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How to Become an Electrician in Montana

In 2014, an article published in the Flathead Beacon revealed that Montana ranked among the top five states in the nation for exceptional employment growth and was one of the few states outpacing the national recovery. Strong economic growth is just one of many factors driving a growing demand for electricians in Montana. According to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, job opportunities for electricians are expected to increase by 21.4% in the 10-year time period between 2014 and 2024.

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In Montana, electricians are licensed by the Montana State Electrical Board. You’ll start out in your career as a registered apprentice and then progress to licensed journeyman or residential electrician, then to master electrician. You may also consider becoming licensed as an electrical contractor.

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

Fulfill Licensing Board Requirements Classroom Education and Experience
Take the Examination Required to Begin Working as a Journeyman Electrician or Residential Electrician
Become Licensed as a Master Electrician
Consider Becoming Licensed as an Electrical Contractor

 


 

Step 1. Fulfill Licensing Board Requirements Classroom Education and Experience

The state of Montana issues electrician licenses through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Electrical Board. Successful completion of an approved apprenticeship or training program is required, as well as practical, on-the-job experience. There are three paths to obtaining the necessary licensing qualifications:

  • A four-year, 8,000 or 4,000 hour field apprenticeship (depending on whether you are training for a journeyman or residential electrician license), with more than 500 hours of classroom training in electrical theory and National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements

OR

  • A two-year associate’s degree in electrical engineering, with 8,000 or 4,000 hours of practical on-the-job experience

OR

  • A combination of either an apprenticeship program or an approved training program and at least 20,000 hours of electrical maintenance experience, with a minimum of 8,000 or 4,000 hours of practical experience, again depending on whether a journeyman or residential license is being applied for

Both apprenticeship and trade school classroom instruction will include topics such as:

  • Electrical Theory
  • Structured wiring systems
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)
  • Conduit bending
  • Blueprint reading
  • OSHA safety
  • Industrial motor controls
  • Fiber optics
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC)

Apprenticeship Programs

Apprenticeship programs are the most common route to an electrician’s license in Montana. 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) to facilitate apprenticeships with unionized electrical contracting companies in the area. These apprenticeship programs are offered by local IBEW branches together with the JATC to bring together field training and classroom education. A single JATC covers the entire state, the Montana Electrical JATC, based in Helena.

Union apprenticeships generally have the following requirements for entry:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Montana driver’s license
  • Submit a certified copy of your birth certificate and Social Security card
  • Submit your high school diploma or GED transcripts
  • Be a Montana resident
  • Receive a passing score on the electrical trade aptitude test
  • Apply for union membership

It’s also possible to meet apprenticeship requirements via a non-union, or merit shop, apprenticeship. In Montana, the only available non-union program is based in Helena and run through the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) trade association in coordination with local open shop electricians. IEC Montana has several apprenticeship programs around the state:

  • Billings – Greg Moos – 406-245-9551
  • Bozeman – Kendra Casebolt – 406-284-4166
  • Great Falls – Marvin Wilson – 406-532-1100
  • Kalispell – Russ Heaton – 406-755-2669

Application requirements are less stringent and union membership is not required.

With either type of apprenticeship program, it is possible to substitute the regular 4,000/8,000 hour training requirement for 20,000 hours of electrical maintenance experience with either 4,000 or 8,000 hours of practical on-the-job experience.

Two-year Associate’s Degree

Two community colleges in Montana run approved training programs offering two-year degrees in Electrical Technology, Montana State University-Northern, and Flathead Valley Community College. Completion of either of these courses of instruction satisfies the classroom education component of the state electrician licensing requirements.

Fulfilling the practical experience requirements can be handled in one of three ways:

  • Both schools cooperate with the state-sponsored Montana Registered Apprenticeship program to place students in full-time or part-time positions in the field through which the required 8,000 or 4,000 hours of experience may be gained
  • Students may independently line up employment with a non-union electrical contractor to gain the experience
  • Previous experience in electrical maintenance work, at least 20,000 hours (with either 8,000 or 4,000 as practical, hands-on work) can cover the requirement

 


 

Step 2. Take the Examination Required to Begin Working as a Journeyman Electrician or Residential Electrician

After completing an apprenticeship, you’ll apply for a journeyman license or a residential electrician license, depending on which type of apprentice program you completed.

Journeyman License

Application requirements for a journeyman license include:

  • Complete an application
  • Fulfill the education or experience requirement
  • Pay the $240 application fee (to the state board)
  • Pay the $70 examination fee (to PSI Services)
  • Provide a copy of your Apprenticeship Completion Certificate
  • Receive a passing score (75%) on the journeyman electrician examination administered by PSI Services

In order to be eligible for a journeyman license, you must meet either the education requirement OR the experience requirement:

  • Education requirement – completion of an electrical apprenticeship program through a union or trade organization
  • Experience requirement – a minimum of 8,000 hours of practical working experience in wiring, installing, and repairing of electrical apparatus and equipment for light, heat, and power OR at least 20,000 hours worked in the electrical maintenance field, in which at least 8,000 hours must be practical experience

Next, the state board will send you an admission letter allowing you to register for the journeyman electrician examination. Once you’ve received an admission letter, you may obtain a temporary journeyman work permit by paying an additional $50 fee to the state board. This permit allows you to work as a journeyman while you are awaiting your exam date.

