Thirty-two percent of electricians join unions and gain their training through union apprenticeship programs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union and nonunion programs pay apprentices a wage that increases during the duration of training. The first year of training may require the payment of classroom instruction fees, such as books and other supplies, which can have an impact on total earnings.
Independent apprenticeship programs offer various options for aspiring electricians, such as residential or data-telecommunications programs. Potential earnings vary based on the location and the apprenticeship program. Electrician apprentices typically earned between $14.66 and $17.20 per hour or $30,492 and $35,776 annually during the first six months. Pay during the final six months of a one-year apprenticeship typically is between $16.13 and $18.92 per hour.
Union apprenticeships also offer various benefits, including health insurance or higher wages. However, apprentices must pay union dues, which can affect the total salary. Many programs pay apprentices based on a percentage of the licensed electrician wage. Apprentices may start at 40 percent of the scale, increase to 45 percent at the 1,000-hour mark and end the first year at 52 percent of the current pay rate. Union apprentices may receive earnings of $20,400 annually during the first year.
The lowest wage estimate was between minimum wage and $9.16 per hour, or $19,052 annually in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paying apprenticeships, based on licensed electrician earnings in the power generation industry, was $14.07 per hour or $29,276, which again depends on the apprenticeship program, plus regional and other factors.
Once an electrician completes a training program, he completes the licensing process and begins earning a licensed wage. The national average wage for electricians in 2010 was $51,810 annually or $24.91 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top-earning electricians were paid $80,890 annually and the lowest-paid earned $29,400.