Becoming an electrician can put you right in the middle of one of Tennessee’s largest industries: the energy sector. In a study conducted by the University of Tennessee, the state has been shown to have a good variety of energy sources, including nuclear power, solar power, water dams, and renewable energy sources. Tennessee is also working towards making energy more affordable and efficient in the state to match the median income of many Tennessee families.
Because of this focus on energy, working as an electrician in Tennessee has become more popular. The US Department of Labor expects the number of electrician jobs in Tennessee to jump by 12.9% during the ten-year period leading up to 2024. More and more people are realizing that working in a skilled trade allows great career advancement opportunities, respect from fellow tradespeople, and a secure job.
In Tennessee, individual cities and counties have their own rules and licensing requirements. This guide describes the requirements for some of the largest licensing jurisdictions in the state. After working as a licensed electrician for a few years, you have the opportunity to become an electrical contractor, licensed through the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Follow these steps to learn how to become a licensed electrician in Tennessee:
|Gain the Job Experience and Technical Training Required to Become a Licensed Electrician
|Take the Examination Required to Become a Licensed Electrician in Your Area
|Consider Becoming Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor
Step 1. Gain the Job Experience and Technical Training Required to Become a Licensed Electrician
Most major municipalities in Tennessee have their own licensing programs in place. Each municipal licensing board sets local requirements for electrician licensing and often have different licensing categories. In virtually all Tennessee licensing jurisdictions, qualifications for a journeyman-level professional electrician license include gaining 8,000 hours (4 years) of on-the-job training in conjunction with between 576 and 900 hours of classroom and lab-based technical training.
This combined training and field experience usually takes the form of an apprenticeship, a period of on the job training with an electrical contractor supplemented by classroom education and lab-based technical training. There are two paths you can take to land a job as an apprentice:
- Apply for an apprenticeship position through a union JATC (Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee) program, utility company, or non-union trade group
- Enroll in an electrical trade program through a technical school or community program and transition to an apprenticeship position
Alternately, you can gain documented experience working as an assistant or helper for a licensed electrical contractor. This option is only viable if you have enough wiring and/or construction experience to meet hiring requirements.
Technical School Program
By enrolling in a technical college, you can ensure that you are getting a solid, accredited education and a certificate or diploma to prove your knowledge. Upon completing a vocational program, you would have accumulated clock hours that would be applied toward meeting licensing requirements. With your career diploma or certificate, you would be prepared to transition to a full time apprenticeship position as an electrical technician, electrical maintenance worker, or residential electrician, among others.
Technical school programs are designed to meet the licensing requirements for the jurisdiction in which the school is located. At one of Tennessee’s largest technical colleges, programs are offered at different levels, each with unique clock hour requirements:
- Level 1 Apprentice Certificate Programs require 432 clock hours
- Level 2 Apprentice Certificate Programs require 864 clock hours
- Level 3 Apprentice Diploma Programs require 1,296 clock hours
Though there is a classroom learning component to all electrical trade school programs, most of your time would be spent participating in hands-on training. You can expect to study and be trained in:
- OSHA Regulations
- Hand Tools and Power Tools
- Construction Drawings
- Basic Rigging
- Material Handling
- Electrical Safety
- Electrical Circuits
- Electrical Theory
- National Electrical Code (NEC)
- Device Boxes
- Raceways & Fittings
- Conductors & Cables
- Residential Electrical Services
- Electrical Test Equipment
- Alternating Current
- Electric Lighting
- Conduit Bending
- Pull and Junction Boxes
- Conduit Installations
- Cable Tray
- Conductor Terminations and Splices
- Grounding and Bonding
- Circuit Breakers and Fuses
- Control Systems
- Load Calculations-Branch and Feeder Circuits
- Conductor Selection and Calculations
- Hazardous Locations
- Overcurrent Protection
- Distribution Equipment
- Commercial Electrical Services
- Motor Calculations and Motor Controls
With a certificate of competency or diploma in industrial or construction electrical wiring, you would be well qualified to begin applying for entry-level apprenticeship positions with electrical contracting companies in your area. If your program includes a field experience component with a local contractor, you may be able to transition to a full-time apprenticeship position. You will also have additional resources available to you through your technical college’s career assistance center. Alternately, you can pursue an apprenticeship through a local trade association, or use your recently earned credentials to pursue an entry-level job on your own with an electrical contracting company of your choice.
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 in one comprehensive program.
There are five union-sponsored JATCs in the state of Tennessee:
- Chattanooga Electrical JATC
- Electrician Training Academy Knoxville (ETAK)
- Memphis Electrical JATC
- Nashville Electrical JATC
- Oak Ridge Electrical JATC
Each of these programs has identical requirements for entry:
- Be 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma/GED
- Pass a high school algebra class
- Pass a general aptitude test covering reading and math skills
- Be able to transport yourself to job locations and school
Union membership would be required to participate in one of these apprenticeships
It’s also possible to enter into an apprenticeship at a non-union, or merit shop, electrical contracting company in Tennessee.
These programs are typically offered through the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) trade associations in coordination with local open shop contracting companies.
There are two options for formal merit shop apprenticeship programs in Tennessee:
Entry requirements are similar to those for the union programs. Instead of being assigned to jobs by the union, however, non-union apprentices are responsible for lining up their own work with merit shops.