The journeyman electrician examination is open book, consists of 60 questions, and has a three-hour time limit. Test topics include:

  • National Electrical Code (NEC) 2014
  • Ohm’s law
  • Layout and practical installation of electrical circuits

Your journeyman license must be renewed every 2 years. The fee for renewal is $200. In addition, you are also required to obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle, of which at least eight hours must be on code update.

Residential Electrician License

Application requirements for a residential electrician license include:

  • Complete an application
  • Fulfill the education or experience requirement
  • Pay the $240 application fee (to the state board)
  • Pay the $70 examination fee (to PSI Services)
  • Provide a copy of your Apprenticeship Completion Certificate
  • Receive a passing score (75%) on the residential electrician examination administered by PSI Services

In order to be eligible for a residential electrician license, you need to meet either the education requirement OR the experience requirement:

  • Education requirement – completion of a residential electrician apprenticeship program through a union or trade organization
  • Experience requirement – a minimum of 4,000 hours of practical working experience in wiring, installing, and repairing of electrical apparatus and equipment for light, heat, and power in residential construction (must be less than five units per single structure) OR at least 20,000 hours worked in the electrical maintenance field, in which at least 8,000 hours must be practical experience

Next, the state board will send you an admission letter allowing you to register for the residential electrician examination. Once you’ve received an admission letter, you may obtain a temporary residential electrician work permit by paying an additional $50 fee to the state board. This permit allows you to work as a residential electrician while you are awaiting your exam date.

The residential electrician examination is open book, consists of 50 questions, and has a two-and-a-half-hour time limit. Test topics include:

  • National Electrical Code (NEC) 2014
  • Ohm’s law
  • Layout and practical installation of electrical circuits

Your residential electrician license must be renewed every 2 years. The fee for renewal is $200. You are also required to obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle, of which at least eight hours must be on code update.

 


 

Step 3. Become Licensed as a Master Electrician

The next step in your career is to become licensed as a master electrician. You can apply for a master electrician license by meeting the following requirements:

  • Complete and submit an application
  • Fulfill the education or experience requirement
  • Pay the $240 application fee (to the state board)
  • Pay the $80 examination fee (to PSI Services)
  • Submit copies of college transcripts (if you have a degree in electrical engineering)
  • Submit a completed Master Experience Verification Affidavit (if you are applying by experience criteria)
  • Receive a passing score (75%) on the master electrician examination administered by PSI Services

In order to be eligible for a master electrician license, you need to meet either the education requirement OR the experience requirement:

  • Education requirement – have a degree in electrical engineering plus 2,000 hours of practical experience
  • Experience requirement – a minimum of 8,000 hours of journeyman-level experience in wiring, installing, and repairing of electrical apparatus and equipment for light, heat, and power, with 20% to 50% of experience hours being in residential work

Next, the state board will send you an admission letter allowing you to register for the master electrician examination.

The master electrician examination is open book, consists of 80 questions, and has a four- hour time limit. Test topics include:

  • National Electrical Code (NEC) 2014
  • Cost estimating
  • Procurement and material handling
  • Printreading
  • Layout of electrical circuits
  • Electrical theory

Your master electrician license must be renewed every 2 years. The fee for renewal is $200. As a master electrician, you must obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle, with at least eight hours being on code update.

 


 

Step 4. Consider Becoming Licensed as an Electrical Contractor

In Montana, the state board offers both a limited and unlimited electrical contractor license. Work performed by a limited electrical contractor is restricted to residential construction of single structures containing less than five units. An unlimited electrical contractor has a larger scope of practice and is permitted to perform both residential and commercial electrical work.

The Montana State Electrical Board requires electrical contractors to employ a full-time responsible electrician. The role of the responsible electrician is to supervise all electrical work performed by the electrical contractor. The licensing level of the responsible electrician determines which type of electrical contractor license you are eligible for (limited or unlimited).

Limited Electrical Contractor

Criteria for a limited electrical contractor license include:

  • Complete and submit an application
  • Pay the $300 application fee
  • Submit proof of worker’s compensation coverage
  • Submit proof of unemployment insurance coverage

As a limited electrical contractor, you will employ a full-time journeyman electrician as the responsible electrician.

Your license must be renewed every 2 years. The renewal fee is $300.

Unlimited Electrical Contractor

Criteria for an unlimited electrical contractor license include:

  • Complete and submit an application
  • Pay the $300 application fee
  • Submit proof of worker’s compensation coverage
  • Submit proof of unemployment insurance coverage

As an unlimited electrical contractor, you will employ a full-time master electrician as the responsible electrician.

Your license must be renewed every 2 years. The renewal fee is $300.

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