Questions About Careers in the Electrical Field

I am a senior in university (in the United States) and have recently considered electrician as a career option. I have no background in
engineering, electronics, or maths to speak of (outside of high school courses and college Calculus), but the more I study the field the more it appeals to me. My understanding is that the best way to become an electrician is to be accepted into an apprenticeship program, which entails good maths skills (got through Calculus, shouldn't be a problem). My questions are:
1) Since I will have a degree in the liberal arts field and no experience to speak of, what techniques can I use to my advantage when I go in to interview? Even though all of the programs that I have reviewed for the state of California don't *require* previous experience, I can't help but feel that my liberal arts education would put me at a disadvantage to one with more technical experience.
2) My concentration would be on inside or residential wiring. The job descriptions require the individual to be able to lift up to 50 pounds on a regular basis. I am a 5'3 tall female, and I can lift 50 pounds, although I am not sure how effective I'd be after a while. The job descriptions seem to require this more of outside linemen than inside wiremen, but I don't want to apply if I can't meet the technical standards. Do inside wiremen regularly lift heavy equipment?
3) How competitive are the apprenticeship programs? They all seem to ask for relatively little--an high school diploma, certain maths courses, legal residence, and a driver's license. I would imagine that with such simple qualifications,and such good pay, there would be tons more applicants than space.
4) And is it difficult to find a job after reaching Journeyman status?
5) If there are any electricians here, do you mind telling me about your personal experience in regards to salary? I've visited several sites (from official gv'mnt statistics to salary.com) and got a whole range of salaries. Not including trainees, average pay went from as low as $19US and hour up to $40....remember, these weren't scales or ranges, but *averages*. I understand that differences in average state income and skill level can account for this difference, but it's like a big ass variance--which is the most realistic for the state of California?
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Few electricians that I know have more than a high school diploma. That liberal arts degree will help in some career paths that an electrician can take, but it will make you an outsider at best in the residential wireman's arena. I suggest a minimal stint in the residential side of the trade. Concentrate on controls, and instrumentation. It's less work and more money, plus it isn't so dependant on the weather. It is also much more challenging and interesting. Learn motor controls from a relay/hardwired perspective before you go digital. As local, state and federal government trade jobs become more "P.C.", the opportunities for well trained women are skyrocketing. There is pretty fair money in that realm even for the grunts. I worked for a Northern California county electric shop for about ten years, and made about 65-70k plus a great benefit package. Not bad for a slacker! I see the more competent PLC and instrumentation guys exceeding all but the highest engineers in pay.

"Inside wiremen" that really do their jobs often end up debilitated at the end of their careers from physical stress, and repetitive motion injury. I suggest a quick trip through the construction industry, and then on into troubleshooting, programming etc. Anyone can be a construction sparky, especially on houses. It's merely a glorified installer job.

I think women are getting preferential treatment from the local here. I suspect that a woman with a decent attitude and a willingness to work would make it in. I have worked with several woman electricians, and only two stand out in my memory as worth their pay. I think the ones that were "less than useful" were typically that way because they let their co-workers define them, rather than defining themselves.

I think a real electrician is getting more valuable as time goes by. A journeyman wireman that has only construction experience will be at the mercy of construction booms, and winter weather. Most good troubleshooters work all year, and then some, if they want. Electrical plant maintenence is a good move for such people.

I mentioned it above. I think the rate around Sacramento is around 30.00 out of the union hall, plus benefits. The non-union rate is anywhere from 20.00 and nothing, up to 35.-40 an hour plus benefits for top foremen etc. Some troubleshooters I know of charge in the 125.00 an hour range for troubleshooting drives, and plant electronics-instrumentation.
Or, you could just go to work for the government and work your way up the food chain, and not worry about being a woman in a typically man's work environment.From what Ive seen, a four year degree in anything will get you in and on your way at the county level. Just remember that the government doesnt promote a producer, but rather a person who can go with the flow, and change their M.O. with the whim of ever-evolving management fads. Good luck.

