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How to become an electrician and get your business license

Electrician: the one career that literally keeps the lights on!

The electrical trade is hugely important to the community, ensuring that all electrical systems in your area are running smoothly and safely.

The BLS estimates an 8% increase in electrician jobs between 2019 and 2029, well above the general job increase rate of 5%. Electrical work can be pretty lucrative as well, with the median annual salary being about $57,000 as of May 2020.

Below is a rundown of what to expect as you start your journey to master electrician.

What is an electrician license?

An electrician license shows that you have the proper knowledge and competency to work as an electrician in your area. Pretty straightforward.

However, actually getting an electrician license can be anything but. Since electrical work can be extremely hazardous, and public safety is a huge concern when doing this kind of work, the process of getting electrical licensing can be pretty rigorous.

Nearly every state will require that you complete an apprenticeship program. Every state has different requirements for how long you’ll need to be an electrician trainee before you can get your license, though it’s usually about 8,000 hours. If you took a technical training program, or have military electrician training, these may be used towards your training hours, though that will depend on your apprenticeship’s requirements.

As an apprentice, your time will mostly be spent on practical, paid, on-the-job training, usually under a journeyman electrician who will serve as your mentor, though some technical classroom time will also be required.

Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’re ready to take your journeyman licensing exam. While states can develop their own personal exams, most will center around an in-depth knowledge of the NEC. Most exams will be tailored to competencies a general electrician needs, but if you’re looking into becoming a specialist, like a residential electrician, your state may require you to take a specialized exam.

After you’ve successfully completed your exam, congratulations! You’re now able to apply for your license and work as a journeyman!

Is an electrician license the same as a business license?

No, though you may end up getting both throughout your career.

A business license shows that you can operate your business legally in your area and that your business adheres to local safety regulations. Any independently operating business will need to hold a business license, though requirements may vary across industries.

Not every electrician will need a business license, but they will need to show they are a licensed electrician.

How much does an electrician license cost?

Most electricians are required to complete paid apprenticeships, which lowers the cost of education quite a bit. Most apprenticeships pay right around their state’s minimum wage, though some can pay as high as $19 an hour. You may need to pay for the required classroom training hours (usually about 144 a year) and your tools, which can run about $2,500 a year.

If you do decide to complete a trade training program, the prices can be a bit steep. Some trade programs run as much as $30,000. Many journeyman electricians advise against these programs since you'll already be getting classroom training through your apprenticeship at a much lower cost.

Once you’re ready to take your exam, the administration fee can be between $30 to $75, depending on your state. The actual licensing can cost anywhere from $30 to $300.

All in all, you’re looking at potentially spending about $10,000 over the 2 to 5 years of your training. However, since you’ll be working as a paid apprentice for most, if not all, of it, you can say that your training will quite literally pay for itself.

How long does it take to become an electrician?

This will vary a bit across states, but most states require between 4,000 and 10,000 hours of apprenticeship work before you’re able to apply for electrical licensure. This usually translates to 2,000 hours a year. There is also required classroom training, which can be around 144 hours a year. All in all, you can expect to begin work as a journeyman in about 5 years.

If you want to become a master electrician and take on more supervisor roles on your job site, most states require at least 2 years of journeyman experience.
You can take your exam as soon as you finish your apprenticeship. Since many states have their own specialized exam, the timing of each exam may vary, but generally, expect it to take anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes.

Once you’re ready to apply for your license, it may take your state licensing board anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to process.

5 steps to become an electrician and start your own business

1) Get a high school diploma or equivalent degree

This is the vital first step in your career as an electrician, since any trade school or apprenticeship will require you to at least hold a high school diploma before they admit you to the program.

2) Complete an electrical apprenticeship

Most apprenticeship programs require between 4,000 and 10,000 hours to complete, translating to 2 to 5 years as an electrician trainee. While the process is long, the good news is, you’re paid for the on-the-job training you complete!

3) Pass your electrical exam and become a certified electrician

The specific exam may vary state-to-state, but almost all will require intensive knowledge of the NEC, so make sure you know it inside and out. You’ll also most likely be tested on practical knowledge like identifying different electrical wiring.

After you’ve passed the certification program, you’re ready to apply for your license. Some state licenses have reciprocity with other states, like Pennsylvania and Connecticut, so being licensed in one allows you to work in the other.

4) Get a business license and small business insurance

After you’ve worked as a journeyman for a few years, you may be thinking about starting your own electrical contracting company. One of the most important steps in starting a successful business is making sure you have a business license.

The process of getting a business license varies state-by-state, but in general, you’ll need to have a current electrician license and have some years of work experience.

Many states also require you to have small business insurance before obtaining a business license, and that’s no surprise. Even the most skilled electrician can run into faulty wiring that can cause property damage or bodily harm to the electrician or the client. Working on a job site with no small business insurance is like riding a motorcycle without a helmet; too dangerous to even consider.

5) Work on your continuing education

If you’re looking to advance in your career, your next step is to become a master electrician. Master electricians can obtain permits, supervise a job site, and work with supervisors in other industries that may be on the job sites (like the construction trades or telecommunications) to ensure proper workflow.

Each state has different requirements for becoming a master electrician. Still, generally, most will require two years of experience as a full-time journeyman electrician before you’re able to take Master Electrician Exam.

You may need to take continuing education courses before you renew your license. Master electricians in particular need to keep up-to-date on any changes to the National Electrical Code.

Huckleberry is here to help!

Working as an electrician can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. With so many hazards on the job site, it’s important to have the peace of mind that small business insurance can provide.

We here at Huckleberry aim to help you get the best insurance at the lowest rates we can, so you can stop worrying about disaster striking and get back to the work you love.

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