How to Become an Electrician
The skilled trades need new workers: find out how you could light up your career as an electrician.
Canada's desperate for more skilled tradespeople right now. Thousands of job openings for electricians are going unfilled because not enough students are pursuing the trade — despite the fact that electricians earn more money on average than many other career paths.
Many electricians are self-employed, meaning they can set their own hours, while others are employed by small and large companies, which gives you, as a new electrician, the choice of how best to pursue your career. Plus, electricians are unionized: an increasingly rare factor that you may appreciate. (Unions help employees secure higher wages and better working conditions through collective bargaining.)
Day to day, electricians are responsible for assembling, installing, testing, and repairing electrical devices, wiring, fixtures, and so on. Some electricians work in the construction industry, while others service commercial or residential buildings.
So if your interest in electricity has sparked, here's how to become an electrician in Canada:
Step 1: Pre-apprenticeship training
First up, you need to be trained in the basics before you become a licenced electrician. For most, this will mean going to school. Every province and territory in Canada offers "technical training" — also known as "in-school training."
In most cases, you'll attend a college for this training, though some universities offer it as well. Training goes hand-in-hand with apprenticeship: you'll cycle through some course work, then some on-the-job learning, until you've completed the training part.
You'll be in-school for anywhere from 28 to 40 weeks, depending on your province. Ontario is quickest, at 28 weeks, while Manitoba and British Columbia require the maximum of 40 weeks of in-school training.
Step 2: Signing on as an apprentice
Next, you'll need to find a working electrician to take you on as an apprentice. As an apprentice, you'll work alongside your mentor, learning how they perform their daily tasks. You'll be paid for your work — the average hourly salary in Canada is roughly $24 an hour, but this figure will vary depending on your skills and location.
You'll need to work a lot of hours as an apprentice before you become an electrician. Nova Scotia is the only province or territory that doesn't require a minimum number of hours as an apprentice. Otherwise, Manitoba is quickest, at 5,800 hours (about 725 days, or three years), while Ontario takes longest, at 8,160 hours (about 1,020 days, or four years).
Remember, you'll be bouncing back and forth between technical training from an accredited school, and on-the-job training from a working electrician. The total amount of training and work experience you'll accumulate will be anywhere from 7,200 hours (about 900 days, or three and a half years) and 9,800 hours (about 1,225 days, or five years), depending on your province.
How do I find an electrician to apprentice with?
Apprenticeship job listings are posted online like any other. If you don't have a personal relationship with a working electrician, you may have some luck scouring sites like Canada's job bank, which even has a special tag for Apprentice jobs.
Each province and territory has its own website for apprentices, as well, which may help you track down potential apprenticeship opportunities with electricians. The Government of Canada website has a list of sites to explore.
Once you've completed your years of technical and on-the-job training, your employer will contact your provincial ministry to issue you your Certificate of Apprenticeship. Next up: writing your certifying exam. You'll generally have about a year to pass the exam while you continue to practice as an electrician.
Step 3: Pass your certification exam
Proving you have the skills and expertise needed to succeed as an electrician comes down to passing a certification exam. To even write the exam, you need at least three years of experience as an apprentice.
You can expect to pay about $150 to write the exam, which can be done virtually or in-person. The exam is open book, meaning you'll be able to reference your notes. If you choose the virtual exam, you'll have access to a practice test beforehand, if you're interested.
The test will cover a variety of subject areas. Some of the most important topics include:
- Installing, maintaining, and repairing wiring systems
- Selecting, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting power distribution systems
- Selecting, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting lighting systems
The questions should be familiar to you from your training, so don't panic. You'll have your notes at your side to help you.
Consider getting help on preparing for the exam
If you want to brush up on specifics, some schools, like George Brown College, offer master electrician pre-exam courses, that cover all the details you'll face on your exam. Try to find a college local to you so you're sure you're covering all the specifics for your province or territory.
Step 4: Professional certification and licensing in Canada
Each province and territory has its own regulatory body that governs the skilled trades. In Ontario, for example, new electricians must earn a Certificate of Qualification, which requires passing the certification exam mentioned above.
These exams are typically multiple-choice, and developed by tradespeople. A pass is usually a score of 70% or higher, and you'll need to pass to earn your certification.
Again, you have one year from the time you receive your Certificate of Apprenticeship to when you have to complete your Certificate of Qualification exam. (If you need an extension though, you can likely request one.)
Earning your Red Seal
Getting your Red Seal is optional, but having it allows you to practice as an electrician in any province or territory without extra paperwork. Some consider the Red Seal the "final exam" of the trades.
The Red Seal exam is administered by your local apprenticeship authority, and it's similar to the Certificate of Qualification: a multiple-choice test with a passing floor of 70%. The Red Seal website has advice on preparing for your Red Seal exam.
That's it! The road to becoming an electrician in Canada isn't always easy: most people will need to study at a college, train as an apprentice, and write at least one exam to become an electrician. You'll be well on your way to an illuminating new career in the electrical field — a booming sector that needs your help!
Explore pre-apprenticeship training for electricians