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How to Become an Electrician in Pennsylvania

One of the largest industries in Pennsylvania, the construction industry, has become an essential part of the state’s economy. In the 20th century, Pennsylvania was a major provider of steel and coal, pushing forward the development of the railroad system. In recent years, the demand for steel has been decreasing, but the demand for auxiliary construction trades, including electricians, has been steadily growing in response to a rising population and commercial development across the state.

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The Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analysis has projected that the number of electrician jobs in the state will grow by 13.8% during the 10-year period leading up to 2024. Considering there are already over 20,000 electricians in Pennsylvania, this shows remarkable growth in an essential residential and commercial trade.

There is no state licensing board for electricians in Pennsylvania, so you will get your license from the cities that you plan on working in.

To become a licensed electrician, you’ll complete an electrical apprenticeship that will prepare you for licensure as an electrical journeyman. After working for a few years under your journeyman license, you can also get a license to hire a team and bid jobs as an independent electrical contractor.

This guide will cover the process for Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Allentown. Though the requirements for each of these cities are similar to generally accepted standards found in other cities around the state, you must meet all local requirements for the specific municipal licensing jurisdiction you work in. Be sure to check with your local government for their requirements.

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

Enroll in an Electrical Apprenticeship Program, Attend Trade School, or Gain Direct Work Experience in the Electrical Field
Become Licensed as a Journeyman Electrician
Become Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor In Your City

 


 

Step 1. Enroll in an Electrical Apprenticeship Program, Attend Trade School, or Gain Direct Work Experience in the Electrical Field

In Pennsylvania, electrician licensing is handled by licensing boards at the city or county level, each of which has different requirements for certification and sometimes different categories of licenses specific to different types of specialized electrical work.

There are three commonly accepted routes to becoming licensed in most of Pennsylvania’s licensing jurisdictions:

  • Go through an apprenticeship program to accumulate a combination of three to five years of on-the-job experience combined with between 750 and 900 hours of classroom education depending on the requirements of the jurisdiction

OR

  • Attend a community college or trade school and graduate with a certificate in electrical technology and accumulate two years of work experience in the field

OR

  • Work under the direct supervision of a licensed electrician for at least 10 years

Apprenticeship Programs in Pennsylvania

There are a wide variety of apprenticeship options available in Pennsylvania, both union-sponsored and merit shop-based.

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. Union membership would be required in order to participate in one of these apprenticeships. Union apprenticeships are available through 14 JATCs throughout the state:

Alternately, formal non-union apprenticeship programs are organized by one of two industry trade groups, either the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). These organizations facilitate formal apprenticeship programs that include the requisite classroom based training requirements and work to place aspiring apprentices with local, affiliated merit shop contractors:

Regardless of whether you are applying to a union or non-union apprenticeship, basic entry requirements are likely to be very similar:

  • Minimum of 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • One year of high school algebra with a passing grade
  • Pass a general aptitude test covering math and reading skills

Joining a merit shop apprenticeship will also require that the candidate apply for jobs directly at participating contractors. Union apprenticeships will assign candidates to jobs after they are accepted.

Electrical Trade School Program

Another option in many Pennsylvania jurisdictions is to attend a community college or trade school electrical program and graduate with an associate’s in applied science degree or certificate in electrical technology.

In a technical school electrical program you can expect to study these topics among many others:

  • DC Electronics / AC Electronics
  • Basic Applied Electrical Math
  • Non-linear Circuit analysis
  • Programmable Logic Controllers
  • Electric Motor Control
  • National Electric Code
  • Blueprint Reading

Some programs segue into a formal apprenticeship, while others facilitate internships that could lead to an apprentice position with a local electrical contracting company.

Direct Work Experience Under a Licensed Electrician

It is possible in some municipalities to get a journeyman’s license simply by accumulating sufficient on-the-job experience and passing an ICC or the Thomson Prometric test. This route usually requires a great deal of experience, as many as ten years of work under a currently licensed electrician.

Although it requires no explicit classroom preparation, the practical experience of working in the field for so long can provide adequate preparation for taking the journeyman exam.

Typically, contractors will post listings for apprentices on job boards maintained by your local licensing authority.

 


 

Step 2. Become Licensed as a Journeyman Electrician

Because Pennsylvania doesn’t have statewide regulations and licensing requirements for professional electricians, working as a journeyman electrician after your apprenticeship looks different in each city. Of the three cities covered in this guide, Allentown has the most standard requirements, offering a journeyman electrician license after four years of experience.

Most other Pennsylvania cities do not offer a journeyman electrician license. However, most electrical contractors will still expect that you have completed an apprenticeship before they hire you as a full time journeyman electrician. Proof of completing your apprenticeship is often enough to prove that you have professional experience.

The journeyman requirements for Allentown are very typical of journeyman requirements around the nation. Even if your city does not require a journeyman license, these requirements are strong indicators of a skilled and professional electrician, and they are worth reaching for. Be sure to check with your local government for any requirements they have on working as a journeyman electrician.

Allentown, PA

The Allentown Building Standards and Safety Department issues journeyman electrician licenses to electricians working in Allentown. To work as a journeyman electrician in Allentown, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Four years of practical experience
  • Minimum of 21 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • A completed application
  • A passing score on the journeyman exam

To take the exam, you need to fill out the application provided by the City of Allentown. They will look over your application, and if you qualify, they will send you details on scheduling the journeyman electrician exam.