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Good attitude, but ... in my opinion (only) you're aiming too low if you're about to graduate with a FA degree, 40year apparently. If you really love working with your hands, then electrician might be an OK field for you, and the pay isn't all that bad, actually. It can be, isn't always, pretty hard, back breaking work and IMO the other poste gave a decent feeling for what it could be like. But, every field has its drawbacks, so ... it's a hard decision to make. Your experience might be totally in opposition of Long's opinion and descriptions, it's hard to say.
But if you like working with your mind AND your hands, then you might consider adding a technical school degree in any favored field you fancy. In my case, I was always interested in electronics, so in the service I asked for electrical schools and went from there to a Bachelor's after school, then a tech in Research & Development (R&D), junion engineer, engineer, senior engineer, Manager of R&D, and Director of R&D for North American development. Every second of my career was fun interesting and challenging. I've hired and fired a lot of people before my disability cut my career short, an dI found in general that women, even in the 70's, were far better than most men as far as managing them went. By the 90's there were a lot of women around me and they got to be more "just like the men", but that's good! So, I don't think being a woman is necessarily a hold-back unless you run into some "old boys" network.
That's just my opinion, like I said, so don't think I'm trying to change your mind. I just wanted to say that I think you have a lot of areas open to you, so electrician isn't the only one. And if that's what you really want, I see nothing in your post to hold you back from it; then go for it! I'd say your background leaves you open to almost anything in the trades and many technical careers too.
Best of luck!
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I happen to be a US electrician that entered the field with a BA degree in Math in 1975. I now have 30 years experience and have something to say on becoming an electrician. If you like doing physical work, using your intelligence, have a good attitude, and work well with others then you will make a good electrician. Physical work requires climbing, crawling, bending, lifting, using hand tools, and lots of manual dexterity like screwing on small nuts in unseen places. The work environment is often dirty, dusty, contaminated requiring special suits, dust masks, hard hats, safety glasses, and heavy gloves. Any time you work on a ladder or without proper scaffolds and your feet are six feet above the surface you must wear a fall protection harness required by OSHA Construction work that most general journeyman perform is temporary. There are periods of unemployment and you can expect that you will be drawing your unemployment checks many times. Why did I choose to be an electrician? MONEY! Simple as that. In 1986 my top year, I earned $85 grand. Electricians can make good money. But you pay a price for these big jobs and long hours like separation from family and friends and living on the job site in small rooms with another construction worker. There is a very high incidence of divorces, alcoholism, and drug addiction amongst construction electricians. Just about every construction electrician I know has been divorced at least once. And there is a high incidence of injuries. Imagine working in harsh environments for 40 years. It just takes one fall from a six foot ladder to mess up your back or shoulder. Also, about four in five electricians have back problems by the age of 40. Now if you still want to be an electrician, have at it. It is kind of like becoming a Marine. Apply for an apprenticeship at you local IBEW. The IBEW has a very competitive admission program and only a few are chosen for this excellent occupation. Applicants are usually given a written math test and go through an interview. Applicants that plan to make the electrical trade a career and plan to stick with the Union are the types admitted.
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snipped-for-privacy@electrician.com wrote:

Did you ever use your math degree or regret getting it?
And what would you have made alary wise if using your math degree such as a teacher?
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I use my math degree everyday. I do like to teach, but in 1976 teachers were earning about $32k a year. I almost tripled that as an electrician. Learning math and physics does teach you how to solve problems and teach yourself. Over the years I have taught myself several computer languages and learned basic Perl hacking just last fall. I did not mention it before but one of the great things about being a wireman are the many other great wiremen you meet and work with. Electricains are great people to work with. There is brotherhood amongst us (union and nonunion alike) that is universal regardless of race, religion, or national origin. But sometimes I wished I had gone into teaching. I do love to teach, and my site at electrician.com reflects this. However, when I see the kids of today, I don't think I would like to be in a classroom with many of them. Perhaps teaching at a collge or university would have been different. I still may start a teaching career.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

No one other than you has mentioned your size. It works against you, once you have the job, and might work against you in getting the job. Beginning electricians are expected to do a lot of the scut work, which can include lifting & carrying heavy stuff. You don't need to be King Kong, but having forearms like Popeye helps! Being 5'3" doesn't mean you can't do it, or that you are weak, but it does raise the question in other's minds. Also, being the smallest (likely), you'll get the attic and crawl space jobs because your size there is an asset. So part of your decision has to be a consideration of your physical capabilities.
Ed
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I have been working in my attic last few weeks amd I can tell you at 5'9 184 Lbs, I was wishing I was back at 150 Lbs again to fit between the roof trusses. I can't imaging she will have to lift 50 Lbs day in and day out.
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