California Electrician License: How to Get Certified as an Electrician in CA
Looking for a career in California that will spark your interest and send you home with a nice paycheck? Consider getting your electrician license. The industry is already on the rise, and California is projected to see over 7,500 new electrician job openings by the year 2028.
This high demand for electricians helps increase your earning potential. That’s probably why electricians in California make 26% more than the national average. Earning your contractor license (C-10) gives you even greater earning potential since you can take on larger projects and run your own business.
Interested in earning your C-10 electrical license but not sure where to start? Don’t worry. We’ll cover everything you need to know below:
- Do you need a license to be an electrician in California?
- What are the different electrical licenses in California?
- California electrician license requirements
- How do I become an electrician in California?
- California electrician license exam
- California electrician license reciprocity
- How much does it cost to become an electrician in California?
- Do I need to renew my electrician license?
- What happens if my electrician license expires?
- Penalties for contracting without a license
- Requirements for business owners
- Does an electrical license in California increase your earning potential?
Don’t forget to bookmark this page as an easy reference for all C-10 electrical licensing questions.
Do you need a license to be an electrician in California?
Yes, you need a license to perform electrical work in California. The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) offers the Electrician Certification Program (ECP) to aspiring electricians who want to work for companies. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) offers the C-10 electrical contractor license to entrepreneurs. Both bodies oversee licensing, examinations, and renewals in the sunshine state.
This structure offers multiple electrical license paths. Which path you take depends on your desired work and location. This guide is for those who want to become an electrician and run their own business; the goal is to earn a C-10 license.
To work for a company as an electrician, fire and life safety electrical technician, voice data video technician, or lighting technician, you can complete the steps outlined in the ECP.
Earning your C-10 electrical contractor license gives you the ability to place, install, erect, or connect any parts of the following items that generate, transmit, transform, or utilize electrical energy:
- Electrical wires
- Solar photovoltaic cells or any related part
What are the different electrical licenses in California?
Unlike other states, California doesn’t offer Journeyman or Master licenses. Instead, those seeking a C-10 electrical contractor license must first register as an electrician trainee before becoming certified as a general electrician through the ECP.
- Electrician trainee: Able to perform work under the supervision of a C-10 licensed electrician
- General electrician certification: Able to complete electrical work on residential, industrial, and commercial projects for contractors with a C-10 license
- C-10 electrical contractor license: Able to own their own business and oversee licensed electricians as a qualifier
California electrician license requirements
Applicants looking to earn their C-10 electrical contractor licenses need 4 years of full-time electrical experience signed off by a qualified individual or employer. To gain this experience, you’ll need to register as an electrician trainee and get your general electrician certification.
To gain more experience, you can enroll in an apprenticeship program. You can search your local listings for available programs using DIR’s Find an apprenticeship program tool.
Requirements to register as an electrician trainee:
- submit the electrician trainee application form along with a $25 check payable to DIR – Electrician Certification Fund
- show proof of enrollment in an accredited school
Requirements to enroll in the ECP:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma/GED (must have earned a C or higher in Algebra)
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Pass an aptitude and physical test
- Pass a drug test
Applications for the electrician trainee, and ECP programs can be mailed to:
Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)
DLSE-Electrician Certification Unit
P.O. Box 511286
Los Angeles, CA 90051-7841
How do I become an electrician in California? Here’s how to get your C-10 license
The process for earning a C-10 electrical contractor license in California is unique: you’ll first have to complete the ECP before applying for the C-10 license. The sections below will detail the steps you need to take to receive your license, starting with the ECP.
On average, it takes about 4 years to earn your C-10 electrical contractor license.
ELECTRICAL CERTIFICATION PROGRAM (ECP)
1.Register as an electrical trainee: To begin gaining work experience, you must first register as an electrical trainee. Fill out an application form, pay a $25 fee, and provide proof of enrollment in an accredited school to register.
