How to become a licensed electrician in California

Do You Need an Electrical License in California?

All electricians working for a contractor with a class C-10 license in California are required to be certified. This means you need a certification, hereafter referred to as a license, to legally work as an electrician in CA.

Whether you’re thinking of moving to California or are already a resident looking to get licensed, this article covers it all. We discuss the different types of electricians and varying requirements for certification for each, as well as information about continuing education courses, associated costs, and license renewals in California.

California Electrical License Types

Five types of electricians can receive licensure to work in California:

  • General electrician: This person can work on commercial, industrial, and residential properties.
  • Residential electrician: This person can only work on personal residences.
  • Fire/life/safety technician: This person works with the safety systems of different facilities.
  • Voice data video technician: This person works on security systems, video systems, networks, and communication projects.
  • Non-residential lighting technician: This person works on the indoor and outdoor lighting of commercial spaces and locations.

All major electrical work in California is supervised by a licensed C-10 contractor who works on jobs valued at over $500.

California Electrical License Requirements

Each electrician position mentioned above has distinct requirements for licensure. You’ll need a certain number of work hours and supplemental experience hours for each job type.

General Electrician License Requirements

To become a certified general electrician in California, you’ll need:

  • 8,000 logged hours of work under an electrical contractor
    • Work must include the construction, installation, and maintenance of electrical systems under the National Electrical Code
  • Work must be done in 2 or more of these areas and is restricted to a maximum number of hours listed in parentheses:
    • Troubleshooting and Maintenance (1500)
    • Finish Work and Fixtures (600)
    • Fire/Life Safety, Nurse Call (600)
    • Industrial Wiring (6000)
    • Voice Data and Video Installation (1500)
    • Underground Conduit Installation (750)
    • Stock Room and Material Handling (300)
    • Residential Writing (3000)
    • Commercial Wiring (6000)

General electricians in California make roughly $31 per hour.

Residential Electrician License Requirements

To become a certified residential electrician in California, you’ll need:

  • 4,800 hours of work under the same National Electrical Code parameters as a general electrician
  • Work areas and the maximum number of hours:
    • Fire/Life Safety (300)
    • Underground Conduit Installation (300)
    • Troubleshooting and Maintenance (600)
    • Finish Work and Fixtures (600)
    • Stock Room and Material Handling (300)
    • Residential Wiring (4800)
    • Voice Data and Video Installation (150)

Residential electricians in CA also make around $31 per hour.

Fire/Life/Safety Technician License Requirements

To become a certified fire/life/safety technician in California, you’ll need:

  • 4,000 hours of work under the same National Electrical Code parameters as a general electrician
  • Work areas and the maximum number of hours:
    • Nurse Call Systems (300)
    • Proprietary systems training related to Fire/Life Safety (300)
    • Stock Room and Material Handling (300)
    • Installation, including wire pulling, terminations, control panels devices, and finish work (4000)
    • Troubleshooting and Maintenance (750)

This position makes about $20 per hour.

Voice Data Video Technician License Requirements

To become a certified voice data video technician in California, you’ll need:

  • 4,000 hours of work under the same National Electrical Code parameters as a general electrician
  • Work areas and the maximum number of hours:
    • Stock room and material handling (300)
    • Installations, including wire pulling, terminations, control panel devices, and finish work (4,000)
    • Troubleshooting and maintenance (750)
    • Trade specific training related to Voice, Data, Video (300)

This position makes about $30-$40 per hour.

Non-Residential Lighting Technician License Requirements

To become a certified non-residential lighting technician in California, you’ll need:

  • 2,000 hours of work under the same National Electrical Code parameters as a general electrician
  • Work areas and the maximum number of hours:
    • Stock room and material handling (150)
    • Maintenance of lighting fixtures (1750)
    • Installation of retrofit fixtures (1500)
    • Troubleshooting and repairing (500)

This position makes about $16 per hour.

Getting Your CA Electrician License

Once you’ve completed your hours, you must apply to take the electrician certification exam. The application can be found on the California Department of Industrial Relations’ General Electrician page. The exam application is the same for all types of electricians.

If you register as an apprentice in a state-approved program, you can take your exam during the last year of your program.

If you possess a state-approved apprenticeship certificate, you do not have to fill out the on-the-job experience requirement on the application. An out-of-state electrician’s license is also enough proof to sit for the California exam.

You must complete, print, sign, and mail the application to the State of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Once the DLSE approves your application, you’ll receive information and a phone number you call to schedule your exam. You’ll need to complete the exam within one year from the date of notification.

If you fail the test, you’ll need to wait 60 days before applying to re-test.

Cost to Become a Licensed CA Electrician

There are various costs associated with becoming a certified electrician in California:

  • Apprenticeship program: These programs vary greatly in price. Find more information about apprenticeship programs near you here.
  • Certification exam: $75 application fee + $100 per exam
  • Exam retest: $100
  • Exam reschedule: $100
  • Exam that is retaken after 1 year: $175 (original price)
  • Replacement certification card: $30
  • Certification renewal: $100
  • 32 continuing education credits for renewal:

California Electrician License Renewals

Your California certification must be renewed every three years. Some people receive renewal information in the mail about two months before the expiration date; however, you can renew as early as one year before the expiration date.

You are required to complete 2,000 hours of work and take 32 hours of continuing education credits before renewing.

You can complete the renewal form on the Electrician Certification website and pay the $100 renewal fee. You do not have to document your 2,000 work hours, but you will legally attest that you have completed them. You must present proof of completed continuing education credits.

More answers to FAQs about renewals can be found here.

California Electrician Continuing Education Courses

All renewals are required to complete 32 hours of continuing education credits from an approved continuing education provider.

 

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