Overseas qualifications recognition in USA & job opportunities

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Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Hi Guys and Girls,

Myself and my fiancee took a trip for 5 weeks to the USA in 2011 and we loved it so much, we are considering making the move across the Pacific Ocean to the land of the stars and stripes. I have a few questions about the electrical industry and how I might go about getting a job over there.

I am a licenced electrician and communications technician in Australia. I have a Certificate 3 in Electrical Engineering and a Certificate 2 in Telecommunications engineering. Basically, these are the technical college qualifications that an apprentice has to complete through their electrical apprenticeship here in Australia, along with 4 years of on-the-job training. Our electrical systems here are different to the USA in that they are mostly based on european standards, we run on a 240/415 volt system. But for a person who knows their electrical theory well, adjusting to the different voltages and NEC codes should be fairly easy. I have watched quite a few Mike Holt YouTube videos and they have been very informative.

I have also got an Advanced Diploma in electrical engineering, which is a Technical College degree roughly equivalent to 2 years of a 4 year University bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering. I have training in business, sales, project management and contract management through private training organisations. I also have a Certificate 2 in Electrical Contractor Management, which is the course that electricians need to do to start their own Electrical Contracting business in Australia.

My brief work history is (all in the construction industry):
- 4 years apprentice electrician
- 1 year licenced electrician/comms tech
- 1 year as Estimator/Project Manager for large electrical contracting company
- 2 years as Senior Estimator & National Operations Manager for same company
- 2 years as Electrical Engineering Officer for Electrical & Mechanical Engineering consultancy/design firm. My role was project managing the design and construction of large electrical and mechanical building services projects, providing technical input, leading a team of professional engineers, liaising with clients, architects, other engineering disciplines etc. Projects were mostly hospitals, aged care facilities, schools, universities, commercial buildings etc.

I guess my two main questions are, 1) how would I go about having my Australian qualifications recognised in the USA, and 2) what kind of jobs do you think I might be in the running for? I would prefer to work in an office or managerial role for an electrical contractor or engineering firm rather than out working construction in the field, but I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility.

Also, if there are any electrical contractors or engineers out there who would be willing to sponsor me for a VISA, I guarantee I would make it worth your while by working my butt off for the period of my VISA, and hopefully with a view to US citizenship.

Really appreciate your replies!
 

cadpoint

Senior Member
Location
Durham, NC
Congratulations on your electrical pursuits to date!

My belief is that you will need to work with a placement service known stateside as a ?head hunter?. This type of service more directly matches your skill set to those that the employer truly desires. In either case you will need to work with a national employment service due to sponsorship requirements.

State side and I mean which state you land in will determine what they will accept as their requirement of what they will accept for hours. Each State has its own requirements to licensing and how to qualify to their State requirement! Now in respects to any transference of education to the ?States? it almost non-existent, most States don?t except anything for College level courses, if not gained in the US.

Good Luck!

Welcome to the Forum!
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Pretty much every college and tech school has its own policy on how to deal with granting credit for classes taken in foreign schools. Things like math and hard science classes tend to transfer a little easier than technology and skill courses.

Whatever authority is granting whatever license you want will have its own criteria for granting credit for work and/or classes that are outside of the normal US apprenticeship type programs.

If I had to guess, the licensing authorities might well accept that you have learned good mechanical skills if the tasks you were doing in the foreign country are similar enough to those you would need for whatever licensing you want here. I suspect they are going to want to see some showing that you understand the rules here though as well, and I do not think there is a class that can be taken for that.

Just what is it that you want to do here? My guess is that if it is a normal electrician journeyman license that you are after, that you will have to go through at least most of a normal apprenticeship.

If you are looking for an engineering or management position, it might be a little simpler, depending on just what it is you are angling for.
 

Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Thanks for your replies so far guys. I can be a little more specific I guess, we will most likely be looking around the Southern California area. I would probably be looking for a job as an estimator, project manager for an electrical contractor, or perhaps an electrical designer or technical officer in an engineering office.

I would prefer not work "on the tools" but wouldn't rule it out if the pay was okay.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Given the economy and the large number of people readily available with the qualifications for the kind of job you are looking for, my guess is that it will be very hard to convince an employer to hire you and sponsor you to come to the US to work, especially in southern California.