2. Complete the required training hours: Trainees must complete an apprenticeship program or electrician license school to fulfill their needed hours. Depending on the program, you’ll have to meet a set number of training hours:
- Residential electricians: 4,800 hours of training
- Fire/life safety and Voice data technicians: complete 4,000 hours of training
- Non-residential lighting technicians: complete 2,000 hours of training
- General electrician: complete 8,000 hours of training
3. Submit the application and pay any fees: To be eligible for your license, you must first submit an application to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for approval for examination (DLSE)
4. Take the exam: Exam length varies by classification. The Electrician Certification Program’s FAQ page has details on exam questions, content, and time allotted for each classification.
C-10 ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR LICENSE
- Earn your electrical license: before you can apply for your C-10 license, you must first obtain your electrician license by completing the ECP.
- Gain the necessary work experience: To be eligible for a C-10 license, applicants must have 4 years of full-time electrical experience after earning their electrical certification. An employer or qualified individual must verify the experience.
- Take the exams: Applicants must take two exams to earn their contractor’s license, the C-10 and the Law and Business exams.
- Submit a Live Scan fingerprint: You must submit a fingerprint scan to be eligible for your license. Applicants can find a fingerprint scan provider on the Department of Justice website.
- Provide proof of insurance: C-10 contractors must submit proof of the required bonds and insurance to receive their license. Applicants must submit a $12,500 filed bond. You must submit an additional $7,500 bond and workers’ compensation insurance if hiring employees.
The California electrician license application can be mailed to:
DIR-Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
Attn: Electrician Certification Unit
PO Box 511286 Los Angeles, CA 90051-7841
California electrician license exam
You’ll be required to take an exam to complete the Electrician Certification Program (ECP) and two exams for the C-10 license: the C-10 Trade exam and the Law and Business exam. The ECP exam for the general electrician certification includes 100 questions and will take you 4.5 hours to complete.
After submitting your C-10 license application, the board will send you a Notice to Appear For Examination with more information on how to schedule your exam. Exams are conducted via computer testing through PSI exams. To be eligible for the exam, you must schedule it within a year of receiving your notice. Each exam consists of 115 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have 3 hours to complete each test. You must score at least a 70% on each exam to pass.
The ECP exam consists of 4 sections:
- Determination of electrical system requirements
- Maintenance and repair
The C-10 trade exam consists of 5 sections:
- Planning and estimating
- Rough wiring
- Finish wiring and trim
- Startup, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance
LAW AND BUSINESS EXAM
The Law and Business exam consists of 7 sections:
- Business organization and licensing
- Business Finances
- Employment Requirements
- Insurance and Liens
- Contract Requirements and Execution
- Public Works
California electrician license reciprocity
Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow an out-of-state license to be active in another state. California currently has reciprocity agreements with the following states:
To claim reciprocity, out-of-state applicants must have held an active license for at least 5 years. Applicants must complete a Request for Verification of License Reciprocity and submit an Application for Original Contractor’s License online or by mail.
Reciprocity applications can be mailed to:
Contractors State License Board
9821 Business Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 26000, Sacramento, CA 95826
How much does it cost to become an electrician in California?
You will need to pay a few fees to earn and maintain your C-10 electrical contractor license.
- Electrical Trainee registration: $25
- Tuition for a trade school/apprenticeship program: Varies based on the school, ranges from $5,000-$10,000
- General electrician examination fee: $10
- General electrician registration fee: $75 (paid once to take the exam)
- C-10 contractor registration fee: $330 (paid once to take the exam)
- C-10 contractor license issuing fee: $200
- Live Scan Fingerprint: $49 plus a rolling fee (rolling fee varies based on Live Scan provider)
- Replacing a lost certification card: $30
- Replacing a lost contractor license: $12
Do I need to renew my electrician license?
Your general electrician certification will expire 3 years from the effective date. Your C-10 electrical contractor license will expire every 2 years on the last day of the month you received your license.
