1. Earn your GED or high school diploma.
- This is a standard requirement throughout the United States and many other parts of the world, which means it will be the same no matter what trade school you end up applying to.
2. Train to become an electrician’s apprentice.
Apply to an electrical technology program in your area. There, you’ll be expected to complete a minimum of 144 classroom hours, along with 2,000-4,000 hours of on-the-job training under the guidance of a licensed residential wireman or Master Electrician.
- Search for trade schools near you that offer electrician apprenticeship programs. If you know you want to get into a specialized field, try to find an apprenticeship related to that field. For example, if you want to become an automotive electrician, you could search for an automotive apprenticeship or training program.
- The exact number of training hours you must have under your belt for each individual segment of your education (as well as other requirements) may differ depending on where you live.
- You’ll receive compensation during your stint as an electrician’s apprentice, which means it may not be necessary to juggle other jobs.
3. Complete 8,000-10,000 hours of training to graduate to journeyman.
Once you’ve earned the title of electrician’s apprentice, your next step will be to put in the time and labor required to achieve journeyman status. This phase of training often entails 500-1,000 additional classroom hours, with 1-2 years spent active on the job.
- You may need to take an exam at the end of your apprenticeship in order to be recognized as a licensed electrician. Most States require a minimum of 4 years of certified experience with a State Licensed Contractor and participation in a 4 years of State Sponsored Apprenticeship Program in order to qualify to sit for the test.
- While not as experienced as Master-level tradespersons, journeymen are considered fully-qualified in their profession and are equipped with a wide range of skills and expertise.
4. Work as a journeyman electrician for up to 5 years.
- Due to international differences in municipal electrical codes, no more than 25% of your training time may be obtained outside of the U.S.
Fact: On average, it takes roughly 7 years from the time you earn your high school diploma or GED to reach the point where you’re ready to test for your Master Electrician’s license.
5. Get a degree in electrical engineering to cut down on your training time.
If you want to accelerate your career, consider seeking either a bachelor’s or master’s of science in the field of electric engineering. Some states allow degree-holders to forego a good portion of the traditional and jobsite training required of non-degree-holding applicants.
- A tradesperson with a bachelor’s degree only needs to have around 5,000 hours (about 3½ years) of experience compared to one following a normal course. For those with master’s degrees, it’s even less—approximately 3,500 hours, or roughly 2½ years on the job.
- Degree-bridge opportunities may not be offered in every state or territory.
6. Confirm that you meet the licensing requirements for your state.
To work as a Master Electrician in the United States, you need to be at least 21 years of age and be able to read and write in English fluently. You must also have between 2 and 7½ years (as many as 17,500 hours) of direct experience, which includes your time as an apprentice and journeyman.
- Some also ask that applicants demonstrate “good moral character.” Proving this will involve providing a list of references or requesting a letter of recommendation from a current or former instructor, mentor, employer, or job leader.
7. Apply for your Master Electrician’s exam.
This examination features two parts: a written portion and a hands-on portion. Be sure to find out whether your application secures you a seat for both parts of the exam or whether you’ll need to sign up for them separately. For more information about how application or testing is conducted, contact the Labor Department or trade licensing authority for your state or territory.
- These days, applicants have the option of applying either online, in person, or by mail. Don’t forget to pay the associated application fee when it comes time to submit your application.
- You’ll be notified about the status of your application via email within 1-2 weeks.
8. Take and pass the written portion of your licensing exam.
- Exam periods are often available at multiple times and locations. Consult the schedule posted on website of the testing authority for your area to determine what time and place works best for you.
- If you end up scoring lower than a 70%, you may be able to retake the written portion of the exam after a short waiting period, usually 10-14 days.
Tip: Brush up for your written exam by studying the electrical codes for the state or territory that will be issuing your license.
9. Schedule and pass your practical exam.
If you successfully make it past the written portion of your exam, which is typically graded on site, you’ll then proceed to the remaining hands-on portion. If your original application didn’t reserve you a space for the practical exam, you’ll have the opportunity to register at this time. More details about when, where, and how this is to be carried out will be given to you on the date of your written exam.
- As part of your exam, you may be tasked with demonstrating certain skills or procedures, or directing or supervising others performing these actions.
- Like the written tests, practical examinations for the title of Master Electrician vary from region to region.
10. Be prepared to undergo a background check if necessary.
You’ll have one year from the time you receive the final grade for your practical exam to compile and turn in all of the investigation documents specified by your local Department of Labor or Buildings. These must be submitted in person by special appointment.
- Examples of documents you may be asked to supply include an up-to-date photo ID, original Social Security Card, proof of residence, recent pay stub or W-2, experience verification forms signed by past supervisors, and supplemental questionnaires.
- You will also be responsible for paying any fees levied for conducting your background check. Most of the time, investigation fees add up to around $25-50, but they could be as much as $100.
11. Fill out the final paperwork to obtain your Master Electrician’s license.
- As soon as you file for and receive a physical copy of your license, you’ll be free to begin looking for work as a card-carrying Master Electrician!
Warning: If you fail to submit your licensing forms in the allotted 365 days, you’ll be forced to retake both the written and practical portions of your Master Electrician’s exam.
12. Renew your license in the time frame specified by your state or territory.
A Master Electrician’s license is usually only valid for 1-2 years. After that, it will be necessary for you to renew your licensing paperwork by completing a short form and attaching a renewal fee of $50-100. You should be able to access the renewal form through your regional licensing authority’s website.
- Don’t worry if you’re the forgetful type—you’ll begin receiving repeated reminders by mail several months before your credentials are set to expire.
- You may also have to register for a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain your license in some states or territories.
13. More tips
If you’re planning on operating your own electrical contracting business, you may also need to apply for a separate Electrical Contractor License.
The term “certification” may be used instead of “license” or “licensing” in some areas, but the qualifications extended to you will be the same.