Master Electrician License Requirements

What is a master electrician? A master electrician is a professional electrician who has completed all of the required training and has significant experience in the field. So, what specific training is needed and how long does it take to become a master electrician? The usual career path for master electricians includes four to five years of apprenticeship, followed by at least two years as a journeyperson.

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Becoming a licensed master electrician is an exciting culmination of all the years of hard work you put in as an apprentice and a journeyperson. Although it may feel satisfying to be approaching this apex in your career, you will likely need to complete a few additional steps before you have earned the right to call yourself a master. Master electrician requirements can vary from state to state, but in most places they are required to pass an examination and acquire a master electrician license.

How to Acquire Training in the Trade

As mentioned above, becoming a master electrician will involve a long journey through various levels of the trade, including completing your apprenticeship and journey-level experience. However, you should know that before even beginning training as an electrician, there are specific prerequisites you’ll need to meet. Some of these requirements may be variable depending on where you will be trained, but in general, you’ll need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, have access to a reliable source of transportation and be at least 18 years of age.

However, you may be exempt from these specific rules if you are entering training through a high school trade program. You will also be expected to have sufficient physical fitness to perform the job duties and be able to pass a drug test. Some programs will also require you to pass an algebra and reading comprehension examination prior to acceptance. 

There are many pathways to training in the trade. Some choose to enter directly into an apprenticeship, while others prefer to complete a training program through a local trade school or community college. Although becoming an apprentice directly may seem like a faster path to becoming fully qualified, attendance in a training program could help you to be more competitive when applying for a program and is worth considering as a valid option. 

Finding an apprenticeship can be as easy as completing a web search for employment opportunities and applying for an open position. If this is an option you’re considering, this website is a helpful resource to help you find a match in your area. However, you may also consider applying for a union apprenticeship or non-union (open-shop) apprenticeship if one is available near you. 

Choosing between union and non-union apprenticeships is tricky, and your decision will depend on your confidence, ability and personality. Union apprenticeships generally are more competitive, have more prerequisites and offer better pay. Non-union apprenticeships do not require payment of dues and have a less strict division of labor.

Union apprenticeships are offered through a partnership of two unions: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and coordinated through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs). Non-union apprenticeships are available through local contractors or by applying to an official training program offered by non-union trade organizations such as the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

Working as a Journeyman: The Bridge from Apprentice to Master

Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be able to seek your credentials as a journeyperson. In general, in order to work as a fully qualified journeyperson, you’ll need to pass an examination based on local building codes and procure a license. Although this process can be stressful, it will reward you with more independence, responsibility and a significant increase in pay.

The two or more years you spend as a journeyperson are essential to becoming a master electrician. Not only is this a required step in most places, but this is also a critical time for continued learning and preparation for your time as a master. As a journeyperson, you will be experiencing certain aspects of the career for the first time. These new responsibilities include supervising apprentices, managing a crew and ensuring building codes are met at all times.

However, having a slew of new responsibilities does not come without support. During this stage of your career, you are still required to work under the supervision of a master electrician. This access to a master electrician will allow you to continue to learn in preparation for becoming a master yourself.

Requirements for Master Electrician Licensing

State-by-state requirements for licensing vary greatly. However, in most places, you can expect to be required to obtain a license if you are planning to work as a master electrician. In general, in order to qualify for licensure, you’ll need to have met the minimum requirements, which include passing an exam based on local building codes.

In some states, there is no specific master electrician license, but anyone who’s doing contracting work will have to apply for a contractor’s license. In other states, licensing is not required at a statewide level, but beware because local areas will often have licensing requirements of their own. Regardless of where you plan to work, it is essential to ensure you have thoroughly researched the specific requirements in your area. For resources, you can check your statewide licensing board, local trade organization or local union chapter.

Working as a Master Electrician

You may be wondering if the job responsibilities of a master electrician are so different from those of a journeyperson electrician. In many aspects, they may be the same. As a master electrician, you will still be responsible for inspecting, repairing and installing, wiring, transformers, circuit breakers, motors and controls. You will also need to adhere to code regulations and read blueprints as part of your day-to-day work.

However, there are a few significant differences between a master electrician and a journeyperson. In fact, there are specific job duties that only a master is qualified to perform. These include designing electrical systems, dealing with permit agents and owning a business. In addition, masters are the only electricians who can work with complete independence, as they are not required to have another electrician provide oversight for their work.

This increased amount of freedom in your career carries a significant amount of responsibility. As the top of the ladder, master electricians are responsible for every electrician who works beneath them and reports to them as a direct supervisor. This considerable responsibility means that any mistakes made on the job site will ultimately need to be answered for by the master. As such, if you lack experience managing others, you may want to seek some training in this area.

As the only electricians who can oversee all other electricians on the job and work without direct supervision themselves, the master electrician has the ability to own their own contracting company. For some, this may mean working entirely alone, managing their own schedules and client load, while others who are more ambitious may wish to start a larger, more lucrative contracting company. However, business ownership does not need to a goal be for you, as master electricians are hired in many industries, including factories, hospitals and office buildings, to provide ongoing maintenance.