There's a lot of information out there about the benefits of becoming an electrician, but it's not always as simple to understand how exactly this career plays out. Like a lot of trades, there's enormous flexibility in how a master electrician chooses to progress and specialise throughout their working life. This flexibility is partly down to the potential for progression within the industry, whether that's by choosing to specialise in a particular sub-sector of electrical work or running your own electrical business and moving into a management role.
While these varied pathways are a huge perk of becoming an electrician, they can also be a little bit daunting. After all, if you're just starting to think about a future in the electrical industry, how are you supposed to know which of the many options is best for you?
To simplify things, we've broken down the typical career paths of an electrician into three key phases, each of which is critical to a long and successful career.
Regardless of where you're coming from, the journey towards an electrical career starts with learning the basics.
Phase one: Education and training
The first step in an electrician's career is deciding to enter the industry, and this can happen in all sorts of different ways. For some, it's a decision made straight after finishing high school, while others may try their hand at other jobs first before realising that they want to enter the trade. Regardless of where you're coming from, the journey towards an electrical career starts with learning the basics.
The learning curve can be steep when first diving into the world of electrical work, but it's important to start with a good foundation before trying to secure an apprenticeship. One of the best ways to create the right framework for the rest of an electrician's career is by completing an electrical pre-apprenticeship program,
These pre-apprenticeships take place all year round, and are taught over an intensive 12 weeks of study. While some of the program focuses on theoretical skills, the real value comes from hands-on training in everything from electrical wiring to identifying and ordering the right products for the job. By completing the program, you make it far more likely that you'll not only secure an electrical apprenticeship, but be able to make the most of it.
Phase two: Apprenticeship
After completing a pre-apprenticeship, the logical next step is to secure a position as an apprentice to an experienced contractor. Of course, it is possible to go directly into an apprenticeship without doing a pre-apprenticeship if you already have the necessary skills and experience – for example, if you've spent time working in a related industry such as construction. NECA's Pre-Selection Assessment will assess your skills and determine whether you can move directly into the apprenticeship phase.
On-the-job training is a vital part of electricians' career paths.
During your apprenticeship, your focus should be to learn as much as possible about the industry while working under the supervision of a licensed electrician. This type of on-the-job training is a vital part of electricians' career paths, and in combination with traditional classroom education will provide all the skills and knowledge you'll need to explore the paths that interests you.
After completing an electrical apprenticeship, there are a couple of different options available. For some, the best course of action may be to directly enter the industry as a contractor and start building on their knowledge of electrical systems through first-hand experience. On the other side of the coin, those who already know that they'd like to further specialise their skill sets may decide to continue studying a program such as the Certificate IV in Electrotechnology – Systems Electrician.
This is the point where career options for electricians begin to diverge, and it's critical to understand the steps that need to be taken in order to progress down a particular path.
Phase three: Progression
An electrician's career progression largely depends on what areas of the industry most appeal to them. While spending a few years working in the industry as a contractor and getting to know electrical equipment like the back of your hand is a great grounding for further specialisation, it's important not to forget about the value of continued education.
NECA Education & Careers provides training in everything from energy efficiency and renewables to working at heights and dealing with asbestos.
For some electrical specialisations, completing additional training is mandatory and essential. For example, a construction electrician needs to understand the specific types of wiring work that come with the job, and the best way to gain this knowledge is through a dedicated construction wiring course. Here at NECA Education & Careers, we offer programs in a wide range of different electrical sub-sectors, including everything from energy efficiency and renewables to working at heights and dealing with asbestos. All of these courses add another string to an electrical contractor's bow, and are vital in progressing to larger, better-paying jobs.
While some electricians will be interested in specialising in niche areas and become masters of a certain field, others may have more of an eye for business. After a few years in the industry, it's quite common to have built up a large enough client base that the work load is too much for a single contractor. At this point, many electricians decide to start their own electrical business, employing other contractors or technicians while also helping the next generation of apprentices.
This is an appealing pathway, but it does require knowledge that an electrical contractor may not have, such as project management or strategic leadership. To assist, NECA Education & Careers also provides a selection of business and management courses. These focus on everything from the basic steps involved in setting up a business through to building self-managed teams, and provide electrician with the additional skills they'll need to make the transition from electrician to business owner.
While we've covered the broad strokes of a typical electrician's career in this article, it's important to remember that there are all sorts of different options out there. That's part of what makes a career as an electrician so rewarding, and to find out more or get some advice on what path might be best for you, you can contact our team today.