District of Columbia Electrical License: How to Become an Electrician in the District of Columbia
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Being an electrician isn’t just a job, it’s a solid career path. Electrical contractors working in Washington, D.C., enjoy a wide range of employment opportunities and earn a respectable income. There’s also job security—local customers will always need a skilled tradesperson to install and service electrical systems in their homes and businesses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 711,200 electricians nationwide and 1,830 work in Washington, DC. The national number is predicted to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031. That growth rate is expected to be even higher in Washington, D.C. — projected at 11%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.
Many contractors nationwide are trying to find skilled tradesmen. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions like plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians. So, if you get the training you need you will have a lot of jobs to choose from when you’re ready. The process of becoming an electrician in the District of Columbia takes time, but you get paid while you learn and gain experience!
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Licensing Requirements for Electricians in Washington, D.C.
Is a license required for electricians in Washington, D.C.? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.
The District of Columbia licenses electricians as they do plumbers and HVAC professionals through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) — Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration (OPLA). Specifically, these tradespeople are licensed through the DC Board of Industrial Trades, which was established “to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the District by ensuring that individuals engaged in these trades have the specialized skills and training required to perform such services for the public.”
Steps for Electrician Licensure in Washington, D.C.
Gain work experience in the electrical field through an apprenticeship program or work experience under a licensed master electrician.
Satisfactorily complete a class on the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations' Electrical Code, or equivalent code within two years prior to applying for a journeyman or master electrician license.
Obtain a journeyman electrician license.
Get a master electrician license.
Consider becoming a licensed independent electrical contractor.
How to Become an Electrician in Washington, D.C.
GAIN NECESSARY EXPERIENCE: There are a few common paths to acquiring the work experience required to become a licensed electrician in Washington, D.C. Those include:
Work as an apprentice electrician to gain four years of training, totaling at least 8,000 hours. Apprentices require no prior electrician experience.
Graduate from an accredited college with an electrical engineering degree and acquire at least two years of practical experience in electrical work, certified by a licensed master electrician.
Licensing applicants with at least four years of experience on the job under a master electrician licensee can obtain a journeyman electrician license by taking a licensing exam. Journeyman electricians can also take an exam and apply for a journeyman sign electrician license.
Master electricians must possess at least eight years of experience and pass an exam to attain a master electrician license through the DC Board of Industrial Trades. Nationally certified journeymen with at least four years of experience can also apply.
Earn certification through a national certifying organization that shows the state journeyman electrician applicant has passed that organization's required examination and received a journeyman electrician designation through the organization, which include nationally recognized trade organizations and labor unions.
JOURNEYMAN ELECTRICIAN LICENSURE
Journeyman By Waiver: Those electrician applicants who successfully complete an apprenticeship training program and gain the proper amount of work experience, or obtain a nationally recognized electrician certification as a journeyman, may waive the exam requirements when applying for a Washington, D.C., journeyman electrician license.
Journeyman By Exam: Journeyman electrician applicants who lack formal training must pass a state electrician exam and provide proof of four years of experience. That proof includes tax records and an employment verification letter by a master-level electrician.
Journeyman Sign Electrician: Requires a valid Washington, D.C., journeyman electrician license and passing a separate licensing exam specific to the specialty license.
Residential Maintenance Electrician: Electricians in training may apply for a residential maintenance electrician license, which requires passing a specialty licensing exam related to residential maintenance work.
MASTER ELECTRICIAN LICENSURE
Becoming a master electrician in Washington, D.C., requires eight years of work experience as a journeyman or four years of on-the-job experience gained under a master-level electrician—if also nationally certificated as a journeyman electrician— and must pass the state exam for master electricians.
Applicants must provide relevant tax records and an employment verification letter by the supervising master electrician.
Low-Voltage Electrician Licensing: Licensed electricians may apply for a low-voltage electrician license and take an exam to obtain this specialty license in D.C. These limited master electricians can work on low-voltage projects, such as landscape lighting and sound systems.
INDEPENDENT ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR LICENSING
Master electricians who want to operate an electrical contractor company can pursue an independent electrical contractor license. Only a licensed and bonded electrical contractor may pull permits, pass building inspections, and run a crew of licensed electricians. Independent contractors must carry liability insurance and a surety bond, and must apply for a business license to operate in the District of Columbia.
