What is a Low Voltage Electrician?

Low voltage electricians are wiremen that work in and around commercial and residential buildings to install new low voltage systems, as well as to upgrade, maintain and repair existing systems. As a professional classification, low voltage electricians got their start in the early 20th century installing, maintaining, and repairing landline telephone networks on premises. One hundred years later this profession has come into full maturity as a wide array of low voltage systems are now commonplace, from CCTV systems and other security systems to on-site fiber optic networks and broadband cabling.

Low voltage electricians face a maze of different state regulations when it comes to licensing. However the professional guidelines, tools, and techniques are standardized in the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Properly credentialed low voltage electricians can look forward to a stable job environment, growing salaries, and daily job duties that present challenging variations.

Electrical Systems and Job Settings that Call for Low Voltage Electrical Work

Also referred to as voice-data-video (VDV) electricians, put simply, low voltage electricians are professionals who install, maintain and repair low voltage electrical systems. These include:

  • Home entertainment systems
  • CCTV (closed circuit television) systems
  • Security and fire alarms
  • LAN (local area network) and WAN (wide area network)
  • Fiber optic networks
  • Telephone systems
  • Broadband internet
  • Cable and digital television
  • Landline telephones

The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines low voltage systems as those that run off of between zero and 49 volts, however, state and local jurisdictions may modify this definition.

As you can extrapolate from the list above, low voltage electrical systems are now found just about everywhere electricity itself is present, including:

  • Residential settings
  • Offices and businesses
  • Hospitals and schools
  • Industrial settings
  • Ships, airplanes, trains, buses, and automobiles
  • Public services settings

Job Duties and Skill Requirements Associated with Low Voltage Electrical Work

When performing installations, maintenance, repairs, and troubleshooting on low voltage systems such as those listed above, typical job duties would include:

  • Working with low voltage cable, conduit, and circuits
  • Pulling and terminating wiring cable, such as Cat 5E or 6
  • Working with DC battery systems
  • Trimming out security devices
  • Programming video surveillance equipment
  • Installing and wiring alarm panels
  • Working with coaxial cables, category rated cables, and fiber optics
  • Testing and adjusting connections to diagnose problems
  • Analyzing schematics, blueprints, and drawings of low voltage electronic systems
  • Installing j-hooks and ladder racks
  • WAP and card access system installations
  • Roughing in new installations
  • Installing alarm systems that include pull stations, strobes, horns, detectors, and exit signs
  • Dressing and terminating distribution frames

Training and License Requirements to Become a Low Voltage Electrician

Training and license requirements can vary by state, county, and city, depending on how the licensing jurisdiction maps are drawn within a given state. The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) provides a comprehensive state-by-state directory of low voltage electrician licensing requirements by occupation (alarm technician, telecommunication technician, etc). A summary of this directory can be found below.

There are three common ways of licensing low voltage electricians:

  • Jurisdictions that license residential electricians may include low voltage electrical work within this licensing category. In this case you would proceed through the residential electrician licensing progression: apprentice (4-6 years plus exam)-journeyman (2-4 years plus exam)-master electrician (may require an exam for a contractor’s license).
  • Some jurisdictions license low voltage electricians in their own category. The training and license requirements in this instance take less time to complete than those required to become a residential electrician. This method can also involve progressing through the standard licensing phases: apprentice-journeyman-master electrician.
  • Some jurisdictions license low voltage electricians according to their individual role. This means a separate licensing process for security alarm technicians, fire alarm electricians, phone line electricians, etc. The training and licensing requirements for these jurisdictions take the least amount of time and can often be completed in a matter of months.

Some jurisdictions do not regulate low voltage electricians at all, while others may have additional licensing requirements that don’t fall into any of the standard processes. Check with your jurisdiction’s regulatory agency or local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to find out for certain how licensing is handled where you live.

Certification for Low Voltage Electricians

Some jurisdictions refer to “licensing” as “certification.” In jurisdictions that require a formal education and training program for licensure, in-state colleges and universities may also offer “certification” programs that fulfill education requirements for state licensure.

Professional specialty certification is yet another type of certification made available through national organizations as a way for you to distinguish yourself as an expert in a specialized area of the trade. Your jurisdiction’s licensing authority may require these nationally recognized credentials, or they may be optional credentials you can obtain to add to your competitive qualifications.

