How to Become an Electrician in Illinois

Even with more than 25,000 electricians licensed to work in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has projected that this number will grow by 15% through 2024. If you’re interested in a field that is growing, offers job security and advancement opportunities, and features excellent benefits, now is the time to become a professional electrician.

Illinois does not have a statewide regulatory board in place for the electrical trade, which means electrician licenses are issued at the city or county level. However, this does not mean you are limited to working only in the city or county where you received your initial license or certificate.

Regardless of where in Illinois you’ll be licensed, you’ll follow the same general process, starting out as an apprentice, then earning initial certification at the local level before finally going on to earn an electrical contractor’s license.

Follow these steps to learn how to become a licensed electrician in Illinois:

Gain On-the-Job Experience and Complete Classroom and Lab Based Technical Training
Pass the Exam for Initial Certification
Become Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor

 


 

Step 1. Gain On-the-Job Experience and Complete Classroom and Lab Based Technical Training

Electrician licensing in Illinois takes place at the local level rather than at the state level, with each municipality maintaining separate licensing laws.

Because there are no statewide licensing laws, the requirements vary from county to county. In general, electrician licensing is granted after gaining 4 years (8,000 hours) of job experience through an apprenticeship or entry-level trainee position, as well as 500-800 hours (most often 576) of classroom based instruction and lab based technical training.

Meeting these requirements can be accomplished through one of three standard routes:

  • Enrolling in a technical program then transitioning into supervised, entry-level employment with a local employer
  • Joining the IBEW union and participating in an apprenticeship program through a union contractor
  • Participating in an apprenticeship program through an open shop (non-union) employer

Technical Programs

Because the requirements are different in each Illinois county, a technical program is a great way to ensure an accredited, consistent education in keeping with current electrical standards and local licensing laws.

Earning a career diploma in electrical technology, an Electronics and Electricians Associate in Applied Science, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, or similar associate’s or bachelor’s major would satisfy all classroom and technical training hour requirements. In some county licensing jurisdictions, you may even be able to substitute some portion of your college education for some portion of the experience hours required for licensure in that county.

After earning your degree, you would be a strong candidate for an entry-level position with an electrical contracting company, utility company or other employer. Well-known contractors in the state include:

  • Handyman Matters in Chicago
  • Storm Electric Company in Melrose Park
  • Powell Construction and Decorating in Addison

As an employee, you would then fulfill the remaining experiential requirements for licensing in your county.

Your school’s career counseling office may help with job placement. Alternately, you could strike out on your own and participate in a union or non-union apprenticeship program to gain the experience. As long as you accumulate the required documented experience, regardless of the channel you go through, you’ll be able meet the requirements for licensure.

Apprenticeship Opportunities 

Union apprenticeship programs in Illinois are structured in accordance with the rigorous standards of the National Training Alliance, a combined effort between local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). The National Training Alliance manages and provides resources for JATCs (Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees) with locations all over the nation.

The Illinois based JATCs through which you can find apprenticeship programs are as follows:

Typically, admission to union apprenticeship programs requires you to:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Be able to physically perform the requirements of the trade
  • Be able to transport yourself to the classroom and job site
  • Pass a general aptitude test
  • Have a high school diploma/GED
  • Complete an algebra class at the high school or post high school level

Signing up for membership through one of the union’s local chapters and becoming a dues paying, card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is also required.

Open shop programs are a great option for those looking to enter the trade without joining the union and are available to those who may have no post-secondary education and those that have already completed a college degree or career diploma program. Non-union programs offer their own education programs and employment resources, including access to apprenticeships with non-union contractors in the state.

The offices for non-union organizations that help facilitate apprenticeship programs in Illinois are:


 

Step 2. Pass the Exam for Initial Certification

After finishing an electrical apprenticeship or field experience requirements, you would typically earn a license or certificate that allows you to work as an electrical journeyman. However, in Illinois, many counties and cities only offer licenses or certificates for electrical contractors, skipping the journeyman license altogether. The primary exception is Chicago.

Be sure to check with your local county and city governments for their requirements. If your local county does not have a journeyman level license or certificate, you should consider taking the exam offered by the City of Chicago and using that license as proof of your experience to employers, as most employers will be looking to see documented proof of completed apprenticeship hours.

Chicago

In Chicago, after completing your apprenticeship you are eligible to earn what is known as a “Supervising Electrician Certification” by taking an exam. Supervising electricians work under electrical contractors. Every electrical contractor is required to either hire a supervising electrician or meet the qualifications themselves. This is the only non-contractor certification available in Chicago. This means that if you plan to work for existing contractor and don’t plan to go into business for yourself, this is the final step to becoming an electrician.

The requirements for this certification are:

  • No less than 21 years old
  • At least two years of experience as an electrician
  • Passing an exam
  • Showing your work history under another supervising electrician

To get this certification, you need to first fill out an application for the exam after completing your apprenticeship requirements. Once you are approved to take the exam, you should study the materials and questions in the exam study guide. The Continental Testing Service handles the exam process.

Once you pass the exam and earn your license, your license will be valid between one and four years. You can renew it at the City of Chicago website.

 


 

Step 3. Consider Becoming Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor

In Illinois, electrical contractors have to register with each city or county where they plan to do business. Here are the requirements for some of the largest counties in Illinois.

Cook County

In Cook County, you need to meet the following requirements to be an electrical contractor:

  • Be certified as a supervising electrician in Cook County
  • Submit the application in person at the Department of Building and Zoning Office
  • A Certificate of General Liability up to $1 million
  • If your company is a corporation, you need to submit a copy of your corporation papers containing a list of corporate officers
  • Submit a Child Support Compliance Data Form

Once you submit your application with the necessary documentation, Cook County will process your application. When you receive your license, you only need to renew your license each year. You will receive a letter in the mail in the third week of November of each year reminding you of the deadline.

DuPage County

In DuPage County, you can choose to work either as an electrical contractor or sub-contractor. A contractor can do alteration and installation work on buildings within any number of trades, including electrical work. A sub-contractor can only work in one of the listed trades, such as the electrical trade.

To become either a contractor or sub-contractor, you have to fill out the application found on the Contractor Registration Information page of the DuPage County website. The requirements for either license are:

  • Familiar with the DuPage County Ordinances, Codes, and Regulations
  • The proper registration fee
  • The necessary liability insurance

If you are a contractor, you have to prove the following liability insurance:

  • General liability – $1 million
  • Worker’s compensation and employee liability – Broad form coverage as indicated by law

If you are a sub-contractor, you have to prove the following liability insurance:

  • No set amount of general liability insurance, but you must have general liability insurance
  • Worker’s compensation and employee liability – Broad form coverage as indicated by law

Once you register as a contractor or sub-contractor, you have to renew your license every year.

Will County

To work as an electrical contractor in Will County, you simply need to fill out the Contractor Registration Application on the Will County Building Division page. Requirements for the contractor registration are:

  • The required fee
  • A copy of your Supervising Electrician Certification as applicable showing date of test

Once you are registered, you’ll need to renew your registration every year.

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