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Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 2
ntk398 Offline OP
New Member
I've been thinking about becoming an electrician for a while now ... long story short, I left high school not knowing what I wanted to do with myself, and eight years of experimenting with college later I'm still in the same boat (just with a piece of paper and some student loans breathing down my neck). I like the idea of getting to do something physical that still requires a decent amount of brainpower to do well, and I've always had a fascination for electric/electronic things.

So I'm wondering if it'd be a good move for me to put in an apprenticeship application at the local union, since they have a training program set up. I'm a little intimidated though, since I don't really have any experience (unless you count a couple EE tech classes) and I don't really know what sort of things will be thrown at me for the testing and interview.

Please advise! grin

Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 853
It's easy. Just find an electrician to hire you and..there you are. an apprentice.
But... 8 yrs of school and a few pieces of paper...
You should have a better idea of what your looking for.
A dbl 'E' is nothing to shake a stick at! Carry on in that direction.

BTW- welcome to the forum!!

Last edited by leland; 09/13/09 12:24 AM.
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,441
Likes: 2
Cat Servant
Well, the mechanics of the process are simple, it's just the execution that's flawed.

Career advice? I wouldn't dismiss the idea of playing soldier / sailor / airman / marine / coast guardsman at all. The services offer lots of technical training, and unmatched possibilities for going to school while in the service.

Those "EE tech courses" are essentially worthless unless you complete the program and get the certificate. They have but a tangential relevance to either electrician or electrical engineer work.

First check the Dept. of labor sites to find ALL the apprentice programs in your area. There are likely more than one - then apply to ALL of them. Then do it again. And again. And again.

These programs have very tight 'windows' in which you may apply. Then they have various hurdles you must overcome until -maybe- one accepts you. The application process can take years - and multiple applications (as in a new one every year!) In the meantime, keep going to school and working.

Goint back to an earlier suggestion, NECA / IBEW have a 'helmets to hardhats' program to expedite the entry of servicemen into these programs.

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 98
Good answer Reno.
Here is IBEW for Mass
Which has requirements and contact information assuming you go Union.
For non union
Here in Oregon there is a long waiting list to get in. Non union has not been accepting applications for a while now.
Union accepts as many applications as they can get for there 25$ fee getting chose is another story. Those who do get there application in can expect being in a pool of eligables. The more experience such as college or military or other training you have the better your odds to get in.
Good luck.

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,917
Likes: 29
This is a pretty hard time to get into the trades, simply because they are not building much and the union will be protecting their senior guys. You can still work on your education. For one thing, you can usually "sit in" on CEU classes for free if you don't want the CEU credits. That will help you along later, no matter what you choose to do.
It also might help you "network" into some work, even if it isn't a union job. No matter where you land in the electrical field, having some code background will be helpful.
Do you have the credits from college to sit for the PE test in your state? What do you need? That opens up a lot more possibilities. It is sure refreshing when you find engineers with some screwdriver time.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
Greg, he said "EE tech." From that I gather he is in a trade school, something like ITT Tech or DeVry, that offer some electronics training - and not in an actual college taking engineering courses.

Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 2
ntk398 Offline OP
New Member
thanks for the advice thumbs

A little more backstory -- I went to a private high school where it was basically drilled into your head that the only acceptable thing to do after graduation was to chase down a bachelor's degree (or higher). So I started off at community college, where I took the EE tech classes ... I still regret not continuing with them, but oh well. I eventually went on to a four-year school with the intent of doing engineering, changed majors, changed schools, and ended up with a degree that's kind of useless unless I move or go to grad school, neither of which I can afford (or really want to do).

School and I never really got along in the first place, which is why I've been considering picking up a trade. I love learning, but I also love being able to take what I learn and apply it to things other than writing papers.

There's only one open apprenticeship program in the area for electricians (the one I mentioned above), but according to the Dept. of Labor site it runs till March 2010 and is going to recruit 25 apprentices. A friend's father is an electrician in the area, so I might pay him a visit sometime and see what he has to say.

Joined: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,438
A friend's father is an electrician in the area, so I might pay him a visit sometime and see what he has to say

Likely a great idea! You might also ask to help him out for a day, if possible with his line of electrical work.

Remember that their are many facets to the electrical trades as well... Utility/generation, linework, service/troubleshooting, municipal electrical inspectors and your good ole general electrician work (generally industrial/commercial and/or residential). You'll find there's quite a few of all the above on this board, from all over the world. If you love learning, this is a good board to be a part of.

where there's a will, there's a way smile Being an electrician is sometimes hard work, but it's always kept my mortgage paid, the lights on (duh! wink ), and my fridge full, not to mention a few vacations here and there. I can't imagine doing anything else for a living! cheers

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 2,723
Likes: 1
Broom Pusher and

My suggestions would be to consider using BOTH SKILL SETS in your new Career endeavors.

There is a huge benefit to have an Employee, which possesses the abilities to work in the Field, _AND_ understands the Design / Engineering aspects of Projects.

With a few years experience "under your belt", there are greater possibilities of advancement for an Employee with multiple skill sets.

