Electrical Contractor License Requirements

If you have been wondering how to become an electrical contractor, you probably would like more information about the career. Electrical contractors work in both commercial and residential buildings, installing, maintaining and troubleshooting electrical systems. Those who are on this career path can expect to work hard, make a stable living and, depending on their choices, eventually experience significant freedom in scheduling. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about electrical contractor license requirements.

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General electrical contractors are at the pinnacle of their career and have undergone many years of training to get to that point. Training can include electrical contractor classes and an apprenticeship. In addition, before becoming an electrical contractor, you will need to have worked for at least two years as a fully qualified electrician. For more in-depth information on this exciting career, keep reading below.

Electrical Contractor Education Requirements

There are numerous pathways for those who are training to become an electrical contractor. Some begin their career by taking an electrician training course through a local community college or trade school. Others choose to enter directly into an apprenticeship. 

In either case, you will need to meet specific prerequisites for training. These requirements generally include having earned a high school diploma or equivalent and being at least 18 years of age. However, if the training you plan to enter is part of a high school program, these requirements may be waived. 

Regardless of where you begin, your apprenticeship will be the cornerstone of your training. In fact, most training courses will include an apprenticeship concurrently with your classroom training, just as most apprenticeships will include classroom learning. Those who have completed training and earned either a certificate or associate’s degree will have a competitive edge when applying for potential apprenticeships. 

Apprenticeships exist in two forms: union apprenticeships and non-union apprenticeships.

Non-union apprenticeships, also known as open-shop, merit-based apprenticeships, are a little more open and can be entered into with a local contractor who is hiring apprentices. For a more structured approach to a non-union apprenticeship, you can seek a training program through a non-union trade organization. These programs are available through the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The advantages of being a non-union apprentice include a less structured division of labor and not needing to pay union dues each month. 

Union apprenticeships have slightly more stringent requirements than non-union apprenticeships. Specifically, you will be required to have completed an algebra course and pass an examination prior to being accepted into a program. This aptitude exam is based on reading comprehension and algebraic equations. Union apprenticeships are organized through a partnership of two unions managed by Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs) and collectively known as the Electrical Training Alliance. These programs are formed through an agreement between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). Advantages of union apprenticeships are higher wages and widespread availability.

What to Expect from Apprenticeship: Earning While Learning

Your apprenticeship is a time of learning, and an opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of an electrical contractor. During this time, you will be learning the basic concepts of wiring and electrical work and applying them on the job. These skills include installing, inspecting and repairing electrical systems, reading blueprints, working on motors and controls, laying lines, connecting circuit breakers, connecting transformers and terminating cables. In addition, you will become comfortable using the tools of the trade including pliers, needle-nose pliers, side-cutting pliers, tape measures, pipe reamers, stripping tools, voltage meters, channel locks, claw hammers and screwdrivers.

As you learn and practice these skills, you will also need to give specific attention to safety techniques. Electrical contractors bear a great deal of responsibility for public health and safety, and as such, it is essential to have a great deal of knowledge of building codes. In order to move to the next level of your career, you will need an in-depth understanding of these codes.

As you progress through your apprenticeship, you will be able to perform more and more procedures. However, those who are beginning should expect to do primarily grunt work including carrying equipment and handing tools to the master or journeyperson you are assisting on a given day. Apprentices will need to work under constant supervision from higher-level electricians, as is required by law.

Becoming a Journeyman: The Next Step in the Journey

Journeyman electricians, also known as journeyperson or journey-level electricians, have entered the next step toward becoming an electrical contractor. Those who have earned the journeyperson title, have proven a certain level of expertise in the field and demonstrated the ability to complete their tasks competently. Journey-level electricians work with more independence than apprentices and are even able to oversee the work of apprentice electricians.

In spite of this newfound freedom, the journey person cannot work with complete independence. Journey-level electricians still need to be supervised by master electricians and are barred from specific tasks, including dealing with permit agents and designing electrical systems. In most places, you will not be able to own a business or work with complete independence until you have reached the qualifications of a master electrician.

Master Electricians: The Final Step

Most electrical contractors are master electricians. This distinction occurs because the only electrician who can enter into a contract is a business owner, and only a master electrician can own a business.

As a master, you can engage in all aspects of the trade, including the supervision of a crew consisting of apprentice and journey-level electricians. Master electricians have many years of experience, extensive knowledge of building codes and the ability to troubleshoot even the most challenging problems.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Electrical Contractor?

The entire journey from apprentice to master will take an average of six to eight years, depending on your training and where you live. Most states have specific requirements for journey- and master-level electricians, including licensing. Furthermore, you will likely need to take an examination whenever you reach the requirements to level up. Credentialing exams are usually based on your knowledge of local building codes.

Although specific requirements vary by location, you should expect to spend four to five years as an apprentice before qualifying for journey-level credentials. If you have taken a training course before your apprenticeship, you may add a year or two to your training. However, this additional time may be worth it to land a more lucrative apprenticeship and enter the career with a great deal of knowledge.

Once you have become a journeyperson, you should expect to spend at least two years at this level. These two years of experience are usually required to qualify for a master electrician license or electrical contractor license. You should use this time to perfect your skills and continue learning from the master. If you plan on owning a business, this is a good time to learn management skills and perhaps even invest in a business management course.

Once you have met all of the prerequisites for an electrical contractor, you will once again need to pass an examination. In addition, you will be required to become licensed in your area. Upon gaining your credentials, you will finally become a fully-qualified, licensed electrical contractor.

State By State Electrical Contractor License Requirements

We will be shortly publishing a state-by-state licensing guide so you can discover the precise license requirements for your state.