It’s an excellent time to pursue a career as an electrician in Washington. In fact, in 2015 the Employment Security Department of Washington State projected a 21.8% increase in the number of electrician jobs through 2024. The opportunities for certified electricians in the state are increasing at an unprecedented rate, making it an ideal time to seek certification.
As you move from electrical trainee to journeyman electrician to master electrician, you will work closely with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (WDLI), the electrical trade licensing authority for the state.
Follow the steps in the guide below to begin your career as an electrician in Washington:
Step 1. Apply for an Electrical Trainee Certificate and Complete Required Classroom Hours and On-the-Job Experience
To begin your journey towards becoming a certified electrician, you’ll need to apply to become an electrical trainee through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
As a trainee, you will gain 8,000 hours of work experience (4 years full time) and 96 hours (24 hours each year) of technical training in the classroom to meet the qualifications for your journeyman license.
Your time in the classroom will involve studying the following topics:
- Hazardous Locations
- How to Navigate the NEC
- Volts, AMPS, OHMS
- Electrical Systems
- AC Theory
- Basic electronics
- Commercial & Industrial Load Calcs
- Lighting Systems and Ballasts
- AC Motor/Box & Raceway
- General Requirements for Conductors
- Ohm’s Law & Combination Circuits
- Calculation for Trainees
- Low Voltage Conductors & Cables
- Theory of Electrical Circuits
- Wiring and Protection
- Control Systems
- Standby Generators
- Grounding vs Bonding
- Basic Motor Controls
- Lighting Protection
- Lighting & Signs
The WDLI only recognizes approved education courses.
To apply for a trainee permit, you’ll need to be at least 16 years of age. You can print the application and mail it to the WDLI at:
Department of Labor and Industries
Electrical Licensing and Certification
PO Box 44460
Olympia WA 98504-4460
Alternately, you may apply online through the board. The application fee is $46.30.
Once you’ve been approved, you can gain the required on-the-job experience in one of three ways, all of which would involve working under the supervision of a certified electrician during your time as a trainee:
- Union or Non-Union Apprenticeship
- Trade School
- On-the-Job Training
Whether you gain your experience through an apprenticeship, trade school or informal on-the-job training, you would need to renew your certificate every two years while you are working towards becoming a journeyman electrician. You would also need to formally document your experience with your employer using the Affidavit of Experience Form.
Union or Non-Union Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are the most common way to gain the training and on-the-job experience necessary to qualify for a journeyman license. The WDLI makes it easy to find placement by offering an online guide with details on how to become an apprentice in Washington, as well as giving certified trainees access to apprenticeship coordinators assigned to each county whose job it is to help facilitate placement. Apprenticeships are available with state and local government agencies and both union and non-union employers. Your apprentice coordinator can help you find the option that’s best for you.
Union apprenticeships are available through Electrician Training Alliance Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees (JATC) located in Western Washington:
- Inland Empire Electrical Training Trust in Spokane
- Kennewick JATC
- Northwest Wash. Electrical Industry JATC in Mount Vernon
- Puget Sound Electrical JATC in Renton
- SW Washington Electrical JATC in Tacoma
The Electrical Training Alliance represents a partnership between Washington State chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)).
Washington is home to two trade schools that offer journeyman electrician programs:
- Bates Technical College – Tacoma
- Perry Technical Institute – Yakima
These journeyman programs will provide the 96 hours of classroom and lab-based education required to qualify for a journeyman license and will place you with local employers for 4,000 (2 years) of the 8,000 hours (4 years) of required on-the-job experience.
Often, trainees are hired on with one of the employers they worked with during the two-year program. In this case, you would complete the remaining 4,000 hours required for your journeyman license, and simply transition to a full-time journeyman position with the company in two years time.
Informal On-The-Job Training
After being approved for a trainee certificate, you can strike out on your own to find a certified electrician who is interested in taking on a trainee. If you choose this option, it is important to verify that the electrician is certified with the state in order for your experience to count toward licensing requirements.
