How to Become an Electrician in Wisconsin

Electricians in Wisconsin are in demand. According to a 2015 article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, as new construction booms there is a growing shortage within the skilled trades, primarily electricians and plumbers. The article cites the main reason for the shortage as being the retirement of older electricians. In fact, IBEW local unions are expecting a 15% to 25% shortage in manpower over the next five years. This means more job opportunities than ever.

In Wisconsin, the licensure of electricians is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. You’ll spend the first five years as an electrical apprentice, before progressing to journeyman electrician and then master electrician. Finally, you may want to consider getting licensed as an electrical contractor.

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

Obtain Training and Job Experience to Fulfill Requirements for Journeyman Level Licensing
Take the Exam Required to Become Licensed as a Journeyman Electrician
Take the Exam Required to Become Licensed as a Master Electrician
Consider Becoming Licensed as an Electrical Contractor

 


 

Step 1. Obtain Training and Job Experience to Fulfill Requirements for Journeyman Level Licensing

Wisconsin runs a state licensing program for electricians under the auspices of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (Industry Services Division) that offers three different categories of journeyman level electrician license, each with three different paths to becoming licensed:

Journeyman Electrician (Can perform all installations, maintenance and repairs in commercial or residential construction):

  • 4-years documented job experience over a period of at least 48 months performing electrical wiring installation, repair and maintenance (8,000 hours total)

OR

  • 2-year degree and 3-years of experience – Complete a program through a school of electrical engineering or electrical trade school program and apply 2,000 hours (to substitute for 12 months experience) towards the 4-year experience requirement

OR

  • Complete an approved apprenticeship program

Industrial Journeyman Electrician (Can perform all installations, maintenance and repairs in industrial facilities):

  • 5-years documented experience – Complete no less than 1,000 hours of documented job experience per year for the last 5 years performing industrial electrical wiring work (5,000 total hours)

OR

  • 2-year degree and 3-years of experience – Complete a program through a school of electrical engineering or electrical trade school program and apply 500 hours for each semester (for a total of no more than 2,000 hours to substitute for 2 years experience) towards the 5-year experience requirement

OR

  • Complete an approved apprenticeship program

Residential Journeyman Electrician (Can perform electrical wiring repair and maintenance in residential dwellings or dwelling units):

  • 3-years documented experience – Complete no less than 1,000 hours of documented job experience per year for the last 3 years performing residential electrical wiring work (3,000 total hours)

OR

  • 2-year degree and 1-year of experience – Complete a program through a school of electrical engineering or electrical trade school program and apply 500 hours for each semester (for a total of no more than 2,000 hours to substitute for 2 years experience) towards the 3-year experience requirement

OR

  • Complete an approved apprenticeship program

Trade School or College

Graduates from an accredited college, university, technical or vocational school with a degree, diploma or certificate in electrical engineering or related to electrical technology are in a unique position to be able to reduce the total number of hours of job experience required to earn a journeyman license:

  • Candidates for industrial or residential journeyman electrician licenses, up to 500 hours per semester of school can be applied against the experience requirement for a total of up to 2,000 hours and two years of experience.
  • Candidates for general journeyman electrician licenses, up to 2,000 hours and 12 months can be counted toward the on-the-job experience requirements.

With an Associate of Applied Science degree, diploma or certificate in hand, you would be an ideal candidate for an entry-level position as an on-site assistant or paid apprentice. If your program involved an internship or field experience component, you may be able to hire on with the electrical contracting company you interned with. In most cases, technical schools offer job placement assistance for program graduates. Alternately, you could pursue an entry-level position or paid apprenticeship on your own by contacting the licensed electrical contractors in your area you would be most interested in working with.

Direct Work Experience

It’s possible in Wisconsin to accumulate a sufficient number of hours of on-the-job work experience to take the licensing exams without completing a formal approved apprenticeship program. Typically these hours can be accumulated while working directly for a business or electrical contractor under the supervision of qualified journeymen or master electricians.

The hours of experience you must accumulate would depend on the class of license you are interested in obtaining.