I would not completely rule out the possibility, but it seems like a difficult thing to find.
 

Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Yeah, point taken. It's not all roses here by any means, but the Australian economy as a whole is going okay. The building services engineering sector is a little slower, but mining and resource sectors are going bananas. I wish the USA immigration laws we're as relaxed as Australia, but I guess you guys would be flooded with people if they were. It's remarkably difficult to get a work Visa in the US
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Yeah, point taken. It's not all roses here by any means, but the Australian economy as a whole is going okay. The building services engineering sector is a little slower, but mining and resource sectors are going bananas. I wish the USA immigration laws we're as relaxed as Australia, but I guess you guys would be flooded with people if they were. It's remarkably difficult to get a work Visa in the US
It is fairly easy to get one if there is a need for the job you want to do. For the most part it just requires a sponsor, and they are easy to come by if there is a need.
 

fmtjfw

Senior Member
How's it the other way, mate? and some info on visas

How's it the other way, mate? and some info on visas

If I showed up in Australia with my Master Electrician's license, 6 years experience and all A's from a 9-month full day trade school training and another 200 hours of continuing education passed the trade school, could I snag a job there? What training would I have to take?

Could I just take a test on your wire colors, grounding requirements, your fruit bats, horrendous lightning, and your funny plugs?

:)Last time I went to OZ on business the visa form asked if I were a felon. I didn't know how to answer, was it still required?:)

The usual work visa is H-1B but that is typically for jobs that require college degrees and are usually quickly gobbled up by high tech companies.

There is a special visa for you Aussies: E-3
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=71256811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=71256811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD

There are also EB-3 But I don't know the requirements for it.

Your problem will be getting a visa that allows you to legally work in the US. Understanding the trade and passing the licensing test will be easy. Getting approval for your experience requirement will be harder.

Considered Canada?
 

Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Hi ftmjfw,

If you have experience in mining, heavy industries and large infrastructure, and if you can A) get a work visa B) get your mining induction courses done, and C) pass our trade skills recognition course, you could score a job as an electrician in the mines fairly easily, and get paid $100,000+ AUD working 2 weeks on, 1 week off. Only thing is, it will be 1000km from anywhere exciting, unless you like fishing and hunting and have a penchant for the Australian Outback.

A) Work Visa
Not an expert on work visa's in my own country, but I think they are relatively easy. We have a skills shortage in mining and resources industry in terms of engineers, boilermakers, electricians etc. Lots of mining corporations are sponsoring migrants on work Visa's who have skills such as these. Try the Australian Government website, or there are heaps of mining recruitment agencies around.

B) Many training organisations in Australia run these safety courses. They aren't all that difficult, you pay your money, do the course, get your ticket.

C) In Queensland state where I am from, you'd need to go to a TAFE (Technical And Further Education) College and enrol to undertake a course to get your Electrical Fitter Mechanic's licence - this involves practical and theoretical testing on your knowledge of electrical testing mainly, and probably some AS3000 Wiring Rules questions. We do have a high proportion of electricians from the UK and South Africa in particular so it is common here to have migrant skills recognition, and an important part of our economy and development. Bottom line is, we need skilled people, the USA doesn't seem to. You could also bypass this process and get a job as an Electrical Trades Assistant, which basically means you have to work under the supervision of a licenced electrician. You can still earn decent money doing that dependant on your skills and ability. It's not uncommon for ETA's earning $30-40 per hour on a full time wage.

Rightly or wrongly, Australia has very good wages and conditions. Minimum of 4 weeks paid holiday per year, 10 days paid sick leave, paid bereavement leave, high minimum wage, lots of workers right, mandatory 9% employer superannuation payments etc. The approximate average annual wage for a typical electrician working construction in a city area would be about $60,000-$70,000 + 9% super, plus a work van, mobile phone, uniforms, etc. In mining, it would be more like $100,000 - $150,000 plus free accommodation and food while you're on shift (usually about 10-15 days on, 4-7 days off), and maybe even Fly-in, Fly out to a nearby city.

One thing to note though is that we do have a high cost of living . Assuming the Aussie dollar and the US dollar is at parity, my rough guess would be that most things in Australia would cost about 20-30% more. So if you earn $70k in the USA, that will buy you 20-30% more lifestyle than the same wage in Australia.
 

