To be an electrician in California you need a government granted C-10 license to legally perform electrical services within the state. This license is granted by California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement which sets the regulations for becoming an electrician everywhere in California.
This requirement is mandatory for those performing any job exceeding $500 regardless of how long you will be doing electrical work. If you fail to comply, CA could ban from actually applying for the license for a period of up to 7 years. If you are serious about becoming an electrician in California you won’t mind going through the process because it will lend credibility to your electrical skills over the long term.
If you are new to the electrical field you will likely start out as a trainee in California. To comply with DLSE, as a trainee, you either need to (1) pass California’s Electrician Certification Exam or (2) be currently enrolled in an approved Electrician Trainee Program and also be registered as an ET with California or (3) be enrolled in a California or federally approved Electrical Apprenticeship Program. Once you obtain the proper license, you are well on your way to making a career for yourself as an electrician in California.
Beyond California Electrician Trainee
Depending on your situation and if you are beyond the trainee stage, you can apply for one of 5 different types of CALI electrician licenses which are Residential; Fire/Life Safety Technician; Voice, Data, Video Technician; Non-residential Lighting Technician or General Electrician.
Print, view, or download California’s CSLB applications and forms here.
State Reciprocity in CA
California has reciprocity agreements with Utah, Arizona, and Nevada but there are requirements. You must have held a valid and active license in good standing for the previous five years in the state that qualifies. Application for Original Contractor License also needs to be filled out and submitted for consideration of reciprocity in California.
Electrician License in California
Once you have your California electrical license you will need to renew it every 3 years. Keep in mind you must have worked at least 2,000 hours in order to be in good standing with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or else you will likely need to retake the test.
View, download or print California’s application their certification program
Taking the California Exam
California’s Electrical Contractor examination is administered by PSI which doesn’t charge you separately because the price is included on the application fee. The test for a general electrician license is composed of 100 multiple choice questions and they limit you to 2 1/2 hours. Other CA electrical licenses involve taking other tests with less questions.
NEC standards are what the test content is based upon. The exams are open book meaning you can have materials with you for reference. You’ll need to score 70% or better to pass it but don’t worry because most people pass it. You just need to take it seriously and do some studying beforehand.
CA tests are available in Spanish since the state has a large Hispanic population. Most of the subjects on the test related to trouble shooting; system evaluation & design; rough wiring; trim and finish wiring; repair; and safety. Once the board approves your application, they will give you of the test date and location.
If you fail the test on the first try there is a 60 day waiting period before you can retake it. You will need to submit a retest form and include $100.00 for the retest.
Best Cities for Electrical Work in California
If you are planning an electrician career in the state of California you should know which areas will offer you the most work. The population centers with the highest overall electricity consumption are San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco but several other cities all the way up the coast offer good employment opportunities.
Eastern California is less populated and the resident population there tends to have less disposable income for electrical projects. The CA counties with the highest per capita income are Alameda, Alpine and Amador so that is where the money is for electrical projects.
Since California generally has great weather, you will enjoy working on the go there instead of being stuck indoors all the time. You are likely to do well if you can speak some Spanish. Best of luck pursuing your career as an electrician in the state of California!