In order to apply for a journeyman electrician license in Washington, you’ll need at least 8,000 documented hours as an electrical trainee under the supervision of a certified electrician. At least 4,000 hours must be spent working in commercial or industrial installation. You’ll also need to have completed 96 hours of basic classroom instruction.
Step 2. Apply for a Journeyman Electrician Certificate and Pass the Required Exam
With your application, you’ll need to include affidavits completed by employers that prove that you’ve completed the required number of hours as a supervised electrical trainee.
To register for the journeyman electrician exam, you’ll need to contact L&I Electrical Licensing and Certification to receive approval. You can contact them by phone at 360-902-5269 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the Department of L&I Electrical Licensing and Certification has approved you, you’ll need to register for the exam through PSI Exams. Exams are held at testing centers throughout the state.
The journeyman exam consists of 77 total questions and covers the following topics:
- Wiring & protection
- Overcurrent protection
- Grounding & bonding
- Wiring methods
- Electrical equipment
- Motors, HVAC, Generators & transformers
- Hazardous locations
- Special occupancies
- Special equipment
- Emergency & standby
- Special conditions
- Communication systems
- Washington laws & rules
- Major load calculations
- General trade knowledge & Theory
For more details on the exam, you can look over PSI’s candidate information bulletin.
Your journeyman certificate will expire every three years. You’ll need to renew it online through the WDLI. Upon renewal, you’ll be required to submit proof of having completed 24 hours of continuing education credits:
- 8 hours must be on current national electrical code changes
- 4 hours must be on the currently adopted revised code of Washington and the Washington administrative code
- The remaining 12 hours of continuing education can cover any approved course
All continuing education hours must be from an approved provider.
Applying for a Specialty Electrician License
Once you’ve completed 4,000 hours as an electrical trainee, you may also choose to apply for a specialty electrician license.
These specialties require 4,000 years of experience and 48 hours of basic classroom instruction:
- Pump and irrigation
- Limited energy system
- HVAC/refrigeration system
The following specialties require 2,000 hours of experience and 24 hours of basic classroom instruction:
- Domestic well
- Nonresidential maintenance
- Nonresidential lighting maintenance and lighting retrofit
- Residential maintenance
- Restricted nonresidential maintenance
- Appliance repair
- Equipment repair
- Door, gate, and similar systems
You’ll need to apply online for the specialty certification and include an application fee of $86.30.
Once you’ve been approved, you’ll be able to register for your specialty exam online through PSI. Exam questions will vary based on your specialty, but you can find more details in the candidate information bulletin.
You’ll need to renew your certification every three years and provide proof that you have completed 24 hours of approved continuing education courses during the renewal period.
Once you have worked as a journeyman electrician in Washington for at least four years, you’ll be able to apply for a master electrician certificate.
Step 3. Apply to Become a Master Electrician or Electrical Administrator and Pass the Required Exam
You must have been certified as a journeyman electrician for at least four years in order to apply as a master electrician. To apply as an electrical administrator, you’ll just need to pass the administrator exam.
You can apply for either certification online. If you’re seeking master certification, you’ll need to provide documentation of your hours worked as a journeyman and detail the kind of work you’ve completed over the past four years.
Next, you’ll register online for the master electrician exam or the electrical administrator exam through PSI.
The master electrician exam and the electrician administrator exam will cover the same topics as the journeyman exam. However, the master electrician exam will consist of 110 questions, while the electrical administrator test is made up of 92 questions.
You’ll need to renew either certificate online every three years with proof of 24 completed hours of WDLI approved continuing education courses.
Step 4. Consider Becoming Certified as an Electrical Contractor
If you are certified as a master electrician or as an electrical administrator, you are eligible to apply for licensing as an electrical contractor so as to be able to independently offer your services to the public.
You may apply online through the WDLI and submit the $306 fee.
You’ll also need to renew your license online every three years for a $230 fee. Contractors are not required to complete continuing education hours.