  • Industrial Journeyman Electrician – 5,000 hours of experience in 5 years
  • Residential Journeyman Electrician – 3,000 hours of experience in 3 years
  • Journeyman Electrician – 8,000 hours of experience in 4 years

The experience must be directly related to the license you are planning to obtain; residential electrical experience, for example, will not count toward the qualifying hours for an industrial electrician license.

Apprenticeship Program

A three to five year apprenticeship program approved by the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards provides a comprehensive approach to obtaining a journeyman electrical license in Wisconsin. Practical, on-the-job training is conducted under the watchful supervision of master electricians, while classroom instruction covers topics such as:

  • Cable tray installation
  • Pulling wire and cable
  • Installing and wiring service switch gear, motor control centers and power, lighting and control panels
  • Reading blueprints and schematics
  • Lighting fixture installation
  • Mounting and wiring transformers

For union-affiliated apprenticeships, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) coordinates with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) to organize local Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees (JATC) that help facilitate apprenticeships with unionized electrical contracting companies in the area. These apprenticeship programs are offered by local IBEW branches together with the JATC to provide both field training and classroom education.

All JATCs have the following admission requirements in common:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Submission of high school or GED transcripts
  • One year of high school algebra or one post-high school algebra course (grade “C” or higher)
  • Valid Wisconsin driver’s license
  • Payment of $20 application fee

It’s also possible to meet apprenticeship requirements via a non-union apprenticeship directly through area employers or by coordinating with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) trade association in Madison. Admission to the ABC apprenticeship program requires:

  • High school transcripts, diploma, or GED certificate
  • Copy of valid driver’s license
  • Accuplacer or TABE test results
  • Algebra skills verification

Whether working in a union or open shop apprenticeship, all apprentices are licensed through the state Department of Safety and Professional Services while they are in the program. You can apply for an apprentice license once you have been accepted into a qualified apprenticeship program.

 


 

Step 2. Take the Exam Required to Become Licensed as a Journeyman Electrician

Your next step is to get licensed as a journeyman electrician. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services offer three licensing classifications for journeyman.

Journeyman Electrician

A journeyman electrician performs electrical work under the supervision of a licensed master electrician or a registered master electrician. A journeyman can also work under the supervision of a licensed residential master electrician if the electrical work is associated with dwellings, dwelling units, or detached building accessories.

The requirements for a journeyman license are as follows:

  • Complete an application
  • Provide proof of completion of apprenticeship or appropriate experience
  • Payment of $35 application fee
  • Payment of $30 exam fee
  • Payment of $100 credential fee (after passing exam)
  • Receive a passing score (70%) on the journeyman electrician exam

If you completed an electrical apprenticeship, simply submitting a copy of your certificate of completion satisfies the experience requirement. If you’re applying by experience, however, you must have at least 8,000 hours of experience over the last 2 years. A two-year degree in an electrical-related program can be substituted for 2,000 hours and 12 months of experience. Additionally, you can also apply by reciprocity if you hold a journeyman class A electrician license from Iowa.

Next, you’ll take the journeyman electrician exam. The exam is open book; a score of 70% or higher is required for licensure. The exam will cover:

  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 305
  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 316
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)

Your journeyman license must be renewed every four years. The renewal fee is $100. You are also required to obtain at least 24 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online.

Industrial Journeyman Electrician

An industrial journeyman electrician performs electrical work within the facility or property of employment. An industrial journeyman electrician can also perform electrical work outside the place of employment if under the supervision of a licensed master electrician, registered master electrician, or licensed journeyman electrician.

First, you’ll complete the license application form. You can satisfy the requirements for licensure by either experience and examination OR apprenticeship.

If you’re applying by experience and examination, you must:

  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay the $30 exam fee
  • Pay a $100 credential fee, upon passing the exam
  • Provide proof of at least 5 years and 5,000 hours of industrial electrical experience

If you have a degree from an electrical-related program, you can use 500 hours for each semester to substitute for the experience requirement (cannot exceed 2,000 hours and 2 years).

