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The Best Ways to Become an Electrician in California

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Electricians install, modify, repair and maintain electrical equipment and systems in houses and other structures. In California, electrical projects valued at less than $500 are not regulated. However, electrical projects of $500 or more require a C-10 electrical contractor license. Though anyone, essentially, can work as an electrician on very small projects, the only way to become a professional electrician authorized to work under a C-10 contractor is to obtain an electrical certification card from the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards. To obtain an electrical certification card, complete an approved course of study at a college or trade school, obtain employment as an electrician trainee and accumulate 8,000 hours of on-the-job experience.

Electrician Trainee School

To become eligible for an electrician certification, you must complete a state-approved course of study at a California college or trade school. To view a comprehensive list of approved programs, visit the Division of Apprenticeship Standards website (see Resources). The required course of study includes 750 hours of classes in electrical theory and practical methodology. Generally, trainees go to school at night so they can work as electrician trainees during the day.

Employment as an Electrician Trainee

Find employment working under a certified electrician. Typically, colleges or trade schools with electrician trainee programs help to find employment opportunities for enrolled students. Note that a certified electrician can have only a single trainee working under him at any given time. After finding work, trainees must register with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Visit the division’s website to download the appropriate registration form (see Resources). Trainee registration must be renewed annually.

To become eligible for the certification examination, you must complete classroom studies and accumulate 8,000 hours of work as a registered trainee.

Exam/Certification Application

After completing the exam prerequisites, submit an exam and certification application. The application must include documentation proving that you have completed all required courses and have accumulated the required hours of on-the-job experience. Visit the division’s website to download the application (see Resources).

Certification Examination

After verification of the application materials, you will receive an information packet containing detailed information on exam scheduling procedures, rules and content. Examinations sites are located across California. National electrical code manuals are provided to you at the test site for use on the exam. Should you fail to achieve the required 70 percent score, you must wait for 60 days before making another attempt. After successfully passing the exam, you will be issued an electrician certification card, authorizing work as a general electrician under a C-10 electrical contractor.


William Carpenter began writing professionally in 2004, working with nongovernmental organizations and business clients while living in China. He maintains clients in China while writing for a variety of U.S. publications. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Portland State University.

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