APPLYING FOR AN ELECTRICIAN LICENSE IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Before applying with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration, you'll need:
One 2-by-2-inch passport-style photo in jpeg format
A government-issued identification like a driver's license
Debit or credit card to pay for licensing application, exam, and license fees
Employment verification letter signed by a master-level licensee, and tax records/W2s/1099s
A journeyman license by waiver requires submitting a certificate of apprenticeship completion, formal designation certificate for national certifications, or school transcripts.
To apply for an electrician license, you must create an account on the District of Columbia's Board of Industrial Trades online credential management platform and submit a new contractor application. The board must approve your electrician application, which costs $65 for each license type, before you can schedule your licensing exam, if required.
If you encounter any issues with the electrician application process or have questions, contact a D.C. customer service representative at (866) 270-9817.
District of Columbia Electrician Exams
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Examination Unit, administers all testing for District of Columbia electrician licensing via computers, located at 1100 4th St. SW, Ste. E500, Washington, D.C., 20024.
The exams each cost $52. You can schedule online or by phone: (800) 733-9267.
The open-book exams, provided by PSI Services, allows the following reference materials during testing:
NFPA 70 — National Electrical Code (NEC)
Ugly's Electrical Reference
Journeyman Electrical Exam
The journeyman licensing exam allows four hours to answer 80 questions. It covers the following topics in this ratio:
Services and Service Equipment—11%
Branch Circuits and Conductors—19%
Wiring Methods and Materials—26%
Equipment and Devices—13%
Motors and Generators—6%
Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions—11%
Master Electrician Licensing Exam
The master electrician exam features 100 questions that must be answered in five hours. It covers the following subject areas:
General Knowledge and Plan Reading—12%
Services and Service Equipment—16%
Branch Circuits and Conductors—16%
Wiring Methods and Materials—19%
Equipment and Devices—10%
Motors and Generators—8%
Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions—12%
Journeyman Sign Electrician Licensing Exam
The journeyman sign electrician licensing exam features 40 multiple-choice questions, which must be answered within two hours. It covers the following content:
Basic Electricity and Wiring—23%
Electrical Materials and Installation—20%
Power Source, Transformers, and Motors—5%
Conductors, Branch Circuits, and Feeders—22%
Electrical Signs and Outdoor Lighting—30%
Low-Voltage Electrician Licensing Exam
The exam for a low-voltage electrician license consists of 50 questions that must be completed within three hours. It covers the following topics:
Low-Voltage Remote Control and Alarm Systems—22%
Low-Voltage Communications and Sound Systems—36%
Low-Voltage Control Circuits—14%
Fiber Optical Cables and Raceways—4%
Residential Maintenance Electrician Licensing Exam
Featuring 60 multiple-choice questions, this licensing exam takes three hours and covers the following topics:
Services and Service Equipment—22%
Branch Circuits and Conductors—26%
Wiring Methods and Materials—15%
Equipment and Devices—8%
Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions—7%
Types of Electrical Licensure in Washington, D.C.
What different types of electrician licenses does the District of Columbia issue?
Washington, D.C., offers journeyman electrician and master electrician licensing, as well as a few specialty electrical licenses and an independent electrical contractor license for those who want to operate an electrical contracting business.
Benefits of Becoming a District of Columbia Licensed Electrician
There are many benefits you’ll see from acquiring a Washington, D.C. electrician license:
Most importantly, a license is required to legally perform electrical work in D.C.
A trade license provides proof of your experience and skill.
Only licensed electricians can: work independently as an electrical contractor, operate a business and advertise services, obtain insurance and surety bonding, pull electrical permits, pass inspections, and bid on public and government projects.
A license protects your company and customers.
An electrician license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market.
It also increases your earning potential as an electrician.
What Is the Mean Wage for an Electrician in Washington, D.C.?
The annual mean wage for electricians in Washington, D.C. is $78,220 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That salary, as you might expect, increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Electrician Apprentice: The average salary for an electrician apprentice is $20.73 per hour in Washington, D.C. and $6,000 overtime per year.
