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#49404 - 03/06/05 02:12 PM Breaking into the business
pep3000 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/06/05
Posts: 2
Loc: Joliet, IL
I am seeking to become an electrician. I went down to my local IBEW to find out about the process of obtaining an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, the process will take a YEAR, and I do not have time to wait that long. I want to get into the business as soon as possible, as I am newly married. However, I do not want to just do this process in a "fly by night" sort of way. I want to become a reputable electrician and do things in the right way. Does anyone have any advice for me? How might I shorten the union process? How might I go about becoming an electrician without aide of the union? Please respond to me via my email if this is a topic that cannot be discussed in this forum as I do not want to discuss anything that is not allowed. I thank you all in advance!!
Take Care,

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#49405 - 03/06/05 03:22 PM Re: Breaking into the business
LK Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 1721
Loc: New Jersey

There are other ways to learn the trade, however, we all had to wait, and we all had to put in long hours, at low pay to start, so pe prepared to wait, and serve your time, I think we all belive it was worth the wait.

There should be others posting here, that are in programs now, and they can give you a good idea of what to expect.

#49406 - 03/06/05 05:47 PM Re: Breaking into the business
Joey D Offline

Registered: 10/10/03
Posts: 263
Loc: Arlington MA U.S.
8 t 10 thousand hours in the trade will get you a lic. There is so much to learn and even after the thousands of hours there will be yet even more to learn.
I say pick up the paper and look at the help wanted section to find a job. Then find a weekly class to attend. Good luck.

#49407 - 03/06/05 08:43 PM Re: Breaking into the business
Dave55 Offline

Registered: 05/08/04
Posts: 666
Loc: Crystal Lake, Illinois, USA
You didn't give any information about your background, pep3000. Do you have any background or education in electronics? The first step is either electronics classes at your local community college, or an apprenticeship at your local IBEW.

I had background in electronics, and wiring control panels from blueprints. I studied the latest edition of the NEC for approx. 200 hours with the assistance of a commercial electrical engineer.

I passed the test to become a registered electrical contractor. I still didn't know how to bend conduit, which is prevalent in Northern Illinois. It was five years before I had the experience of a journeyman. It was another five years before I ran into this site and did a lot of reading on business (accounting, sales, marketing, business management, estimating, etc.) to improve the business.

Last year was my first year that was really profitable. As a lone electrical contractor you have to be good in all the above areas to have a good business, or in my case have friends with experience in these fields. I talked with a friend who is a 2nd generation salesman for a few hours one evening. I've talked with a marketing friend for several hours. I've read a couple dozen books on business managenent, and hire an accountant.

This is my 20th year in business, my 10th as an electrical contractor, and I'm just starting to get good at it. From the statistics I've read, there are probably only a handful of small ECs who are still in business in the area during the same time period. The rest went out of business.

Of the 150 ECs in the phone book, I'd bet half make less than $40,000 a year. Some of those with the help of their wife. They probably work 2500 hours a year, half of it unpaid. $40,000/2500=$16.00/hour. From my last post (Retirement), most of them haven't been able to put away anything for retirement.

It's a sport for survivors. Good Luck!


#49408 - 03/07/05 03:34 PM Re: Breaking into the business
Active 1 Offline

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 684
Loc: Grayslake IL, USA
If you were planing on waiting to join an IBEW you should find out the min. requirements. They may want H.S. transcripts of a certain leval of math with this grade or better. Or it's back to school to take a math classes.

You may want to try to find out how busy the IBEW is are and how many apply each year. They should be able to tell you how many apprentaces they plan on taking on. A lot of people will wait to allpy, take a test, interview, and then don't make the cut. It is a long proscess.

Another thing is on the days they take applications be their the first day ready for them to open the doors. Some hand out only so many applications. When I applied the first hour they already accepted 1/2 their max applications.

You might try making calls in the phone book and saying you will do any type of work to get started. A fly by night shop is not the best but the first step is to get a job with an EC.



#49409 - 03/07/05 03:50 PM Re: Breaking into the business
Dave55 Offline

Registered: 05/08/04
Posts: 666
Loc: Crystal Lake, Illinois, USA
A distant relative of mine was accepted to an IBEW apprenticeship and had to take an algebra class. Many of the apprentices dropped from the program before completion, and he only made it 2-3 years.


#49410 - 03/07/05 04:05 PM Re: Breaking into the business
Local3Jr Offline

Registered: 01/06/05
Posts: 10
Loc: Wantagh,NY
Here in NY it takes 5 1/2 years to become a journeyman. Besides taking elec. theory classes, you also have to take college courses to get an associates degree. It's a long journey but well worth it. I will be done in july and I just can't wait.

#49411 - 03/07/05 07:37 PM Re: Breaking into the business
santishian Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/04/03
Posts: 4
Loc: bethel,ct,usa
i'm just now finishing my apprentiship and its been a long process..and the pay isn't all that good at the start although if you prove you are willing to work and learn that should take care of itself.
in answer to your question if i waited for the IBEW to get into this trade i would in all liklyhood still be waiting.
i found a non-union electrician and started with can always join the ibew later if you so prepared for long hours and lots of school.kiss you wife aren't going to be seeing a whole lot of her for a bit.....but it was worth it good luck

#49412 - 03/09/05 09:59 AM Re: Breaking into the business
cvelectric Offline

Registered: 04/29/04
Posts: 31
I started in residential(non-union new construction) in Va.25 years ago and worked at that for about 1-1/2 years. I then went into service/light comercial then onto comercial construction and after 4 years got my j-card. I then went into electrical maintenance for 3 different large organizations. Along the way I took many classes at com coll. and seminars. After 11 years in the trade I took the tests and got masters licenses. I am now an EC (18 mos.). I never regretted starting in residential new construction. I believe it is a good way to start in the field. It seems to me it is easier to learn circuitry in new houses and not get so overwhelmed as you might in comercial/industrial.

If you're young don't be afraid to change jobs/employers when you feel you've learned what you can there. The Union apprenticeship is great from what I hear but when I started it was difficult to get in as well.

As an electrical apprentice be prepared for hard work under electricians from different walks of life. Some may be rough on you others may be easy. The main thing is to stay focused and don't give up. It's not for everybody and it's not easy.

#49413 - 03/09/05 06:04 PM Re: Breaking into the business
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
I don't care what you've been doing, or what your education may be....there is simply no way to reduce the amount of time necessary to learn this trade. Other experience may help, but there are so many facets, so much to learn, that the apprentice period is only a start!

The US Dept of Labor certifies apprenticeship programs. Check with them as to alternatives to the union program. Likewise, there may be similar programs, say, in Industrial Maintenance, offered at your community college.

You should apply to contractors as a "helper." We all start there. It's necesary. Even today (age 50, college, contractors cert, etc), I still end up manning a shovel on a regular basis.

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