How to Get an Electrical License in North Carolina

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North Carolina is looking at a growing need for electricians, at least for the next couple of years. A North Carolina electrician salary ranges from the mid $30,000s to the low $40,000s, depending on location and which of several specialties you're licensed for. The first step toward becoming licensed is to decide which of the 10 electrical contractor license classifications is right for you.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

To become a licensed electrician, you need hands-on, supervised experience or technical training. The usual path is a technical school or union apprenticeship, followed by work as a journeyman electrician. When you have enough experience and meet the state's other requirements, apply to take the North Carolina licensing exam. There are 10 different state electrical licenses you can apply for.

Types of Electrician Licenses

The North Carolina State Board of Electrical Contractors (BEEC) has 10 license types: three general and seven specialized. The choice of projects you can work on depends on which license or licenses you carry.

  • The limited license allows you to work on an electrical contracting project provided it's worth no more than $50,000. The equipment or installation you deal with can't carry more than 600 volts.

  • With an intermediate license, you can work on a project worth up to $130,000.

  • With an unlimited license, there's no dollar restriction holding you back.

  • A residential dwelling license lets you work on single-family detached residential homes up to the maximum value allowed under a limited license. You can also work on residential home projects that are covered by other licenses, such as affixing air-conditioning wiring.

  • A fire-alarm/burglar alarm/low voltage license authorizes you to work on alarm systems or systems with extremely low voltage.

  • The plumbing, heating and air-conditioning specialty license authorizes you to work on wiring related to those systems. This is only an option for professionals in the plumbing or HVAC line who sometimes have to work on wiring.

  • A groundwater pump electrical contracting license allows a groundwater pump professional to install, maintain or repair electric wiring related to the pump business.

  • The swimming pool license lets you work on pool-related projects, provided you're also a pool contractor.

  • If you have an electrical sign business, an electrical sign license allows you to install, maintain and repair wiring related to signs and isolated from the building wiring.

  • The elevator electrical contracting license authorizes you to install, maintain or repair electrical wiring as a sideline in your elevator, dumbwaiter, escalator, moving walk or personal hoist business.

If you have a limited, intermediate or unlimited license, you can work on any project covered by the specialist licenses, up to your dollar limit. The specialist licenses all come with a string of restrictions to ensure nobody stretches the definition of fire-alarm wiring further than the state intends, for example.

Electrical Experience Needed

Merely studying the North Carolina electrical license exam prep doesn't qualify you for a license even if you pass the licensing test. The BEEC wants you to have experience before you apply.

  • Primary experience includes work as a journeyman electrician, electrical foreman, electrical superintendent or college instructor teaching electrical code. Every year you spend on jobs such as these counts as a year of primary experience.

  • Secondary experience includes working as an apprentice, a student, an electrical salesperson or an electrical utility line person. A year of work may count as anywhere from a year of experience to a little over a month, depending on which field you work in.

For a limited license, you need two years of experience, of which at least one year is primary. An unlimited license requires five years of experience, with four being primary. A single-family specialist license requires two years, of which one is primary. Other licenses each have their own experience requirements.

NC Journeyman Electrician License

Becoming a journeyman electrician is one way to gain primary experience. You don't look to the state for a North Carolina journeyman electrician license but to your local county or municipal government. Each local government sets its own requirements to qualify as a journeyman.

In Raleigh, the state capital, it takes two years of documented, supervised work experience or at least 36 hours of training from an accredited school. In Greensboro and Mecklenburg County, it takes four years of experience. To gain the necessary experience, you can attend a technical school and then move to an entry-level job or contact the local electrician's union about working as an apprentice under supervision.

After you complete your training, education or apprenticeship, you can apply to your local government to take the North Carolina journeyman electrician license test. Once you have that, you're a big step closer to getting enough primary experience for your electrician's license.

Basic NC License Requirements

Experience isn't the only requirement the BEEC wants from you when you apply to become an electrician.

  • You must be at least 18 years old.

  • You need written statements from at least two people attesting to your good character.

  • For an unlimited license, you need statements from two people who know your work, attesting to your ability to supervise and direct all electrical work done by a typical business with this license.

  • For a specialty license, such as fire alarm or elevator, you need verification that you're working in that field. 

  • You must complete the NC licensing test for whichever of the 10 licenses you're applying for. The licensing test covers permit and inspection requirements, business practices, state rules and statutes applying to electrical contracting, and technical and practical knowledge of the electrical work involved in your license classification.

If you're applying on behalf of a business, you must identify the individual at your firm who qualifies the company to be a licensed electrician firm. Your business name must be distinguishable from any current license holders, something you can research in the BEEC's license holder database. Before deciding whether the name is distinguishable, the BEEC deletes spaces, punctuation, conjunctions, prepositions and words such as "corporation" from the two names. If they're still not identical, you're good to go.

The NC Licensing Exam

When you have enough experience for a state license, you can take the state licensing examination. Submit your application with a $30 fee, and if everything checks out, you are given a three-month window to schedule and take your exam. Although the exam is computer-based and open book, you need to take it in person at one of the seven centers across the state

Once you're approved, you receive a bulletin with an outline of the topics on the test, which you can use to guide your pretest studies. The exam is given on a computer, but you don't need any keyboard skills or computer experience. Before you start on test day, you are provided with an exam tutorial on the computer that includes sample questions so that you can practice answering using the keyboard. The time you spend on the tutorial — up to 15 minutes — doesn't count toward your exam time.

The test itself costs $60, and you receive your score the same day you take it. If you pass, you can apply for your license, which is good for one year. The minimum passing score is 70 out of 100 on any of the NC BEEC exams.

Tips for Passing

PSI, which runs the testing process for North Carolina, offers several suggestions to help you attain that 70 score:

  • Look at the actual information in the question, and don't worry about what-ifs that aren't covered.

  • Read over the bulletin to understand the scope of your exam.

  • Read relevant materials covering the topics and take notes. 

  • If you come across material during your studies that you're not familiar with, talk about it with your colleagues.

  • Frequent study periods of 45 to 60 minutes work better than longer but infrequent sessions.

PSI also provides a list of study resources such as the National Electrical Code.

References

About the Author

Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com