Electrical Technology Degrees: Career Diploma, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in an electrical technology program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of diploma and associate degree programs, and potential careers.
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Studying Electrical Technology: Diploma and Associate Degree Programs at a Glance

Electrical technology education programs generally aim to start preparing students for careers as electricians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a faster-than-average increase in job opportunities for electricians from 2010-2020. Additionally, although not typically the aim, electrical technology programs can prepare you for a related job such as electrical equipment installer or repairer. These positions can provide salaries commensurate with those of electricians and require less training, but the BLS projected a slower-than-average job increase of 3% for these occupations from 2010-2020.

Most states require that electricians be licensed, which is tied to training requirements. Since requirements vary by state, check for the specific regulations of the state you reside in before deciding on a program.

BLS notes that most electricians complete 4-year apprenticeship programs. However, if you're interested in pursuing formal electrical technology studies, diploma and associate degree programs are available and academic credit can often be applied toward apprenticeship hours.

DiplomaAssociate Degree
Who Is this Program for?Aspiring electricians interested in completing some formal studies prior to serving as an apprenticeAspiring electricians interested in completing a degree prior to serving as an apprentice
Common Career Path (with approximate mean annual salary) - Electrician ($52,900 - Graduates of programs are typically qualified to become apprentices and after a period of additional training can become electricians)*
- Electrical/electronics commercial and industrial equipment repairer ($52,400 - Diploma holders may obtain these positions although employers tend to prefer hiring those with an associate degree)*
Career options for those with an associate degree are similar to those with a diploma
Time to Completion2-4 semesters full-time 4-5 semesters full-time
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent
- Completion of stipulated assessment testing
- Completed coursework in subjects like algebra and science may be desired or required
Prerequisites for associate degree programs are similar to those for diploma programs
Online Availability Rarely, some classes may be offered online Rarely, some classes may be offered online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (salary statistics from 2011).

Electrical Technology Diploma

Electrical technology diploma programs vary in length; you could be expected to complete coursework totaling around 24-67 credits depending on the school. As an electrical technology student, you study basic electricity concepts and circuits as well as learn to read blueprints, install wiring, and test equipment in order to be able to service electrical systems. You also study state and national safety codes. Hands-on experiments allow you to gain experience in circuit construction and troubleshooting methods, as well as obtain practice using testing and measurement equipment.

Pros and Cons


  • A 23% increase in jobs has been projected for electricians from 2010-2020*
  • Programs might take less than a year to complete
  • Develop communication and analytical skills


  • Direct entry into an electrician apprenticeship is also possible without a diploma (with a high school or equivalent education)
  • Rate of injury and illness is higher-than-average for jobs in this field*
  • Jobs related to electrical technology often require you to work in uncomfortable positions or spaces

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses

Coursework required for a diploma in electrical technology might include 1-2 general education courses in math and writing, but otherwise remains focused on studies relating directly to the career field. Sample courses you might take cover:

  • Circuit analysis
  • Motor controls
  • Transformers
  • Industrial control systems
  • National Electrical Code
  • Programmable logic controllers
  • Wiring methods

Online Diploma Options

Hands-on learning components are integral to electrical technology courses. Although this is rare, electrical technology diploma programs sometimes offer you options to take some classes in the curriculum through online or hybrid means. The latter type of course incorporates a mix of both classroom and distance elements.

Stand Out with a Diploma

If you're interested in pursuing a position as an electrical repairer or installer, you could consider obtaining voluntary certification. BLS notes that certification is commonly pursued in the profession and might be helpful in finding work. Organizations such as the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians and Electronics Technicians Association International offer various certifications achievable upon meeting stipulated standards and passing a test. Both organizations confer certifications attesting to various levels of experience or achievement, which includes options for students.

Associate Degree in Electrical Technology

As a student in an associate degree program, like students in diploma programs, you gain skills in installation and troubleshooting methods for electrical systems in commercial, residential, and industrial settings. You take part in lab projects which simulate working environments to allow you to put electrical theory into practice and gain circuit set-up and calibration experience. At this level of study, schools may offer more opportunities for specialization, so you might consider whether pursuing a particular pathway is of interest to you.

Pros and Cons


  • Some degree programs give you the option to concentrate your studies in areas such as industrial, construction, or renewable energy technology
  • If you're thinking of continuing on to earn a 4-year degree, some programs can prepare you for transfer
  • Option to be your own boss as an electrician (10% of electricians were self-employed in 2010)*


  • Completing a degree program might put you no further along in terms of applicable apprenticeship/training hours than a diploma program
  • Constant lifting often goes with jobs in this field
  • As an electrician, you may need to work evenings and weekends

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses

Associate degree programs typically include most of the same core coursework as electrical technology diploma programs, with studies in heating and cooling systems, rotating machines and low-voltage systems. In addition, associate degree programs require you to take more general education courses than diploma programs, which usually only require completion of about 3-6 credits. General education requirements for electrical technology associate degree programs typically incorporate around 16-18 credits in the natural and social sciences, humanities, mathematics and English. Some associate degree programs also include coursework in computer-aided design (CAD).

Online Associate Degree Options

As with electrical technology diploma programs, your options for pursuing online study in an electrical technology associate degree program are limited. While it may be possible to complete some courses in the curriculum through online or hybrid studies, coursework for the programs is generally site-based and lab-oriented.

Stand Out with this Degree

While noting that government policy affects growth possibilities, the BLS suggests that the emergence of renewable energy sources means that electricians working in this area should have more options. If you're interested in pursuing this niche, you can look for associate degree programs that emphasize alternative energy systems in their curriculum. Some schools offer specializations specifically in renewable energy through their electrical technology programs and incorporate studies in subjects such as wind and solar power technologies, environmental impact, and site sustainability.

Alternative Programs

Completing an apprenticeship program to become an electrician is common and often tied to licensure. In order to enroll in an apprenticeship program, you generally need to hold a high school diploma, have completed a year of algebra, and pass an aptitude test, according to the BLS.

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) - one of the largest providers of electrical apprenticeship training - is affiliated with many schools and offers apprenticeship tracks for inside wireman, outside lineman, low-voltage cabling installer, and residential electrician. Programs affiliated with NJATC allow you to earn college credit. The non-profit organization also operates on an 'Earn While You Learn' motto that means you'll be paid for your work while you train and are eligible for healthcare and retirement benefits.

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