All electricians earn their position by undergoing three to five years of an apprenticeship program. Due to the sometimes dangerous nature of their work, the electrician's apprenticeship is overseen by a master electrician and directly supervised by a journeyman electrician. Master electricians are those who have already passed through apprentice and journeyman positions and have exhibited a high degree of technical skill in their trade. A journeyman has completed their apprenticeship, but has not yet earned the skills or experience necessary to become a master.
During their apprenticeship, electricians are required to complete instruction in electrical theory and electrical building codes. In most cases apprentices must pay for these classes, though some programs offer trades, exchanging free training for a commitment to work for that company in the future. Electricians are also given practical training on all types of electrical installation and maintenance. Apprentice electricians will work with masters and journeymen to complete projects on residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
Generally, apprentice electricians are paid for their practical work. After around 8000 hours of practical work, 700 hours of classroom instruction, and the passing of any required state and local licensing exams, candidates can move up to journeyman status. After becoming a journeyman, an electrician is allowed to work on most types of electrical systems, but is usually barred from the design of those systems. Restrictions vary by city, state, and country of residence.
Aside from technical certifications, electricians must be able to work with a wide variety of tools and testing equipment. Common tools, like diagonal and needle-nose pliers are just as essential to an electrician's work as more complicated equipment like multimeters and insulation resistance testers. Other tools for which electricians must maintain competency include cable cutters, tube benders, knockout punches and ground fault indicators. Different specialties require different tools. Outside linemen require both manual and electric saws to cut away trees and foliage from their workplace while inside wiremen rarely make use of these tools.