Certified vs Licensed Electricians: What’s the Difference?

Oct 10, 2022 · 5 minutes to read

A professional electrician working with wires

If you are on your way to becoming a master electrician, you may hear about electrician licenses and certifications. While these requirements are closely related, they are not the same. There are key differences between certification and licenses for electricians. In some states, you may need both to do specific types of electrical work.

The differences between certifications and licenses

Electrician licenses are issued by a state or local government authority to show that you have permission to work as an electrical contractor in that area. If you work in more than one state, you may need a license from each state to perform electrical work there. However, many states have agreements in place where they will recognize general electrician licenses from other areas.

Certifications are issued by organizations to show that an electrician has completed an educational program or demonstrated a certain level of skill and knowledge. Once you have received a certification, you are considered a certified electrician. Certification may allow you to work in certain industries, offer specialty services, and attract new customers.

Although licenses and certifications are different, some governments use these terms interchangeably. You may also be required to have specific certifications to get a general electrician license.

What is a registered electrician?

You may also come across the term “registered electrician”. You may be required to register with a government or trade body to work legally in some states.  This requirement is typically part of getting your electrician license.

Electrician license requirements

In most states, you will need an electrical contractor license to work legally. Without one, you could be fined or face harsher punishments if you are caught. Many customers and businesses will not work with an unlicensed electrician for this reason.

Getting an electrician license varies from state to state. It’s always wise to check with your local licensing office for up-to-date requirements and steps. In general, you may need to:

  • Be 18-21 years old
  • Complete a minimum amount of education and/or work experience (in most states, this takes the form of an apprenticeship for first-time electrical contractors)
  • Pass an exam (such as a trades, electrical contractor, or safety test)
  • Show proof of General Liability and/or Workers’ Compensation insurance (you may need to have a minimum level of coverage to get your license)

Some states have different levels of electrical licensing. For example, the master electrician requirements in Texas are different than those for apprentice and journeyman licenses.

Benefits of becoming a certified electrician

Certifications are often necessary to do specific types of work within the trade. This is because some jobs require knowledge and skills beyond what you may learn in an apprenticeship or general electrician program.

There are many reasons why you might decide to become a certified electrician, such as:

  • New job opportunities – Certifications allow you to specialize in high-demand skills that may be unique to specific industries. It could also help you win contracts over less skilled electricians.
  • Better pay – The specialized knowledge and experience you gain through a certification program may translate to a higher salary.
  • Flexible work schedule – As a certified electrician, you may be able to contract or subcontract with other companies, giving you better control of your work-life balance.

Types of electrical certifications

There are many types of certificates available for electrical contractors who want to improve their skills and pursue new job opportunities. These may include:

  • Green and renewable energy – These certifications can help you establish a niche in solar and other forms of sustainable energy, a growing area in many parts of the country.
  • Electrical safety – These certifications provide in-depth instruction on how to respond to safety issues such as electrical fires, electrocution, and first aid.
  • Cable splicing – This certification prepares you to do medium voltage cable splicing work.
  • Instrumentation – This certification prepares you to assess variables (such as temperature, pressure, and volume) and how they will affect electrical equipment installed in the area.

There are many online and in-person programs available to help you become a certified electrician in these and other areas of the field.

Renewing electrician licenses and certifications

There is one thing that both licenses and certifications have in common: they may expire! Electrical license and certificate holders typically need to take steps every few years to keep these documents valid. This may include:

  • Retaking an exam
  • Completing continuing education classes
  • Paying a renewal fee

When you receive an electrical license or certification, check the renewal requirements for your area to ensure you are keeping these documents current.

Setting yourself up for success

Electrician licenses and certifications can be important tools for growing your small business. Whether you are just starting out or learning a new skill, licenses and certifications could help set you apart from the competition, offer new services, or give you better control of your work schedule.

Need electrician insurance to get your general electrician license? Compare quotes for General Liability and other types of coverage and get covered in just 10 minutes. Start now!

As with any insurance, coverage will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. The information contained on this guide is general only and should not be relied upon as advice.
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