National organizations usually offer low voltage electrician certifications in specific categories. These are some examples of what is available:

You can also find several third-party companies that offer preparation courses designed to prepare you to pass the certification exams offered through the above named organizations:

Salaries and Major Employers of Low Voltage Electricians

The following salary examples, sourced in July 2016, represent the types of salaries available to properly credentialed low voltage electricians. These are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide an assurance of employment or level of pay.

  • Low Voltage Technician with South Bay Communications in San Jose, California: $31,200 – $62,400
  • Low Voltage Electrician with Urban Alarm in Washington DC: $47,923
  • Low Voltage Service Technician in Atlanta, Georgia: $45,760 – $62,400
  • Communications Technician with IES in Irvine, California: $37,440
  • Low Voltage Technician with Outsource in San Jose, California: $62,400 minimum

Here you’ll find the major employers in each of these major metropolitan job markets:

Philadelphia

  • L-3 Communications
  • Armstrong Group of Companies
  • Siemens
  • VC Corp
  • Automated Digital Homes

Chicago

  • MAC Property Management
  • Spencer Technologies
  • Prime Communications
  • Pangea Real Estate
  • Toshiba

San Francisco

  • Amazon
  • Mobile Tech Inc
  • IES Communications
  • Outsource
  • MGA Employee Services Inc

Dallas-Fort Worth

  • Archon Inc
  • Facility Solutions Group
  • City of Fort Worth
  • Prime Communications Inc
  • National Switchgear

Atlanta

  • Cana Communications
  • American Systems
  • TEKSystems
  • Atlantic Workforce
  • Videojet Technologies

Low Voltage Licensing Requirements By State

The following is a summary of the information provided by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). It shows which types of low voltage professionals need to obtain a license from their state licensing authority (note: when states do not specifically license low-voltage electricians these professionals may still have local jurisdictional requirements and/or require a residential or other type of electrician license):

Alabama

  • General low voltage systems
  • Locksmiths

Alaska

  • Communications systems
  • Fire and security alarms

Arizona

  • Communication systems
  • Fire alarms

Arkansas

  • Security alarm systems

California

  • General low voltage systems
  • Security alarm systems

Colorado

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Connecticut

  • General low voltage systems, especially those related to security systems

Delaware

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Florida

  • General low voltage systems
  • Security alarm systems
  • Fire and security alarm systems

Georgia

  • General low voltage systems

Hawaii

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Idaho

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Illinois

  • Fire and security alarm systems

Indiana

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Iowa

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Kansas

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Kentucky

  • Fire and security alarm systems

Louisiana

  • Security alarm systems
  • Fire alarm systems
  • CCTV security systems

Maine

  • Fire alarm systems
  • General low energy electronics
  • Low voltage landscape lighting

Maryland

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Massachusetts

  • Fire alarm systems
  • Security alarm systems

Michigan

  • Fire and security alarm systems

Minnesota

  • Low voltage technology systems

Mississippi

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Missouri

  • Fire and security alarm systems

Montana

  • All types of alarm systems (fire and security)

Nebraska

  • Fire alarm systems

Nevada

  • Fire alarm systems
  • Photovoltaic systems
  • General low voltage systems

New Hampshire

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

New Jersey

  • Security alarm systems
  • Fire alarm systems

New Mexico

  • Telephone systems
  • Fire and security systems

New York

  • Security alarm systems
  • Fire alarm systems

North Carolina

  • General low voltage systems

North Dakota

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Ohio

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Oklahoma

  • Security alarm systems
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Alarm company systems

Oregon

  • General low voltage systems

Pennsylvania

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Rhode Island

  • General alarm systems
  • General telecommunication systems

South Carolina

  • Security and fire alarm systems
  • Security alarm systems

South Dakota

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Tennessee

  • General low voltage systems, which can cover:
    • Sound systems
    • Intercom systems
    • Fire alarm systems
    • Security systems
    • Telephone line systems and telecommunications cables

Texas

  • Fire alarm systems
  • Security alarm systems

Utah

  • Security alarm systems

Vermont

  • Residential fire alarm systems
  • Commercial fire alarm systems

Virginia

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Washington

  • Telecommunication systems

West Virginia

  • Fire and security alarm systems

Wisconsin

  • Does not specifically license low-voltage electricians at the state level

Wyoming

  • General low voltage systems

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