electrician licenses

Different Types of Electrician Licenses and Their Purpose

Different Types of Electrician Licenses and Their Purpose

Electricians are skilled and licensed tradesmen who primarily install and maintain electrical systems. This encompasses a wide set of tasks, from installing lighting to troubleshooting faulty wiring. Compared to other construction-based jobs, electricians are required to go through a heavy amount of training and licensing in order to move through the ranks in their profession. Here’s a close look at the different types of electrician licenses and what needs to be done to garner each.

How To Become A Licensed Electrician

1. Obtain a license

First, we should cover how to get a license in the first place. This includes three main steps, starting with training. Anyone wanting to get into the profession needs to do an electrician apprenticeship program first. This generally includes classroom courses mixed with hands-on training, generally shadowing a master electrician. This stage takes roughly four years to progress through. Each year of the program generally includes 144 hours of classroom technical instruction along with 2,000 hours of training on the job. 

After one year of that training, you can start working with a journeyman electrician in a supervised manner, but you still don’t have your license yet. That doesn’t happen until after your program is completed. You then need to complete an exam specific to your location to get a license. If you want your master electrician license, you need to go through a whole other series of steps (more on that in a moment).

Licensing also governs the different levels of electricians. Let’s take a closer look at this. As we mentioned, the apprentice license is the first type that you get, and generally only requires you to have a high school diploma so you can start working under a journeyman and getting experience.

2. Become a journeyman

The next step is becoming a journeyman. This gives you the ability to work on larger and more complex projects without any additional supervision. Note that each state has its own requirements to get a journeyman’s license, but this generally entails doing coursework and being an apprentice for at least two years. When you’ve done this and met the minimum work hours, you can take your exam and get your license upon passing.

3. Become a master electrician

Finally, there are master electricians. These are the most qualified of all professionals, working on commercial and residential jobs while supervising. At the master level, you generally also play a role in creating concepts for projects as well as planning what laborers do. 

Most people who reach this level are already journeymen electricians and have worked under a master for a period of time. Because they have worked in the field for a few years, they have key knowledge on certain electrical systems, which is essential to pass the exam. To get their final license, they have to complete the state’s Master Electrician Certification program and accompanying exam. 

Learning The Different Types of Electricians

Most people break things down into just residential and commercial electricians. But the truth is that there are a lot more types of electrician licenses, training programs, and specialties out there. Here are some examples of different jobs an electrician could do.

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Residential Electrical Installers

Probably the most common electricians out there, they primarily focus on electrical work around homes, from wiring a house to just installing new lighting.

Commercial Installation Electricians

By comparison, installation electricians work on far larger projects for commercial buildings. The projects are commonly associated with  security, fire protection, and power.

Maintenance Electricians

 These electricians focus on diagnostics and upkeep on important electrical systems to make sure they are working their best at all times. This includes fixing machines in factories as well as utility electronics for buildings. 

Panel Builders

This job involves assembling and maintaining electrical control panels like you see with HVAC equipment.

Highway Systems Electrician

These workers focus on electronics for road systems, such as street and traffic lights. They are held to tight governmental standards to ensure public safety.

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Breaking Down Electrician Licenses and Certifications

One thing that you may be confused about is what is the difference between a certified electrician and a licensed electrician. When you’re a licensed electrician, you’re essentially at the baseline to being able to practice on your own. Certifications are voluntary and recognize experience in certain areas and specialties. Part of what makes this complicated is the fact that every state has its own rules on what you need to have in order to do certain tasks. For example, a certification may technically be voluntary, but you may need to have certain ones to start your own electrical contracting business.

While you need to reference what your state’s electrician certification requirements are, especially if you plan on becoming an electrical contractor, these are generally additional designations on top of your electrician license that demonstrate your proficiency in a certain area. Some examples here include:

Being labeled a safety compliance professional, showing that you know all the latest details about safety regulations in your area

Being a systems specialist, which shows your proficiency in certain types of electrical systems This can help you get additional jobs with specialized expertise

There are also a variety of smaller certifications for other tasks, like specializing in lighting, roadway electrical work, or being an inspector

There are a wide variety of electrical certifications out there, so anyone who is thinking about trying to advance in the industry should try and get as many as they can. Just make sure that the body that you are learning from is a legitimate and widely-respected one.

At any level, different types of electricians should be learning about the technology that’s an essential part of their job. As you work towards your electrician certifications and/or electrician licenses, you’ll learn about the base tech on the job, but we should also mention tech like project management software. Learning how to use project management software like eSUB is going to be key for driving compliance as well as being more efficient, so anyone serious about their career development should learn how to master it now.


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