Electrician: The average salary for an electrician apprentice is $31.38 per hour in Washington, D.C. and $9,438 overtime per year.
Master Electrician: The average salary for an electrician apprentice is $38.45 per hour in Washington, D.C.
Salary ranges can vary widely, depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How Much Does It Cost to Get an Electrician License in Washington, D.C.?
In addition to the $52 exam fee and license application fees, electricians in the District of Columbia must also pay a licensing fee to the DCRA. Electrician licenses last two years and must be renewed in odd years. D.C. does not require continuing education.
The initial license fee for apprentices and journeymen costs $110, and renewal also costs $110. Master Electricians pay $120 for an initial license and $155 for renewal, while independent contractors pay $120 initially and $180 for license renewal.
Other costs associated with becoming a licensed electrician in Washington, D.C. include training and education, although the District of Columbia doesn't require classroom instruction to become a licensed electrician or require continuing education to renew an electrician license.
Tuition and fees for colleges in Washington, D.C., that offer electrical technology degrees with roughly one year of schooling cost just over $21,000 on average. Those schools include Brightwood College—with campuses in Towson, Beltsville, and Baltimore, Maryland—and Lincoln Tech, with a Columbia, Maryland, location roughly 50 miles from Washington, D.C.
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How Long Does It Take to Get an Electrician License in Washington, D.C.?
To earn a journeyman electrician license through the District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades, you need four years of experience—a minimum of 4,000 hours—as an apprentice under a licensed contractor, or four years pursuing a college degree in electrical engineering and one year of on-the-job work experience under a licensed electrician or contractor. A master electrician license requires 8,000 hours of work experience.
Electrician Training in District of Columbia
You can gain electrician training in three primary ways: enroll in a technical school, join a union apprenticeship program, or work with a non-union organization for placement in an apprenticeship program.
While the District does not specifically require classroom instruction, you will receive education on setting up and maintaining electrical systems through any apprenticeship or technical school program.
In Washington, D.C., if you obtain a four-year degree in electrical engineering, you only need one year of practical work experience instead of four.
You can pursue an electrical technician diploma or associate's degree in applied electrical systems technology through a technical school. The formal training qualifies you for an entry-level trainee job, so you can begin working toward accumulating the hours required for a journeyman license.
Most electrician candidates gain the required training by enrolling in an apprenticeship program with a Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), which are partnerships between local IBEW and NECA union chapters, under the National Training Alliance. There's no cost for tuition.
Only one JATC serves the District of Columbia: the Washington DC JATC, located just outside of the city limits in Lanham, Maryland. Admission to the program requires:
At least 18 years old
Provide a photo ID
Able to physically perform in the trade
Pass a general aptitude test
Provide official copy of high school diploma or GED
Show passing grade in Algebra 1 or GED equivalent
Secure reliable transportation to job site
You can choose to pursue a non-union training program through trade organizations, which can point you to non-union electrical contractors in the area interested in taking on an electrical apprentice.
While the Washington, D.C., Metro Area does not offer any formal non-union apprenticeships, you can apply with the Independent Electrical Contractors’ Chesapeake Area Chapter in Dulles, Virginia, or Laurel, Maryland.
You can also find a complete list of non-union apprenticeship sponsors maintained by the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services.
Who Issues Electrician Licenses in the District of Columbia?
The District of Columbia Board of Industrial Trades issues electrician licensing in Washington, D.C. The board is a division of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs' (DCRA) Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration.
Does My Washington, D.C. Electrical License Work in Any Other State?
No, the District of Columbia does not offer reciprocity for electricians licensed through other city or state licensing boards, nor does it hold any reciprocity agreements that allow Washington, D.C. electricians to work in another state without meeting that state's specific testing and application requirements.
National Electrician Certifications
While optional, national certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency in certain aspects of the electrical trade to potential employers and clients, which often translates into more job opportunities and higher pay.
These include the Independent Electrical Contractors’ Certified Professional Electrician (CPE) distinction, certification through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), among dozens of additional electrician certifications available.
You can stay up to date on all electrician industry news in several ways: