Updated June, 2021
Good electricians will always be in demand. Talented “sparkies” are respected for their intelligence, problem-solving abilities, and technical knowledge.
However, it takes several years of training and hard work to become an electrician. And life on-the-job isn't always easy.
Do you have what it takes? Is this the right trades career for you?
In this post we put together the most common pros and cons of becoming an electrician. Salary, working conditions, certification requirements, job safety, cost of training—we cover it all.
Find out if electrician is a good fit for you, and what steps to take next.
Pro: No university degree or big student loan debt
Don’t like the idea of spending years in university, listening to lectures and doing a lot of reading and writing? Prefer hands-on learning and practical problem-solving?
That’s what the skilled trades are all about. It’s not that electricians don’t have to read, study, and pass exams to become licensed—they do.
But even as a beginner student, you’ll spend more time working with your hands than sitting at a desk.
Another big bonus is avoiding massive university student loan debt. Many students in Ontario are plagued by endless school debt that can take a lifetime to repay.
Electrician training isn’t free, but it costs a fraction of what you’d pay for a bachelor’s degree.
Con: Getting licensed takes several years
If you want to become an electrician, you’ll need to put in the time. Training and licensing don’t happen quickly. This trade is regulated by the Ontario College of Trades.
That means you must earn a Certificate of Qualification (C of Q) to become a journeyperson. This process involves:
- Becoming a member of the Ontario College of Trades
- Completing 8160 hours of on-the-job work experience
- Completing 840 hours of in-school training
- Passing the electrician certification exam
- Applying to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in the trade
That’s a total of 9,000 hours. You’re looking at around 5 years of training and working as an apprentice, before you get certified.
Pro: make money while you train as an electrician apprentice
Here’s the upside to all those years of training. As an electrician apprentice, you will earn money while you learn the trade and work toward certification.
This is the major advantage of pursuing a skilled trade. Apprentices earn while they learn. The average salary of an electrician apprentice in Ontario is $21.93 per hour.
Con: Electrician work can be physically demanding
This is true of many construction trades, and electrician is no exception. Be prepared to crawl into some small dark spaces, up onto roofs, and do a lot of standing, bending, and reaching overhead.
Electricians work on their feet and are always on the move. You need a certain level of physical fitness to stay healthy and avoid injuries while on-the-job.
Pro: Wide variety of electrician career options
If you become an electrician, you’ll have quite a few different career options, including starting your own business. Note that some positions require a special license or additional training.
-Construction, maintenance, and renovation work (on residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings)
-Industrial electrician (installing, maintaining, and repairing the electronic components of industrial equipment)
-Lineworker (installing and maintaining high voltage power lines)
-Sales (wholesale or retail)
-Security and fire alarm system installation
Con: This work can be dangerous
Bad wiring, or failing to follow proper safety procedures, can be deadly for electricians (and those around them).
Electrocution is one of the leading causes of death on construction sites, primarily because workers are not trained in (or adhering to) safety protocols.
If you become an electrician, safety will be your highest priority. You will carry the responsibility of protecting your colleagues and clients from shocks, burns, and deadly exposure to electrical current.
Hamilton-based electrician apprentice, Jon Kerr, says he learned this lesson the hard way.
“At the beginning, I didn’t realize how important it is to follow lockout/tagout and other safety procedures. Over time, it really sunk in that as an electrician, people’s lives are in your hands. You need to be sure you’re doing things correctly and safely—or someone could really get hurt, or even die.
I’ll never forget the first really bad shock I got, just from being a bit careless. I won’t make that mistake again.”
Pro: Electricians are among the best paid skilled tradespeople
Did you know that power line workers, industrial electricians, and construction/maintenance electricians are among the best paid tradespeople in Canada?
The median salary for an industrial electrician in the Hamilton-Niagara region is $33.42 per hour.
At the highest end of the pay scale, they’re making $37 per hour (according to the Government of Canada Job Bank).
Con: Working odd hours and in all weather
Depending on your role, you could easily find yourself getting called out in the middle of the night to deal with a power failure. Or, have to work outside in harsh cold or heat on a new build or renovation project.
Electricians must be tough, resilient, and adaptable. These are common traits required of many skilled tradespeople. This definitely isn’t a desk job!
Pro: Government grants can help pay for your electrician training
If you’re worried about the cost of electrician pre-apprenticeship training, here’s some very good news from the government of Canada.
There are several skilled trades grants available for apprentices, which help cover the cost of your apprenticeship and certification.
Thousands of dollars are available per apprentice, and there are some special grants for women, too.
Check out the full list of apprenticeship grants here.
An admissions advisor at a quality trades school will tell you which ones you qualify for, and help you complete your application.
Should you go for it and become an electrician?
Every job comes with pros and cons. At the end of the day, we recommend choosing a trade you’re truly interested in.
If you’re genuinely interested in electrical work, you’ll be motivated to work hard during your apprenticeship, and overcome any challenges that may come your way.
Your first step? Learn more about what an electrician does. Explore on-the-job tasks, different career possibilities, and the skills you’ll need to succeed in this trade.
This post is worth reading: What Are Your Career Options as an Electrician
Check out this interview with a 4th year electrician apprentice: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming an Electrician
We also suggest talking with your local construction trade school about electrician pre-apprenticehip programs. This training would be your first step to getting an apprenticeship and becoming a licensed electrician.
Your next step
If you’re serious about learning more, we suggest talking with a trade school Admissions Advisor. A good Advisor can explain how electrician training works, what you’ll learn in class, and how to go about getting an apprenticeship.
They will ask you questions about your interests, skills, and professional goals—and help you figure out if you’re suited to become an electrician.
And advisor can also walk you through all the government grants, scholarships, bursaries, and loans you can get to pay for your electrician training. It’s worth taking the time to have that conversation.
Chat live with a Herzing Admissions Advisor right now. Or click below to explore the Electrical Pre-apprenticeship Program and request free information via email. We’re here to help!