Sierrasparky

Senior Member
Location
USA
Occupation
Electrician ,contractor
Hi ftmjfw,

If you have experience in mining, heavy industries and large infrastructure, and if you can A) get a work visa B) get your mining induction courses done, and C) pass our trade skills recognition course, you could score a job as an electrician in the mines fairly easily, and get paid $100,000+ AUD working 2 weeks on, 1 week off. Only thing is, it will be 1000km from anywhere exciting, unless you like fishing and hunting and have a penchant for the Australian Outback.

A) Work Visa
Not an expert on work visa's in my own country, but I think they are relatively easy. We have a skills shortage in mining and resources industry in terms of engineers, boilermakers, electricians etc. Lots of mining corporations are sponsoring migrants on work Visa's who have skills such as these. Try the Australian Government website, or there are heaps of mining recruitment agencies around.

B) Many training organisations in Australia run these safety courses. They aren't all that difficult, you pay your money, do the course, get your ticket.

C) In Queensland state where I am from, you'd need to go to a TAFE (Technical And Further Education) College and enrol to undertake a course to get your Electrical Fitter Mechanic's licence - this involves practical and theoretical testing on your knowledge of electrical testing mainly, and probably some AS3000 Wiring Rules questions. We do have a high proportion of electricians from the UK and South Africa in particular so it is common here to have migrant skills recognition, and an important part of our economy and development. Bottom line is, we need skilled people, the USA doesn't seem to. You could also bypass this process and get a job as an Electrical Trades Assistant, which basically means you have to work under the supervision of a licenced electrician. You can still earn decent money doing that dependant on your skills and ability. It's not uncommon for ETA's earning $30-40 per hour on a full time wage.

Rightly or wrongly, Australia has very good wages and conditions. Minimum of 4 weeks paid holiday per year, 10 days paid sick leave, paid bereavement leave, high minimum wage, lots of workers right, mandatory 9% employer superannuation payments etc. The approximate average annual wage for a typical electrician working construction in a city area would be about $60,000-$70,000 + 9% super, plus a work van, mobile phone, uniforms, etc. In mining, it would be more like $100,000 - $150,000 plus free accommodation and food while you're on shift (usually about 10-15 days on, 4-7 days off), and maybe even Fly-in, Fly out to a nearby city.

One thing to note though is that we do have a high cost of living . Assuming the Aussie dollar and the US dollar is at parity, my rough guess would be that most things in Australia would cost about 20-30% more. So if you earn $70k in the USA, that will buy you 20-30% more lifestyle than the same wage in Australia.
So why are you leaving?
Welcome to the forum!
 

fmtjfw

Senior Member
Thanks for the info

Thanks for the info

I ran my qualifications through a visa points site of your government. I threw in my computer science degree as well but was still rejected for age. Turns out OZ doesn't want us old geezers.:happysad:

I had trouble figuring out the US E-3 visa specifically for you Aussies, you might want to research that.

I'm serious about suggesting you look at Canada. Like OZ with most of the population along the ocean, Canada is mostly along the US border. It being part of the Commonwealth, I think, the rules might be much looser than those for US. Nipping down from Canada to Southern California might be relatively easy.

In the US (in general, because licensing is by state, not national) there are 3 levels of Electrician Licenses (based on WV requirements):

Apprentice: Qualification -- can you breathe and move carrying heavy objects and taking orders. Can only work supervised.

Journeyman: Qualifications -- 4 years experience as Apprentice (or in some states like mine passing a 9 month 1080 hour technical school set of courses can be substituted) then passing a test on the National Electrical Code (chap 1 -- 4)
Journeyman can work unsupervised and can supervise a small number of apprentices.

Master: Qualifications -- 5 years experience as a Journeyman in a variety of work, residential, commercial, industrial then passing a much harder test on the whole National Electrical Code.

Master can do design work, act as a mentor to Journeymen and Apprentices, supervise a small number of apprentices.

Some other states don't require any (technical) licenses at all, but might require a (business) license for a contractor.

Some situations such as working maintenance and construction in industrial plants might not require a license.

In WV a (underground) mine electrician has licensing requirements unique to that industry that don't transfer back and forth to standard electricians.