For example, if you are Employed by a "Design - Build" Contractor, having applicable advanced skill sets may offer positions as Project Management, Design Engineering, Project Engineer, and Field Superintendent.

In any Company, advanced skill sets assist one in being an Effective Journeyman / Foreman, as knowledge of the Engineering approaches is understood.

Additionally, Employees with the abilities to interpret & address changes to the preliminary Electrical Designs -vs- As-Built situations / Change Orders / SK's, so as to work cooperatively with "The Office Staff", are Positive assets to the Company.

Abilities to work and consult with the General Contractors' staff, Vendors, Utilities, Building Department staff, and the Client's Representatives (Architect, M,P&S Engineers, Property Management, etc.) on a "Professional" level, add to an Employee's value.

There are many opportunities available within an Electrical Construction firm, so take advantage of any & all education you can get!

Always keep up with education - in any area related (even semi-related) to your Career.

Eventually you will live by this concept:

"The More I Learn, The Less I Know"

This comes from reviewing what your knowledge base was exactly one year prior, then 5 years prior, as compared to knowledge + abilities at present.
With that in mind, forecasting knowledge + abilities in 1 years time, and in 5 years time will make your current base just as minimal as the past 1 & 5 years!

So it becomes appear that the more one learns, one also becomes aware of the vast amount of unknown "stuff" that exists!


*** Anyhow, back to the Work Experience suggestions. ***

As soon as possible, get yourself out in the Construction realm.

Obtain possible Employment leads from any relevant sources:
i.e. Newspaper Classified Ads, Internet Employment sites, Job Recruiters, IBEW Recruiters, etc.

Also obtain leads for "Cold-Call" to Electrical Contractors.
This means submitting your Resume directly to Contractors whom are not advertising for Employment opportunities.

Compile a Resume, which outlines your Education, and points out the fact that you are newly entering the Construction Electrical Fields.

Submit that Resume to ANY prospective lead possible.

Hopefully you will find work with a Company which will not only Employ you, but give you "Positive Learning Experiences" too.
"Positive Learning Experiences" = learning the _RIGHT_ way to do things in the Trade, as opposed to having to experience the wrong ways to do anything!

Continue with Education on _BOTH_ fronts: Engineering, and Trade-Related.

In addition, if your Computer-Related Applications skills are minimal, plan to improve these skills by either Hands-On work, College courses, or both.

The Applications to gain experience with include:

1: CAD Applications (normally, AutoCAD is a "default" for Construction / Design-Build Companies, whereas Micrstation and SolidWorks are "defaults" for MEP / Arch. Firms).

For AutoCAD, practice using R 2004 or greater (R 2008 if possible).

Become fluent with the basics of the Application, like Scaling, View Ports, XREFs, Blocks, Text manipulation, layers, plotting, etc., then move to the Advanced usage, such as Custom Menus, Scripts, Routines (VBA & AutoLISP), integration with external Apps', etc.

2: Excel:
This Application will rapidly become used >50% of your Design Engineering time.

Become fluent with the entire App' (Application).

3: MS Word:
This App' will be used often for RFIs, and other Texts.

Become fluent with this App's basic + "mid-advanced" features.

4: PDF Generating & Viewing App's (default = Adobe):
Many Specifications, Cut-Sheets, and similar documents will be available as .PDFs.

Plan Sets will normally be "Plotted as PDFs", for submission to Design Team Members.

5: The Operating System: Typically Windows XP; learn the more advance operations and usage of the Operating System.

6: File / Server + E-mail Applications:
Ability to use the Client Application + resources, per the LAN of an Office, is very important.
Also, knowledge of a Client E-mail Application is necessary for inter-Office E-mail, and for submissions + retrieval of outer-Office E-mail messages (typically to/from Clients) .

The two most common Client Apps' would be:
* MS Outlook,
* Novell Groupwise

7: Browsers:
"More Than Basic" usage is necessary, as there will be needs to access files from many online resources.

Understanding how to perform these techniques is necessary:
*Accessing FTP Sites, for Downloads & Uploads.
* Obtaining, Verifying and Downloading of Specifications, Cut-Sheets, etc.

8: Aux. Engineering Apps:
A Lighting Design Application, called "Visual" (Freeware produced by Lithonia Lighting), is one example.


For the In-Field related studies, Code knowledge is an absolute requirement.
You do not have to memorize the Code Book verbatim, but how to navigate it and apply an Article is of most importance.

Additional Field knowledge would include:
* Material usage, applications, nomenclature, etc.,
* Systems identification and standards,
* Common Trade terms,
* Basic Circuitry,
* Typical mounting heights,
* Capacity limitations of Boxes, Conduits, etc.,
* Conduit Bending,
* Plan Set interpretation (understanding how to read and follow a Plan Set),
* Safety,
* Records of As-Built conditions,
* Whom has Authority & how to deal with everyone on a Jobsite,
* Inspections: Building Department, Design Teams, Q.C. staff, and by the Foreman,
* Tools: Usage, nomenclature, etc.

I should stop here, as the message is running extra long!

Feel free to reply as needed.

Good luck!


Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!

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