Last updated on July 30th, 2023.
Thinking about becoming an electrician?
Joining an IBEW apprenticeship is an excellent way to begin a career in the electrical trade.
I attended two different apprenticeships and learned a lot about the application process.
So I’m going to tell you how to join and improve your chances of being accepted—because the process can be challenging.
What Is The IBEW Apprenticeship Program?
The IBEW electrical apprenticeship is a joint program between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and is your first step to becoming an electrician apprentice.
The Electrical Training Alliance was created to blend classroom and online learning together to improve the experience for all IBEW apprenticeships.
Blended learning is an education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace
Apprenticeship programs are designed to have students work and go to school at the same time. This allows students to make a living, learn valuable on-the-job experience, and complete the education requirements needed to become a licensed electrician.
A classroom education can’t teach you everything. But by joining an apprenticeship you’re going to “earn as you learn” through on-the-job-training (OJT).
In addition to OJT, you’ll receive hands-on training in a classroom environment similar to daily work situations.
Hannah Cooper wrote a great article about joining the IBEW and it is one of the most rewarding decisions of her life. Read it here.
How To Join IBEW Apprenticeship – The 5 Step Process
1. Decide Which Program Is Right For You
The first thing is to find an IBEW apprenticeship and learn about the training programs they offer.
Choices can include:
- Outside Lineman
- Inside Wireman
- Technician (Sound & Communication)
- Residential Wireman
For example, the Puget Sound Electrical JATC in Renton, WA offers three programs: Construction Apprentice (inside wireman), Sound and Comm (technician), and Residential.
Not every apprenticeship offers all these programs. The outside lineman apprenticeship is only offered at training centers specifically tailored to that program.
Wages for apprentices are based on a percentage of Journeyman scale – first year apprentices can expect around 50%. However, your wages as an apprentice electrician will increase in increments about every 6 to 12 months or 1000 hours of work completed. This is a nice boost, and you should be able to pick up the majority of items on your electrician tools list.
Wages also fluctuate between each IBEW apprenticeship, local unions, from city to city, and state to state.
The west coast and upper east coast electrician apprentices earn higher wages than those in the south – but you must remember the cost of living is must higher in those areas as well.
I should also know that you shouldn’t stress too much about your *initial* wage, as this gets a lot higher once you become a journeyman electrician, and eventually a master electrician.
Learn more about electrician apprentice wages and salaries.
2. IBEW Apprenticeship Application Form
You’re going to have to start digging for high school or college transcripts and try to remember the last four addresses you’ve lived.
Fill out everything.
Don’t write like a 5-year-old. If your handwriting is crap, have someone else fill it out.
Don’t leave anything blank! If you absolutely have to leave something blank call the training center office and ask them what you should do.
Its always better to check with the ones who will be handling your application.
- Minimum age 18
- Be a high school graduate, or have your GED, or have a two-year Associate Degree or higher
- Show successful completion of high school algebra or post-high school algebra course with a passing grade
- Provide an official transcript for high school and post-high school education and training – GED records must be submitted
Note: Some programs have more requirements.
3. Preparing for the IBEW Apprenticeship Aptitude Test
This is where you want to do your best and make a very high score!
I can’t stress this enough because applicants are ranked highest to lowest, and those scoring highest are invited to interview first.
The aptitude test consists of two parts – Algebra and Functions, and Reading Comprehension.
The test takes approximately two and a half hours to complete, with a break between the two parts.
Learn more about how to prepare for the electrician aptitude test.
4. Waiting For Your Interview
This is by far the most frustrating and nerve-racking part of the whole process.
Many apprenticeships only accept applicants once or twice a year which could mean you’ll have to wait for months without knowing if you were accepted.
Stay calm and don’t call the apprenticeship office a thousand times asking why you haven’t heard anything back.
Be patient. They’ll notify you if you’ve been selected and will schedule an interview.
5. The Interview
The interview panel consists of members from the local union office, NECA, and possibly the director of the apprenticeship.
Sample questions you may be asked during the interview:
- Why do you want to be part of this program?
- What kind of electrical experience do you have?
- Do you work better as a team or alone? Why?
- Describe a time where you did a project from start to finish?
- Tell us a situation when you had to complete a project where you didn’t have the necessary tools to finish it?
- If you’ve been involved with a conflict tell us how you resolved it?
Here are a few tips for interviewing.
- When answering questions make an effort to give a straight forward answer and don’t ramble on.
- Keep your answers on topic and don’t use filler words like “um” or “uhh”.
- Don’t cross your arms. Clasp your hands together and sit still, don’t squirm.
- Take time to formulate your response before speaking.
- Have a positive attitude, it speaks volumes about you.
- Present yourself in a professional manner. No suit and tie, but dress for success. A pair of slacks or nice jeans, nice shirt (no T-shirts), clean shoes, and a fresh haircut and shave (or at least trim your gruffy face).
- Be honest! Tell them what you’re looking to get out of the program and why you think you’re an ideal candidate. Remember that your dedicated, show initiative to learn, and have a strong work ethic.
- Maintain eye contact. Look at whoever is questioning you in the eye and give them solid answers.
- Give everyone in the interview room a firm handshake and look them in the eye.
- Don’t smell like alcohol or cigarettes.
- Get good rest the night.
Remember that as an apprentice you’re starting from the bottom tier. That means you’re more labor than skill and you’ll be put to work accordingly; ie. digging trenches, setting up scaffolding and ladders, crawling in dark and dirty places, carrying material.
Safety is priority #1 and must be taken into consideration when answering questions. Example answer: “whatever it takes to get the job done – safely.”
After the interview, your name will be placed on an eligibility list for two (2) years. As new positions become available in the IBEW apprenticeship program, names will be taken off the eligibility list in order of the ranking score.
If you are not selected to begin an apprenticeship during that two-year period, you will need to reapply if you are still interested.
But don’t worry – you nailed the interview and scored highly on the aptitude exam.
Now its time to wait for the letter that will change your life.