Next, you’ll take the industrial journeyman electrician exam. The exam is open book; a score of 70% or higher is required for licensure. The exam will cover:

  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 305
  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 316
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)

If you’re applying by apprenticeship, you must:

  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay a $100 credential fee
  • Provide a copy of your apprenticeship certificate of completion

Your industrial journeyman license must be renewed every four years. The renewal fee is $100. You are also required to obtain at least 18 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online.

Residential Journeyman Electrician

A residential journeyman electrician can only perform electrical work associated with dwellings, dwelling units, or detached accessory buildings. However, if under the supervision of a licensed master electrician, a registered master electrician, or a licensed journeyman electrician, a residential journeyman is permitted to perform electrical work not associated with dwellings or dwelling units.

First, you’ll complete the license application form. You can meet the licensing requirements either by experience and examination OR apprenticeship.

If you’re applying by experience and examination, you’ll need to:

  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay the $30 exam fee
  • Pay a $100 credential fee, upon passing the exam
  • Provide proof of at least 3 years and 3,000 hours of residential electrical experience

If you have a degree from an electrical-related program, you can use 500 hours for each semester to substitute for the experience requirement (cannot exceed 2,000 hours and 2 years).

Next, you’ll take the residential journeyman electrician exam. The exam is open book; a score of 70% or higher is required for licensure. The exam will cover:

  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 305
  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 316
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)

If you’re applying by apprenticeship, you must:

  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay a $100 credential fee
  • Provide a copy of your apprenticeship certificate of completion

Your residential journeyman license must be renewed every four years. The renewal fee is $100. You are also required to obtain at least 18 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online.

 


 

Step 3. Take the Exam Required to Become Licensed as a Master Electrician

Your next step is to get licensed as a master electrician. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services offer two licensing classifications for master electricians.

Master Electrician

A master electrician is permitted to install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring in any setting. In order to become a master electrician, the first thing you’ll do is complete the license application form. Requirements include:

  • Payment of the $35 application fee
  • Payment of the $30 exam fee
  • Payment of the $200 credential fee, upon passing the exam

You’ll also need to meet ONE of the requirements listed below:

  • Have at least 12 months of experience as a licensed journeyman electrician
  • Have at least 10,000 hours of experience installing, repairing, and/or maintaining electrical wiring within the last five years. If you have a degree from an electrical-related program, you can use 500 hours for each semester in substitution (cannot exceed 3,000 hours and 3 years).
  • Have a degree in electrical engineering

Next, you’ll take the master electrician exam. This is an open book exam; a score of 70% or higher is required for licensure. The exam will cover:

  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 305
  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 316
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)

If you have a master electrician license (class A) from Iowa, you may apply by reciprocity.

You must renew your master electrician license every four years by paying a $200 renewal fee. You also need to accumulate at least 24 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online.

Residential Master Electrician

A residential master electrician is limited to performing electrical work associated with dwellings and dwelling units. However, a residential master electrician can perform electrical work in any other setting if under the supervision of a licensed master electrician.

First, complete the license application form. You must meet the following requirements:

  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay the $30 exam fee
  • Pay the $200 credential fee, upon passing the exam

In addition, you need to have at least 5,000 hours and 5 years of electrical wiring experience. If you’ve completed any coursework in an electrical-related program, you can use 500 hours for each semester in substitution (cannot exceed 3,000 hours and 3 years).

Next, you’ll take the residential master electrician exam. This is an open book test, and you’ll need a score of at least 70% in order to be eligible for licensure. The exam will cover:

  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 305
  • Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 316
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)

You’ll renew your residential master electrician license every four years. The renewal fee is $200. Also, you must complete at least 18 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online.

 


 

Step 4. Consider Becoming Licensed as an Electrical Contractor

After you’ve worked for some years as a master electrician, you might decide to open your own contracting business. In that case, you’ll need an electrical contractor license. The requirements for this license include:

  • Complete an application
  • Pay the $35 application fee
  • Pay the $200 credential fee
  • Provide proof of worker’s compensation insurance
  • Provide proof of compliance with unemployment compensation requirements

There is no experience requirement for electrical contractors in Wisconsin.

As an electrical contractor, your license has to be renewed every four years. The renewal fee is $200. There is no continuing education requirement for electrical contractors. You can renew online.

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