The cost to renew your contractor license varies based on the status of your license:
- Active Renewal (Sole Owner): $450 +$20 electrician fund
- Active Renewal (Sole Owner – Late): $675 +$20 electrician fund
- Active Renewal (Non-Sole Owner): $700 +$20 electrician fund
- Active Renewal (Non-Sole Owner – Late): $1,050 +$20 electrician fund
- Inactive Renewal (Sole Owner): $300
- Inactive Renewal (Sole Owner – Late): $450
- Inactive Renewal (Non-Sole Owner): $500
- Inactive Renewal (Non-Sole Owner – Late): $750
Depending on how you qualify, your process to renew will vary. Single-qualifiers can renew their license using the CSLB’s online portal. Multiple qualifiers, however, will need to manually fill in the electrician license renewal form and either hand-deliver it or mail it in. Renewal applications can be mailed to:
Contractors State License Board
PO Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826
ELECTRICIAN CERTIFICATION LICENSE RENEWAL
To renew your general electrician certification, you’ll need to:
- complete at least 2,000 hours of work within the industry
- complete 32 hours of continuing education
- submit a renewal application
- pay the $100 renewal fee
Renewal forms, and payment can be mailed to:
DIR-Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement
Attn: Electrician Certification Unit
PO Box 511286 Los Angeles, CA 90051-7841
What happens if my electrician license expires?
If your general electrician certification expires while you still need it, you’ll need to pay the $200 fee to retake the exam.
If your C-10 electrical contractor license expires, you must stop any electrical work immediately. It will be considered delinquent, so you’ll have to pay a late fee to renew. If it’s expired for more than 5 years, it’ll be considered inactive, and you’ll need to reapply by completing an application for an Original Contractor’s License. To check the status of your license, you can use the CSLB’s license number verification tool.
Penalties for contracting without a license
You’ll want to avoid performing electrical work without a license. DIR will prohibit those working without valid certification from taking the exam for 7 years. CSLB will issue misdemeanor charges with penalties that include up to 6 months of jail time, a fine upwards of $5,000, and administrative fees ranging from $200-$15,000.
You can also face felony charges if you attempt to mislead consumers into thinking you have your contractor’s license. Operating without a C-10 license under the presumption of having one or using another individual’s license number is a felony charge and could lead to time in state prison.
Requirements for business owners
Looking to start your own electrical business in California? You’ll need to take additional steps beyond getting your C-10 contractor license. On average, it costs between $5,000-$25,000 to get things going.
Before starting your business, you’ll need to establish what kind of company structure you’ll use:
- Sole proprietorship: For business owners working alone
- Partnership: A business with two or more partners
- LLC: Option for a business with two or more employees that incorporates liability to protect your assets
Once decided, you’ll need to apply for a business license and get the necessary insurance. You’ll need the following insurances:
- General liability insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Worker’s compensation insurance
- Equipment Insurance
- Property Insurance
The specific insurance costs will vary based on each business, but you can find some insurance plans as low as $29 per month.
After registering your business and acquiring the needed insurance, your next step is securing your business’s equipment. You should have the following:
- Voltage tester
- Wire cutters
- Electric drill
- Fish tape
- Tape measure
Once you’ve collected the necessary equipment, you’ll need to determine what kinds of services you’ll offer. Common services include:
- Doorbell installation
- Wiring a new outlet or switch
- Installing an electric car charging station
- Installing a video surveillance system
- Installing a new electrical panel
- Removing knob and tube wiring
When pricing your electrical services, make sure to take note of the prices of fellow electrical businesses, so you can ensure your prices are fair yet competitive.
Does an electrical license in California increase your earning potential?
Yes, earning your electrical license increases your earning potential in California. Nationwide, electricians earn an average of $53,136 per year. California is a great place to start your electrical career, as electricians earn 26% more than the national average, with an average salary of $67,826.
As you gain more experience, your earning potential increases. After gaining 3 years of experience, electricians see a salary jump of 27%. That’s an additional $13,246 in your pocket each year! Check out our Essential Electrician Salary Guide for more information on salary averages, base employee pay, and more.