How to Become a Licensed Electrician in California: License Requirements and Guide

An electrician’s job cannot be taken lightly. From ensuring that a building’s wiring is in the right condition to take extra precautions when installing and maintaining the electrical systems of residential, governmental, and other properties, an electrician, no doubt, put in a lot of expertise.

This is why the state of California requires some level of experience before anyone can even begin to take on electrical-related jobs.

In California, few skilled trades offer stability and an opportunity for career advancement and specialization.

This is why electrical-related jobs are sought after in California; they are highly stable and allows for career advancement. According to the California Development Department, there would be a 32.5% increase in the number of available jobs for electricians in the state from now to 2024. This projection is more than enough to prove that becoming an electrician in California is a great decision that would eventually pay off in years to come.

Below are some of the steps to take if you are looking to become an electrician in California:

Step 1 – Enroll in a Union to Acquire the Experience You Need to Become a Residential Electrician

In California, the first step to becoming a professional electrician is enrolling in a union or non-union training program, which must be approved by the state.

The number of hours you will be required to spend in the classroom and on the job will be dependent on the type of license you intend to pursue.

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If you are applying for the residential electrician exam, you will need to have at least 4,800 hours of on-the-job and classroom-based experience which is approximately 2.5 years, in order to qualify.

If it is the general electrician exam, then that would be 8,000 hours, approximately four years to qualify.

Whichever you opt for, you would still be required to finish at least 150 hours of classroom-based education and lab-based technical training for every year you are enrolled in your apprenticeship program.

There are 85 approved schools recognized by the California Department of Industrial Relations that offer electrical technical training. This includes vocational-technical schools, Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees (JATCs), which are sponsored by local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and also local chapters of the non-union organization Associated Builders and Contractors.

There is a Registered Trainee (RT) process that has been put in place by the state of California to ensure proper registration of people that intend to receive technical training from classroom settings. After you have secured your enrolment in an approved program, you would then have to register as an electrician trainee.

After some weeks, you will get your electrical trainee registration number which would make it possible for you to seek apprenticeships or other training opportunities you can take while working in order to meet up with the hours required to acquire a residential or a general electrician license.

Step 2 – Sit for the Examination that Would Qualify You as a Residential Electrician

A step further would be to take the examination that would earn you a residential electrician license.  With a residential electrician license, you would be authorized to construct, install, or even maintain electrical systems in single families, many families, and other residential buildings while being employed by an electrical contractor.

Some of the requirements you are to meet before earning this license are:

  • You must have worked for about 4,800 hours under the supervision of a certified electrician.
  • You must have passed the state electrician exam.
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Besides the above requirements, you would also need to fill an application and submit a detailed history of the jobs you have taken. A Social Security Administration Employment History Report has to be attached to your application.

The different number of hours you spent on particular tasks during the 4,800 hours of your employment also has to be noted because you would have to fill the hours you spent at least two separate categories.

Immediately you are approved to take the test after the submission of your application; you will be contacted.

The residential electrician exam would take about three and a half hours, and you would have to attempt 80 questions. Some of the topics that would be touched in the exam are installation, safety, electrical system requirements, maintenance, and repair.

Step 3 – Get your General Electrician Certificate

You do not have to stop at being a residential electrician; you can take a step further by receiving your general electrician certificate. General electricians are more experienced than journeyman electricians and are authorized to obtain permission from the county to work on residential properties that need electrical work. In California, general electricians are licensed to construct, install and also maintain any electrical system as long as it is covered by the National Electric Code. This they do while being employed by an electrical contractor.

Below are the requirements and instructions you must meet before you can be considered for a general electrician license in the state of California:

  • You must have worked for about 8,000 hours under the supervision of a certified electrician.
  • You must have passed the state electrician exam.

Just like the residential electrician license, you must submit your application with a document showing the history of your employment. You also need to submit a Social Security Administration Employment History Report with your application.

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You will also need to state the number of hours you used doing specific tasks during the 8,000 hours you were employed. These hours could be the ones you spent doing certain tasks like residential wiring, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

After a successful application, you will be contacted on how to take the examination.

You would spend about four and a half hours on the General Electrician Examination, and you would be required to attempt 100 questions. Some of the topics covered on the exam are installation, safety, maintenance and repair, and determination of electrical system requirements.

Step 4 – Take a Step further and Becoming an Independent Electrical Contractor

It would be impossible to sell your electrical services to people living in California without registering as an electrical contractor in the state. Also, with the license, you would be able to hire general electricians and at the same time own a business as a local contractor.

Some of the requirements for this license are:

  • You must have had four years of experience as a full-time electrician or hire someone who does. This person must be employed and work for at least 32 hours every week.
  • You must have a minimum of $2,500 as operating capital.

License Renewal in California

Residential Electrician License: This has to be renewed every three years. Failure to do so will mean a retake of the examination.

General Electrician License: This has to be renewed every three years.  Like the residential electrician license, failure to renew this license will call for a retake of the examination.

Independent Electrical Contractor License: This license has to be renewed every two years.

License Reciprocity in California

The state of California has limited electrical license reciprocity with the states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Louisiana.

Final Words

The journey to becoming a professional electrician in California might seem like a difficult one, but it is achievable.

References How to become an Electrician in California

General Contractors License Guide: California Electrical Contractor License Requirements & Trade Schools Guide

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