Working with degreed engineers may not require any licensing, since their professional engineer's stamp certifies the design as being correct.

There are Union and Independent apprenticeship programs that can be used to meet the 4 year experience requirement for apprentices. These programs also include training paralleling the technical school training I took.

Hope this helps!:)
 

fmtjfw

Senior Member
Here's a piece of trivial for you:

Here's a piece of trivial for you:

Before the US adopted the current 3-wire plug (two parallel blades for power, a round blade for ground(earth)) industry favored a plug that was identical to the current Australian three blade plug for grounding (earthing). This was patented in the US in 1916
http://www.google.com/patents?id=cCNQAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

The plugs were used for both 120VAC and 240VAC circuits and the receptacles usually had the non-angled blade bonded to the yoke for grounding. Using them for both 120 and 240 volts was not a good idea.

They didn't gain wide usage because the receptacles were not compatible with the 2 parallel blade non-grounding plugs.
The current grounding 3 prong 120V receptacles are compatible with the 2 prong non-grounding plugs.

The 277VAC grounding plug is a hybrid, using the two angled blades from the Australian plug for power and the round blade for grounding.
 
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Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Before the US adopted the current 3-wire plug (two parallel blades for power, a round blade for ground(earth)) industry favored a plug that was identical to the current Australian three blade plug for grounding (earthing). This was patented in the US in 1916
http://www.google.com/patents?id=cC...=gbs_selected_pages&cad=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

The plugs were used for both 120VAC and 240VAC circuits and the receptacles usually had the non-angled blade bonded to the yoke for grounding. Using them for both 120 and 240 volts was not a good idea.

They didn't gain wide usage because the receptacles were not compatible with the 2 parallel blade non-grounding plugs.
The current grounding 3 prong 120V receptacles are compatible with the 2 prong non-grounding plugs.

The 277VAC grounding plug is a hybrid, using the two angled blades from the Australian plug for power and the round blade for grounding.
Nice piece of trivia there! I have a question, this is probably not the right place for it, but anyway.... Why do you guys use steel conduit for everything? Is it because of fire resistance or just for mechanical protection? Or is it used in lieu of a protective earthing conductor? I was amazed by the electrical work I saw whilst over there, it was incredibly neat and the steel conduit I'm sure is practically bullet-proof, but it looked very expensive and labor-intensive? Not trying to say you're doing it wrong or anything, I'm just genuinely interested as to why it's done this way? Looks great, but also looks like a lot of hard work!!

Over here, and through Europe we generally use double insulated 90oC rated cables (with active, neutral and earth (ground) conductors) for most of our installations. It is generally not enclosed in conduit of any kind unless it's surface mounted or underground, and this is usually PVC conduit or duct. Generally cables in ceiling voids are either clipped to a beam, tied to a catenary wire, or for larger bundles of cables they are laid in open steel cable trays. We do have steel conduit but it is generally only used where mechanical protection is required such as railway stations (to resist vandals) and perhaps some industrial/mining applications.

When I was in the US, it looked like all cables are run in steel conduit, whether it be rigid conduit or flexible conduit. For example, when we were in a few of the shops with no ceilings and exposed services, where you guys have a bunch of, say, 10 steel conduits running along suspended unistrut, we would just have a 300mm open steel cable tray with the cables laid and tied (neatly...) in the tray.

It hasn't always been the case, we did used to use earthed pressed metal conduit, containing single insulated conductors, but this was discontinued in the mid 1900's I believe - although I did come across it a few times in older buildings during my time in the field as an electrician.

Very interested to find this out!
 

Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
BTW, thanks for the info about VISA's. I like your suggestion of Canada. Being part of the commonwealth should make things easier. I know with New Zealand we basically get a free pass and vice versa (probably why Australia is full of New Zealanders....)
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I am pretty much convinced the main reason we still use conduit has to do more with political factors than with technical ones. Unions and contractors have a lot of political clout and they both benefit greatly from requiring the use of conduit over less expensive but just as useful wiring methods.

Given representatives of these groups dominate all building departments and AHJ, and the code making bodies, it should not surprise you why conduit is so prevalent in the US.