Apprenticeships are also available directly through electrical contracting companies and utility companies, including the largest and most well established of its kind through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Acquire On-The-Job Experience Directly With an Electrical Contractor
Most Tennessee jurisdictions only require direct experience when applying for a journeyman-level electrician license. It is possible to find an entry-level electrical assistant or helper job directly with an electrical contractor to accumulate this experience before taking the exams for a local license.
This is sometimes the preferred option for those interested in licensing categories (available only in select municipal licensing jurisdictions) that only require two or three years of experience, since a full 4-year apprenticeship would not be necessary.
Qualifying for a license by experience alone would still require passing a licensing exam. It may also be more beneficial to undergo some classroom education through a trade school or community college electrical program in lieu of the class hours included with apprenticeships in order to prepare for the exams.
Limited Licensed Electrician (LLE)
An overarching state-issued Limited Licensed Electrician (LLE) license is available to cover areas of the state that don’t fall within other licensing jurisdictions. Only licensing jurisdictions without their own licensing programs recognize the LLE issued through the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. The LLE is issued to individuals who pass the LLE trade exam and is only applicable to electricians that working on projects costing less than $25,000. The LLE is not a substitute for meeting local licensing requirements and does not replace a contractor’s license.
Step 2. Take the Examination Required to Become a Licensed Electrician in Your Area
Once you complete your apprenticeship, you can earn a license in your town to work as a professional electrician. There is no statewide licensing for this kind of license, so the rules and license types vary from city to city. Be sure to check with your local government for their regulations and licensing on electrical work.
Knoxville offers four types of electrician licenses:
- Class 1 – Electrical Contractor. Requires 5 years of experience. Allows you to secure permits and sell your services to the public.
- Class 2 – Electrical Residential Contractor. Requires 4 years of experience. Allows you to secure permits and sell your services to the public, but only for residential properties.
- Class 3 – Electrical Maintenance. Requires 4 years of experience. Allows you to perform electrical work on properties you or your business owns. The property you will be working on must be listed in the license application.
- Class 4 – Electrical Appliance Dealer. Requires 2 year of experience. Allows you to perform electrical work related to appliances, including switches, controls, and circuits. You can only perform this work on appliances that you or your business has sold.
To earn any of these licenses, you need to fill out this application and submit it to the Knoxville Board of Electrical Examiners. Once your application is approved, you’ll be allowed to take an exam.
Your electrician license with Knoxville expires every year, so you’ll need to renew your license to keep working. There are not continuing education requirements.
The Electrical Examiners and Appeals Board in Nashville issues master electrician licenses. You cannot earn a journeyman electrician license in Nashville, which would typically come before a master electrician license.
If you want to become a master electrician in Nashville, you need to have three years of experience as an apprentice electrician and three more years as a hired electrician. Otherwise, if you have a degree in engineering from an accredited college or university, you may be able to list that instead of direct experience, at the discretion of the board. If you do not have three years of hired experience or an engineering degree, you need to find employment with a local electrician first.
If you qualify for a master electrician license, contact the Electrical Examiners and Appeals Board for an application and information.
Shelby County/Memphis, TN
Shelby County and Memphis offer both journeyman electrician licenses and master electrician licenses. These licenses are issued through the Electrical Code Board. In general, you’ll need to take an exam in order to receive either of these licenses.
To qualify for a journeyman electrician license, you need to be 20 years old and have three years of experience. You can find an examination application in this exam bulletin. The journeyman exam is four hours long and has 80 multiple-choice questions.
To qualify for a master electrician license, you need to be 24 years old and have four years of experience as a journeyman electrician. You can find an examination application in this exam bulletin. The master exam is five hours long and has 100 multiple-choice questions.
After you pass the exam and receive your license, you need to renew your license every year.
Step 3. Consider Becoming Licensed as an Independent Electrical Contractor
After working as a professional electrician for a few years, you can choose to work as an electrical contractor in Tennessee. To do this, you need to become familiar with the Department of Commerce and Insurance (DCI).
The DCI offers two types of electrician licenses: the Limited Licensed Electrician and the Contractor Electrical license. The Limited Licensed Electrician has some key limitations. They can only bid on projects valued at $25,000 or less, and they cannot advertise themselves at contractors. The Contractor Electrical License does not have these limitations. Other than these differences, the requirements are the same between the two types of licenses. This guide will cover the broader Contractor Electrical license. For more information about the Limited Licensed Electrician, see this page.
There are three main steps to getting a contractor license, composing the testing process, the application process and documents, and the board approval and issuance of the license.
You’ll start with taking the exams. You need to pass a Business and Law exam and a specific trade exam. Start by registering for your exams with this exam bulletin. You have to pass both exams to get your contracting license.
After passing your exams, you need to fill out the application and provide a series of documents. Fill out this application package in full. You’ll be submitting your application with a financial statement, a reference letter, and proof of insurance and worker’s compensation. If you are filing as a corporation, you’ll also need to file with the Secretary of State. See the pages on filing a financial statement, getting a reference and proving your insurance, and filing as a corporation for instructions on those steps.
When you have your documents collected and application filled out, you need to submit your application to the DCI. It will take 4-6 weeks for your application to be approved, and you may be called in for an interview if needed. Once you are issued your license, you need to renew it every year. You’ll receive a notice in the mail 90 days before your license expires, and you need to renew your license 30 days before it expires.