Earning your electrician certification or license (these terms are used interchangeably throughout the U.S.) is usually the final, and most-important step on the way to beginning your career in the electrical industry. Without being licensed or certified in your state, you won’t be able to work legally, so making sure that you hold the proper credential is of paramount importance.
Why is Electrician Certification Required?
The main reason why all states require their electricians to be certified is in order to protect public health and safety. Certification and licensure establish a framework within which customers and employers can both be certain that they’re working with a person who adheres to the professional standards and practices set forth by his or her industry.
In other words, having a license or certification tells everyone the electrician works with that he is competent and performs his work in a safe manner that is up to code.
Don’t take this responsibility lightly. Employers who hire non-licensed electricians can face stiff penalties, and the electricians themselves can be punished quite severely in many states. Don’t risk your future by trying to take shortcuts. Make sure that you always have a current license when working.
The Process of Becoming Licensed
The process of earning your electrician license really consists of only three parts:
- Complete the required training in your state to become eligible for testing
- Pass your state’s licensing exam
- Maintain your license by staying in compliance
Although there are different types of licenses that an electrician may hold (e.g. journeyman, master, etc.), the process for earning each is basically the same.
Let’s take a closer look at each part of the process in the tabs below.
Eligibility for Testing
Being eligible to sit for the electrician certification exam in your state usually means that you’ve completed a specified number of training hours through an apprenticeship and/or prior work experience. In some most, you will also be required to show proof of having completed some type of formal education program in electrical technology.
To find out about the specific eligibility requirements for the licensing exam in your area, click on your state below.
Electrician License Requirements By State
The Licensing Exam
Once you’ve determined that you’re eligible to take your state’s certification exam, your next order of business will be to prepare to sit for testing. The following is a quick overview of how you should approach this challenge.
Submit an Application
First, you’ll have to submit an application for testing. Applications generally have the following requirements:
- Payment of an application fee
- Provide an apprenticeship certificate and proof of completion or that you are in the last year of training
- Have proof of hours worked in on-the-job training
- Show proof that you have completed your state’s education requirements
- State which type of electrician certification exam you’re applying for (Journeyman, Master, etc.)
Once you’ve submitted your application and been accepted, you’ll be ready to move on to the next step.
Study for the Test
Now comes the important part to preparing for any exam – studying. Electrician certification tests are no different and, because the test will likely be timed, you’ll want to make sure that you know the material backward and forward.
Because many states administer their exams online today, you’ll also want to practice by using a web-based practice exam to simulate the testing conditions.
Material Covered on the Exam
Over the course of your apprenticeship and other formal training, you’ll have covered everything presented on the exam. Your studying should, therefore, be relatively straight-forward with the majority of your focus placed on memorization of specific types of codes.
The three types of codes you’ll be tested on are:
- Local electrical codes in the community where you intend to work
- Your state’s electric codes
- The National Electric Code
To get comfortable with the types of questions you’ll see on the test, be sure to take advantage of one of the many practice electrician certification exams available on the internet. An example of a practice exam can be found here.
Schedule an Exam Date
Most states are not involved in scheduling your certification exam, so you’ll have to handle this step in the process yourself. Of course, you’ll want to be at a point in your preparation work that you’re fairly confident in your mastery of the exam material before setting a date.
In most cases, your state will use a national exam provider to administer the test to candidates. These providers often provide the exam in an online environment, or at a test center in your area.
Some examples of these providers are listed below. You’ll need to check with your own state board to find out which one you must contact.
Take the Test
When you exam date comes, you’ll want to either arrive early at the testing center or give yourself time to get comfortable and block out distractions on your home computer – depending on how the test is being administered.
Be sure to get a good night’s sleep before, eat something and take all of the other steps that one would normally take when preparing for a big exam.
Results and Retesting
You can often get your test results within days of taking the exam. If you posted a passing score, then you’re essentially home free – you’ll just need wait for your license to come so you can start working.
If you did not post a passing score, most states will require you to submit a retest application and repeat the previously mentioned steps.
Maintaining Your Electrician License
Due to the ever-changing nature of electrician codes, licenses are granted with expiration dates. Three years is a common duration for most states and, at the end of this time, the electrician will be required to go through the process of getting re-certified.
Staying in good standing and keeping a current license or certification is crucial, so be sure to remain as vigilant about this process as you were about initially obtaining your license. Employers who hire uncertified electricians are subject to fines and penalties, so take this responsibility seriously.
The process of renewing your electrician certification or license is fairly straightforward and should be relatively painless if you’ve remained active in the industry since earning your license.
- You’ll need to submit an application for renewal
- You’’ll need to provide proof of your employment since the license was first issued
- A renewal fee will need to be paid
In some instances, you may also be required to take continuing education classes leading up to getting re-certified. If this is the case, you’ll also have to present proof of having completed this additional training prior to getting your electrician certification renewed.