How to Become an Industrial Electrician in Texas

Do you enjoy working with your hands and using your brain?  Do you hate the idea of working at a desk?  Are you interested in a skilled trade?  Consider becoming an electrician.  Electricians earn very competitive wages compared to other skilled trades.  The electrical field is seeing consistent job growth, and there is no risk of jobs being outsourced overseas.  Instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars to attain a four-year degree, electricians become licensed through paid apprenticeships.  In many cases, attending trade school is not required to begin an apprenticeship.  Lubbock Electric Co. has trained many electricians to become journeyman and master electricians throughout our 75+ year history.  Here, we will discuss the career opportunities available to electricians and what the career path may look like.

What are the Career Options for Electricians?

Work for licensed electricians is generally divided into three categories: residential, commercial, and industrial.  Based on their employer, electricians may be involved in two categories of electrical work (ex: residential and commercial) or specialize in one.

Residential Electricians

These electricians work on residential buildings from single-family dwellings to large housing complexes.

Typical Work:

  • New wiring and circuits for residential buildings
  • Diagnosing and repairing electrical issues
  • Installing electrical systems, such as ceiling fans, lighting, GFCIs, and entertainment systems
  • Upgrading a home to be more energy efficient

Because the scope of work for residential electricians is limited to housing, it is relatively easier to learn the trade.  However, the work may seem repetitive to some.  Plus, job openings, length of employment, employment benefits, and available work hours may depend heavily on economic conditions and the housing market.  Still, much of the material covered in electrician licensure exams pertains to residential work, so it can be beneficial for aspiring electricians to gain a year or two of residential work experience.

Commercial Electricans

Commercial electricians install wiring, circuitry, and fuses in commercial buildings.  They also maintain, troubleshoot, and repair electrical systems.

Typical Work Sites:

  • Office Buildings
  • Retail Businesses
  • Schools
  • Government Offices
  • Clinics and Hospitals

Work as a commercial electrician will typically be more varied and steady compared to work as a residential electrician.  That said, job security can be tied to the availability of major construction projects.  It is not unheard of for an electrical contractor to win a major bid, hire electricians to perform the work, and then lay off some of their workforce when the job is complete if there are no subsequent projects of similar size.

Industrial Electricians

Industrial electricians work at sites that require a significant amount of electricity, complex electrical systems and controls, and heavy machinery.

Typical Work Sites:

  • Municipal Plants
  • Utility Companies
  • Manufacturing Facilities
  • Food and Agricultural Processing Plants
  • Cotton Gins

Industrial electrical work is considered to be very steady for electricians, because essential industries cannot afford production downtime.  Equipment failures occur commonly, and industrial electricians are in high demand for their services.  Industrial electricians tend to work longer hours and earn higher pay as a result.  However, the work tends to be dirtier and more potentially dangerous, and industrial electricians are more likely to travel and work out of town for weeks or months.

Electricians in Other Fields

Experience as an electrician can help you land jobs in other fields as well.  Former electricians can often leverage their experience to land jobs as maintenance supervisors, sales representatives, plant operations mangers, project estimators, electrical inspectors, controls programmers and more.

What Does Career Progression Look Like for Electricians?

 Electricians have a very clear career path that offers higher earning potential, more responsibilities, and more employment opportunities at each level.  Electricians begin as apprentices, gain their license as journeymen, and can even become business owners as masters.

Apprentice Electricians

Apprentices work under a licensed electrician to learn the trade and gain the required on-the-job training for a license.  Apprentices begin their careers performing basic tasks, such as loading and unloading trucks, carrying equipment, digging, and observing the work of licensed electricians.  Apprentices eventually learn and begin performing skilled tasks.

Apprentices learn how to

  • Bend pipe and run wire
  • Make connections
  • Read blueprints and schematics
  • Test electrical equipment for continuity, voltage, current, and resistance
  • Install electrical circuits, including panels, conduit, and switches
  • Install and repair motors and drives
  • Correct connections

How to Become an Apprentice Electrician in Texas

You must apply for an Apprentice Electrician License with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).  Of course, you will also need to begin working for an electrical contractor.

Journeyman Electricians

Journeyman electricians are licensed to perform all electrical tasks with little supervision.  Their experience and license allows them to work independently on jobsites, supervise apprentices, and manage projects.

Journeymen are able to

  • Connect circuit breakers, switches, panels, and motor control centers
  • Diagnose and repair problems in electrical circuits, systems, and equipment
  • Handle wire and conduit sizing
  • Inspect and test wiring
  • Terminate cable
  • Troubleshoot motors and controls
  • Obtain specialized certifications, such as infrared thermal imaging

How to Become a Journeyman Electrician in Texas

You must have at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a master electrician and pass the journeyman electrician exam.  The exam has 80 questions and a 4-hour time limit.  A score of 70% is required to pass.  In 2020, the journeyman licensure test had a pass rate of 34%.

Master Electricians

Master electricians are able to develop and oversee wire system installations, as well as design the circuits for installation.  A major difference between masters and journeymen is that masters can obtain permits for a job.  Masters are also able to perform more advanced tasks.

Masters are able to

  • Supervise journeyman and apprentice electricians
  • Troubleshoot and consult on complex electrical issues
  • Design circuits and develop blueprints
  • Develop plans for custom controls
  • Write the logic for and program controls
  • Test custom controls after installation
  • Educate journeyman and apprentice electricians

How to Become a Master Electrician

You must hold a journeyman license for at least two years, complete 12,000 hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a master electrician, and pass the master electrician exam.  The exam has 100 questions and a 5-hour time limit.  A score of 70% is required to pass.  In 2020, the master licensure test had a pass rate of 24%.

Many journeyman electricians choose not to become master electricians, because they can work as a fully licensed electrician without a master license.  However, master electricians can start their own electrical company.  They are also highly valued by electrical contractors because they cannot maintain their contractor's license without a master electrician on staff.

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