Cable tray is not unheard of though. I don't know why it is not more common in places it is allowed to be used. I suspect there are some non-obvious things that weigh against it when such things are decided. Probably not technical in nature.
 

fmtjfw

Senior Member
Nice piece of trivia there! I have a question, this is probably not the right place for it, but anyway.... Why do you guys use steel conduit for everything? Is it because of fire resistance or just for mechanical protection? Or is it used in lieu of a protective earthing conductor? I was amazed by the electrical work I saw whilst over there, it was incredibly neat and the steel conduit I'm sure is practically bullet-proof, but it looked very expensive and labor-intensive? Not trying to say you're doing it wrong or anything, I'm just genuinely interested as to why it's done this way? Looks great, but also looks like a lot of hard work!!

Over here, and through Europe we generally use double insulated 90oC rated cables (with active, neutral and earth (ground) conductors) for most of our installations. It is generally not enclosed in conduit of any kind unless it's surface mounted or underground, and this is usually PVC conduit or duct. Generally cables in ceiling voids are either clipped to a beam, tied to a catenary wire, or for larger bundles of cables they are laid in open steel cable trays. We do have steel conduit but it is generally only used where mechanical protection is required such as railway stations (to resist vandals) and perhaps some industrial/mining applications.

When I was in the US, it looked like all cables are run in steel conduit, whether it be rigid conduit or flexible conduit. For example, when we were in a few of the shops with no ceilings and exposed services, where you guys have a bunch of, say, 10 steel conduits running along suspended unistrut, we would just have a 300mm open steel cable tray with the cables laid and tied (neatly...) in the tray.

It hasn't always been the case, we did used to use earthed pressed metal conduit, containing single insulated conductors, but this was discontinued in the mid 1900's I believe - although I did come across it a few times in older buildings during my time in the field as an electrician.

Very interested to find this out!
The following is a very broad generalization of US practice:

Most residential housing (single family, two family and some multifamily) uses NM cable which is 90?C wire (hot, neutral, and ground) in a 60?C plastic sheath. It is almost always concealed in the walls which is why you did not see it. Some localities (Chicago, for instance) require conduit for residential for political and Union reasons (although another reason is that Chicago burned down, I think in 1906).

Most commercial and industrial work is done in conduit or metal sheathed cables. Many locations are considered "places of public assembly" and are generally required to have wiring contained in metal. The easiest metal is MC or AC which is wires contained in a spiral metal sheath and not designed to have the wire withdrawn. The conduit comes in heavy duty pipe RMC, lighter duty pipe IMC, or light duty tubing EMT. The conduit is designed to be installed without the wires in it then after it is finished, the wires are pulled or pushed into it. This allows the wiring to be upgraded or changed without redoing the mechanical work.

Plastic conduit, Usually PVC which is the same dimensions as the RMC metal conduit is used outdoors, indoors in wet locations. We also have a plastic corrugated plastic duct call ENT which is like your duct (if you follow the German, European practice) which is the same dimensions as PVC (PVC fittings fit ENT). We call it Smurf tube because the normal color is Smurf blue. It is often embedded in concrete.

We have cable trays, but they are often found in large commercial and industrial work. In large commercial applications cable trays are often used for low voltage wiring: telephone and Ethernet cables.

There are a dozen other wiring methods but those are less widely used.

MI cable is a metal sheathed, mineral powder insulated cable with one or more bare conductors inside. Used most often for its ruggedness and heat resistance.

Our catenary wiring is called messenger cable supported and pretty uncommon.
 

Toby_OZ

Member
Location
Australia
Ah yes I see. It's a wonder the unions haven't done that here - they have quite a strong presence here as well, although they seem to only spend their time organising strikes, extorting employers, demanding pay rises for their members, and (allegedly of course) partaking in underworld crime activities.

The most common types of conduit used here for electrical is orange PVC (underground) and grey PVC (in concrete slabs, surface mounted, etc). We also tend to use quite a bit of rectangular profile ducting with snap-on lid (hence it's trade name of Aussie-duct...).

Of course there are a myriad of other wiring methods using various ducting profiles, materials etc, probably much the same as any country. Most of our switchgear, lighting, automation & controls and busduct product comes from Europe (Germany usually). More recently, asian countries such as China have basically patent-copied most of the stuff that comes out of Europe and are flooding the Australian market with inferior quality products with bogus supporting documentation - but I'm sure you guys have the same problems over there.
 
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