Electrical work requires specialized knowledge and sound judgment. This guide reviews the requirements to attain a North Carolina electrical license. It also provides information about electrical education, unions, and insurance.
Yes, you need a North Carolina electrical license.
There are 10 license classifications, and each stipulates a scope of work with specific limitations. Limited, intermediate, and unlimited licenses allow licensees to work on residential, commercial, and industrial projects.
Contractors who only hold restricted specialty licenses are not permitted to do general electrical work. All licenses require applicants to have at least one year of primary work experience.
North Carolina’s 10 classifications for electrical contractor licenses are:
Limited (L): To qualify for a limited license, an electrician must have two years of working experience. One of those years must be primary experience. A limited license allows electrical contractors to work on projects valued at $10,000 or less.
Intermediate (I): Electricians applying for this license must have four years of work experience. Two and a half of those years must involve primary work experience. An intermediate license allows electrical contractors to work on projects valued at up to $50,000.
Unlimited (U): The unlimited license requires five years of professional work experience, at least four must involve primary work experience. There are no limits on the monetary value of projects with unlimited licenses.
Residential Single Family Dwelling (SP-SFD): The SP-SFD designation is a restricted license that allows the electrical contractor to perform electrical work in a single family residence. The SP-SFD requires two years of experience, at least one must involve primary experience.
Fire Alarm/Low Voltage (SP-FA/LV): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain low-voltage wiring such as fire alarms. You must have two years experience, one must involve primary experience.
Elevator (SP-EL): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain wiring in the course of the licensee’s elevator or hoist business. You must have four years experience, and two and a half of those years must involve primary experience.
Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning (SP-PH): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain wiring in the course of the licensee’s HVAC or plumbing business. Two years of experience, including one year of primary experience, are required for this license.
Groundwater pump (SP-WP): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain wiring in the course of the licensee’s ground pump business. This license requires two years of experience, including one year of primary experience.
Electric Sign (SP-ES): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain wiring in the course of the licensee’s electrical sign business. This license requires two years of experience, including one year of primary experience.
Swimming Pool (SP-SP): This restricted specialty license allows contractors to install, repair, and maintain wiring in the course of the licensee’s swimming pool business. This license requires two years of experience, including one year of primary experience.
More information on the specific scope of practice for restricted specialty licenses can be found in North Carolina General Statutes > Chapter 87 > Article 4.
Salaries for electricians in North Carolina vary by location and license classification. An electrician with a limited license in Rocky Point may earn around $42,000 a year, while an electrician with an unlimited license in Raleigh may earn as much as $180,000 a year.
Electrical contracting licensure is regulated by the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors. Every license classification requires an examination. To sit for any of these examinations, you must submit an application along with an $85 fee. In addition, you must be at least 18 years old and submit two character references.
Examinations for limited, intermediate, and unlimited licenses consist of 100 questions, and a 70% is a passing score. You’ll be given six hours to complete the test.
Individuals interested in obtaining a North Carolina electrical license may enroll in electrician courses at a community college or technical schools. In most instances, you’ll need a high school diploma or a GED.
Community colleges are the more affordable of the two options. In 2018, the average in-state tuition at a community college in the Tar Heel State was approximately $3,500 a year. Tuition at a technical college may cost $11,000 a year. If you learn on the job through a union or company apprenticeship, you’ll earn a modest wage.
It will take two years to earn an associate’s degree in electrical systems technology. Note that different schools may have different names for this program. Most technical schools also offer certification programs. Online electrical contracting programs exist as well.
You’ll learn electrical basics, such as how to install wiring in accordance with safety codes and the proper method of working with high-voltage wiring and equipment. You’ll also learn the fundamentals of electrical switches, circuits and panels, conduit work, and commercial and industrial wiring. You’ll be required to purchase your own tools.
You’ll need practical experience in order to be licensed. Though North Carolina does not license apprentice electricians, apprenticeship programs are offered through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) as well as through private companies and training institutes. Professional organizations like the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) occasionally offer apprenticeships as well.
The electricians’ union in North Carolina is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Dues are $360 a year. There are many advantages to joining. Union jobs typically pay more than non-union jobs and carry better benefits. Union contracts also tend to give you more support for job site safety. On the other hand, IBEW may disregard your non-union experience.
Skilled electricians are in high demand. Networking opportunities can help you find jobs. While approximately 10% of all electricians are self-employed, the other 90% are interviewing to land work. Interviewers are looking for solid math and verbal communication skills, mechanical aptitude, physical fitness, and a healthy respect for safety management.
If you are working for an employer, you will be covered by their insurance. If you are an independent electrical contractor or you own an electrical contracting business, you will need an insurance plan to protect you against both professional and general liability. Electrical contracting carries more risk than most other types of work.
The construction industry is booming in the Tar Heel State. As a result, there’s a high demand for professionals qualified to perform electrical system installations in residential, commercial, and industrial structures. To date, automation has not been a trend in the construction industry, but that trend is changing quickly with the use of augmented reality technology. Wearable tech, such as smart glasses and intelligent headwear, are engineered to identify worker fatigue, making job sites safer. You can learn more about industry trends by attending trade shows.
North Carolina has reciprocity agreements for electrical contracting licenses with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
A North Carolina electrical license must be renewed yearly. You will need to take 10 hours of continuing education classes to renew your license, and at least half of those hours must be classroom training. Fees are $75 for a limited license renewal, $115 for an intermediate level renewal, and $165 for an unlimited license renewal.
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