitation means only specific companies will employ a Residential Wireman. However, a Residential Wireman has a license that allows you to earn a higher wage prior to becoming a Journeyman.

Where to Get Started

If you’re interested in job security and always being in demand (Currently, The Wirenut is recruiting in 7 different states), become an electrician. There are plenty of job opportunities both in Colorado and across the United States. To get started, we have provided a list of local colleges that offer programs in our area.

Good luck!

Schools in Colorado

Additional Resources