How Military Electricians Can Transition Into Civilian Work

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We all need electricity to power our daily lives — even the Army. That’s why they offer incoming recruits the opportunity to specialize in electrical systems. The position is called Interior Electrician and it teaches you how to install and repair various electrical systems.

Becoming an Army electrician is a great way to develop a marketable set of skills. But you might not want to remain in the Army for the rest of your working career. In that case, you might be interested in learning what it takes to transition from being an Army electrician to a civilian one.

That’s why we put together the guide below. It will show you exactly what you need to do to become a working electrician in the civilian world. Keep reading to learn more.

Start by understanding your skills

The first thing that you need to do is identify exactly what your skillset looks like. Are you an expert at circuits and wiring? Or are you still learning how to repair faulty equipment?

Take a piece-by-piece inventory of where you’re currently at as an electrician. Doing so is important because it will tell you whether or not you’re ready to begin searching for civilian electrician jobs immediately. You might be. But you might also need to spend a bit more time training before you’re ready to make the transition.

As a starting point, the Army says that it teaches Interior Electricians the following skills, among others:

Determine which skills you need to be a civilian electrician

Now that you know what your electrical skillset looks like, it’s time to compare that to the skillset that you need to be a civilian electrician. This process will tell you whether you need any further education before you can continue with your electrical career.

Generally speaking, a civilian electrician performs electrical work in homes and businesses. They tend to specialize in maintenance and construction tasks. To do well as a civilian electrician, you will need to have a solid mechanical ability, as well as a strong knowledge of the principles of electricity, circuitry, and power distribution.

Additionally, you will want to be able to work with a wide variety of tools and products. You should be comfortable using ammeters, ohmmeters, oscilloscopes, and various other equipment to test connections and ensure the system’s safety.

You’ll also need to be able to quickly troubleshoot electrical systems, determine their problems, and make speedy repairs. This type of work will form the backbone of your career as a civilian electrician. So you must get good at it.

Pursue additional training

At this point in the process, you should have a sense of whether your electrical skills right now are enough to become a civilian electrician. If they aren’t, then you’ll want to pursue additional training to develop the skills that you need. 

You may want to pursue further electrical training even if you do think your skills are already up to par. Employers in the civilian world tend to place a high value on formal training. You may find it easier to get the job you want if you have both military electrical experience and civilian-focused training.

There are two ways you can go about getting this training. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

COMPLETE AN ELECTRICIAN APPRENTICESHIP

Becoming an electrician apprentice may be a good option for military electricians without a ton of hands-on experience. In this role, you’ll work alongside an experienced electrician who will teach you while you work.

The major benefit of this approach is that you get to make money while you learn. And civilian employers value electrician apprenticeships highly. So you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a job after you finish one.

But there are also a few downsides to this route that you should consider. Electrical apprenticeships can take as long as four years to complete. Additionally, they may not teach you much about electrical theory. Your learning will mostly center around hands-on projects, and you’ll probably just learn what you need to complete them.

STUDY AT A LOCAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL OR COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Your other major training option is to pursue a degree or certification at either a technical school or a community college. Each can be a great way to show potential employers that you have a solid understanding of the theory that underpins electrical work.

You’ll learn a ton, and will spend time studying concepts like:

With this knowledge in-hand, you shouldn’t have any problem with transitioning your electrical skillset into the civilian world. But there are some downsides to taking this route that you might want to think about.

The first is that you won’t be getting paid for your electrical work while you study. This might be a dealbreaker for you, as you might need to get a job in an unrelated field to support yourself while you learn.

The second is that school costs money. However, former military members pay less for their education than most. You can use resources like the Post-9/11 GI Bill to get a discount on your education. So it’s unlikely that you would need to go into debt to receive the training that you need to become a civilian electrician.

Put together an impressive application

Former military members have experiences that people in the civilian world will never be able to replicate. That can be a huge advantage to you during the job search. But you need to package your experiences in a way that employers will be able to easily digest and appreciate.

This starts by creating a memorable resume. Here’s a quick guide on how to do that.

MAKE YOUR RESUME STAND OUT

The best resumes are well-written and packed with meaningful information. Yours should begin with your contact information and personal details. Then, create a brief heading statement that summarizes who you are and what you hope to get out of the job you’re applying for.

After that, list your relevant work experience, key achievements, and educational background. Throughout the entire document, make sure that you’re using descriptive, active verbs to describe what you’ve done in the past. 

Additionally, double and triple-check the resume to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. One of the easiest ways to disqualify yourself from a job opportunity is to show carelessness on your application materials.

PREPARE A MEMORABLE COVER LETTER

A cover letter is another opportunity to make yourself stand out with civilian employers. Your process should start by researching the company that you’re applying to work with. Learn who they are, what their goals are, and the type of language that they use to describe themselves.

Then, take all of that information and write a letter that accurately conveys who you are and how you can benefit them. In terms of the layout of the letter, you should begin with a summarizing paragraph that states your main points upfront.

Then, with each new paragraph, break down another benefit that you can offer the company. Shoot for a length of between 3-5 paragraphs and make sure that you triple-check the document for errors before submitting it.

PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEWS

Interviews are another key component of the hiring process. It’s worth spending a bit of time preparing for them. For example, you might do mock interviews with someone you trust. You might also spend some time anticipating the questions that you’ll be asked and coming up with great responses for them.

With a little time and energy, you can nail your interview and ensure that you put your best foot forward during your job hunt.

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