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In this episode I give my OPINION on whether or not electrician trade schools are a good idea or not. Again, full disclosure here – THIS IS MY OPINION, HAVING NEVER ATTENDED ONE. I get asked this question by dozens of people every week so I wanted to give my fingers a break from typing the same response and instead record a video.
My opinion is that trade school is not necessary. You should try first to get into every electrical company in the area you live in. Apply at them all. Union and Non-Union. If after trying 20-30 places you cannot get your foot in the door, or there’s a wait of around 2 years to get in…trade school is a great option in the mean time. However you should definitely not decide to do trade school RATHER than getting into an apprenticeship. Let me explain…
I think that trade schools are very beneficial to people who are looking for a leg up in a career that is very certification-heavy, or that are in an area where the job market is extremely saturated with qualified people. For the electrical trade, however, more often than not trade school is not a good idea. It depends on your situation and what the school provides you upon completion of the program, but I’ve found more often than not these schools do not produce quality electricians like an apprenticeship would.
Lets weigh it out. You go into an apprenticeship in a union or at a non-union shop for 4 years. You are paid the entire time. You’re actually wearing tools all day, learning from a Journeyman or Master Electrician 40 hours every week. You’re logging hours to become an electrician in 4 years, and you’re gaining the EXACT experience you’ll need to be hire-able anywhere you go. Sounds great!
Now trade school – Most trade school programs are 15 months to 2-years long. In that time you will learn a lot of book knowledge, ohm’s law, basic math, and electrical theory basics. You may get a chance to do some work in a setup lab setting by an instructor who most-likely was an electrician long ago, but no longer is. However most of your time will be spent in classrooms, not in the field practicing so you’re not really gaining any real-world experience. And then after 2 years of this, you still have to go do an apprenticeship. Oh and the craziest thing is….you have to PAY for this!!!
Apprenticeship is free, trade school is not. Apprenticeship is experience on the job and trade school is a lot of talk and book reading, with probably some lab time. Apprenticeship hours get you to your license guaranteed, school hours may or may not count toward your license. Apprenticeship trains you to DO a job, trade school trains you ABOUT a job.
It’s a heavy decision to make so think wisely about where you’re going to be in 5 years if you make this decision (how experienced, how well paid, and how in debt).
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