Information about scheduling the exam can be found in this exam bulletin. The exam is four hours long, has 80 multiple-choice questions, and is open book. You can use the 2008 National Electric Code as a reference during the exam. To pass the exam, you have to score a 70%. Here is the breakdown of the topics on the exam:

  • General Knowledge – 8%
  • Services and Service Equipment – 13%
  • Feeders – 3%
  • Branch Circuits and Conductors – 20%
  • Wiring Methods and Materials – 26%
  • Equipment and Devices – 13%
  • Control Devices – 3%
  • Motors and Generators – 5%
  • Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions – 11%

Once you pass the exam, you will be sent a letter in the mail from the testing center letting you know you’ve passed. Take that letter to the Allentown government office with a valid driver’s license, and you can purchase your journeyman electrician license.

The license needs to be renewed every year, which can be done by contacting Allentown government offices.

Allentown Building Standards and Safety Department recognizes journeyman licenses issued from the City of Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Kutztown, Reading, Scranton and the State of Connecticut and will allow license holders from these jurisdictions to apply for a local journeyman license by reciprocity.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia do not offer journeyman electrician licenses, only electrical contractor licenses. Be sure to have a copy of your certification of completion from your apprenticeship or other documentation proving your experience when you are looking for employment as a journeyman electrician.

 


 

Step 3. Become Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor In Your City

After working with a local electrical contractor or holding a journeyman license for a few years, you can apply for a license to work as an independent electrical contractor. As with journeyman licenses, each city has different requirements. Be sure to check with your local government for their regulations on electrical contractors and master electricians.

Allentown, PA

The Allentown Building Standards and Safety Department issues master electrician licenses to electricians working in the city. Though the license requires four years of experience (the same for earning a journeyman license), the master electrician exam in more comprehensive and the license has no limitations, allowing the holder to pull permits and work independently in any building or structure in the city.

To work as a master electrician in Allentown, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Four years of practical experience
  • Minimum of 21 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • A completed application
  • A passing score on the master electrician exam

To take the exam, you need to fill out the application provided by the City of Allentown. They will look over your application, and if you qualify, they will send you details on scheduling the master electrician exam.

Information about scheduling the exam can be found in this exam bulletin. The exam is five hours long, has 100 multiple-choice questions, and is open book. You can use the 2008 National Electric Code as a reference during the exam. To pass the exam, you have to score a 70%. Here is the breakdown of the topics on the exam:

  • General Knowledge and Plan Reading – 12%
  • Services and Service Equipment – 16%
  • Feeders – 4%
  • Branch Circuits and Conductors – 16%
  • Wiring Methods and Materials – 19%
  • Equipment and Devices – 10%
  • Control Devices – 3%
  • Motors and Generators – 8%
  • Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions – 12%

Once you pass the exam, you will be sent a letter in the mail from the testing center letting you know you’ve passed. Take that letter to the Allentown government office with a valid driver’s license, and you can purchase your master electrician license.

The license needs to be renewed every year, which can be done by contacting Allentown government offices.

Allentown does not have any insurance or binding requirements for master electricians.

Pittsburgh, PA

The Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections issues electrical contractor licenses in Pittsburgh.

To qualify for an electrical contractor license in Pittsburgh, you have to meet the following requirements:

  • Passing the electrical contractor exam
  • 18 years or older
  • Photo ID
  • One of the following experience requirements
    • Certificate of completion from an accredited school and two years of experience
    • Ten years of experience in another state or municipality with a valid license
    • Ten years of experience with a currently licensed Pittsburgh electrical contractor
  • General liability insurance of no less then $300,000
  • Proof of registration for city taxes

To take the exam, consult the scheduling instructions in this Pittsburgh exam bulletin. The exam is five hours long, has 100 multiple-choice questions, and is open book. You can use the 2008 National Electric Code and any edition of Ugly’s Electrical Reference as a reference during the exam. To pass the exam, you have to score a 70%. Here is the breakdown of the topics on the exam:

  • General Knowledge and Plan Reading – 12%
  • Services and Service Equipment – 16%
  • Feeders – 4%
  • Branch Circuits and Conductors – 16%
  • Wiring Methods and Materials – 19%
  • Equipment and Devices – 10%
  • Control Devices – 3%
  • Motors and Generators – 8%
  • Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions – 12%

Once you pass the exam, you need to fill out this application and file it with the Department. Once they approve your application, you just need to pay the initial licensing fee.

After you get your license in Pittsburgh, you need to renew your license every year. Renewing your license requires the same application and submission of all the documents proving your experience.

Philadelphia, PA

To get an electrical contractor license from the Business Services Department of Philadelphia, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Four years of experience as an electrician
  • General liability insurance of $500,000, Worker’s Compensation, and auto insurance
  • Filed Tax Clearance Forms through the Department of Revenue
  • A completed application with three passport sized color photos of yourself
  • Passing the electrical contractor exam

To take the exam, consult the scheduling instructions in this Philadelphia exam bulletin. The exam is five hours long, has 100 multiple-choice questions, and is open book. You can use the 2008 National Electric Code as a reference during the exam. To pass the exam, you have to score a 70%. The breakdown of the topics on the exam is:

  • General Knowledge and Plan Reading – 12%
  • Services and Service Equipment – 16%
  • Feeders – 4%
  • Branch Circuits and Conductors – 16%
  • Wiring Methods and Materials – 19%
  • Equipment and Devices – 10%
  • Control Devices – 3%
  • Motors and Generators – 8%
  • Special Occupancies, Equipment, and Conditions – 12%

Once you pass the exam, you can pay for and pick up your license from the Business Services Department.

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