In 2016, a study done by the West Virginia University, College of Business and Economics, revealed that between 2012 and 2013, the construction industry in West Virginia saw the start of nearly 2,000 single-family homes. While this was lower than the state’s 2006 housing construction peak, it represented a 19% increase in residential construction over the previous year. This is a great sign of economic recovery, as well as a positive indicator of emerging career opportunities for electricians. In addition, the construction of the $500 million natural gas power plant in Moundsville and the $500 million manufacturing plant in Martinsburg is creating a whole new realm of opportunity for electricians in West Virginia.
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You will earn your journeyman and master electrician license through the West Virginia Fire Commission, Office of the State Fire Marshall, while electrical contractor licensing is handled through the West Virginia Department of Labor, Contractor Licensing Board.
Follow these steps to learn how to become a licensed electrician in West Virginia:
Step 1. Get the Training and Documented On-Site Job Experience Required to Become a Journeyman Electrician
To qualify for your electrician journeyman license in West Virginia, you will need to complete one of the following:
- Complete a West Virginia Department of Education-approved vocational course that is a minimum of 1,080 hours in duration
- Complete a US Department of Labor-approved electrical apprenticeship program (typically consists of 8,000 hours of experience and between 576-900 hours of theory and technical instruction in the classroom
- Document 8,000 hours (4 years) of practical job site experience under the supervision of a licensed electrician
First, you’ll need to apply to take the apprentice-level state electrical examination. You will mail your application and $10 exam fee to:
Office of the West Virginia State Fire Marshall
1207 Quarrier St., 2nd floor
Charleston, WV 25301
The only requirement for the exam is that you are at least 18 years old. After submitting your application, you’ll receive an authorization form from the Office of the State Fire Marshall allowing you to sit for the exam.
The test consists of a total of 20 questions. All questions are taken from the first four chapters of the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) book. A score of 80% or higher is required to pass. Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll receive your apprentice electrician license. You must renew your license with the Office of the State Fire Marshall annually for a fee of $50.
The next step is to begin applying to electrician training programs. These multi-year programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Working alongside an experienced electrician, you’ll learn essential skills like:
- General wiring of receptacles, switches, and breaker boxes
- Working with conduit
- Motor controls and fire alarms
- Installation of high, medium, and low voltage switches and relays
- Testing, troubleshooting, and repairing electrical systems
Apprenticeship and other on-the-job training opportunities are available through technical schools, unions and non-union organizations:
Earning an Associate of Applied Science in Electrical Systems Technology or an electrician certificate or career diploma through a trade school or vocational-technical school (vo-tech) will provide you with the most thorough classroom and lab-based technical training available.
State Department of Education-approved programs will include the 1,080 hours of theory, safety and technical training required to qualify for a journeyman license.
Many programs offer job placement services that will connect you with local employers interested in taking on new graduates.
Union and Non-Union Organizations
If you choose to pursue an apprenticeship through a non union employer, you would contact the Mid Atlantic Chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).
For a union apprenticeship, talk to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which offers apprenticeship programs through Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committees (JATC) throughout the state:
- IBEW Local 466 in Charleston
- IBEW Local 141 in Wheeling
- IBEW Local 317 in Huntington
- IBEW Local 968 in Parkersburg
- IBEW Local 596 in Clarksburg
Most JATCs require an applicant to be a resident within the JATCs jurisdictional area, so you should apply with the JATC that is most local to you. While each JATC sets its own admission criteria, the following requirements are pretty universal:
- 18 years of age or older
- Provide high school or GED transcripts
- Must have completed one year of high school algebra or one post-high school algebra course and obtained a passing grade
- Have a valid West Virginia driver’s license
- Provide a copy of your birth certificate
- Submit DD-214 form if you received any electrical training while serving in the military
- Pay the $20 application fee
Next, you’ll be contacted by the JATC and given a test date for the required aptitude test. The exam contains 69 questions and covers algebra, algebraic functions, and reading comprehension. The test takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete. You will need a score of four or higher in order to be contacted for an interview.
After receiving a qualifying score, you’ll be contacted by the JATC and scheduled for an interview. The score you receive for your interview performance will determine your rank and placement on the JATCs admission selection list.
Step 2. Pass the Examination Required to Become Licensed as a Journeyman Electrician
Now that you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you can apply for a journeyman electrician license. The requirements include:
- Complete an application for the journeyman electrician examination
- Meet the experience requirement
- Provide a copy of your certificate of completion from your apprenticeship program
- Pay the $25 examination fee
- Pay the $50 licensing fee
- Take and pass the journeyman electrician exam
Any of the following options satisfies the experience requirement:
- At least 8,000 hours (or 4 years) of hands-on experience
- Completion of an apprentice program approved by the U.S. Department of Labor
- Completion of a vocational program approved by the West Virginia Department of Education (at least 1,080 hours)
The journeyman electrician exam contains 42 questions and 4 calculations. You’ll need to achieve a score of 80% or higher in order to get your license. After passing the exam, you’ll receive your journeyman license. Your license has to be renewed yearly with the Office of the State Fire Marshall. The renewal fee is $50.
At the journeyman-level, the Office of the State Fire Marshall has reciprocity agreements with Virginia and Kentucky. You can complete an application if you are applying by reciprocity.
Step 3. Meet the Requirements and Become Licensed as a Master Electrician
After working as a journeyman and gaining additional experience, your next step is to get licensed as a master electrician. The requirements for a master electrician license include:
- Complete an application for the master electrician examination
- Meet the experience requirement
- Pay the $25 examination fee
- Pay the $50 licensing fee
- Take and pass the master electrician exam
In order to be eligible for a master electrician license, you must have at least 10,000 hours (or 5 years) of hands-on electrical work experience. Your experience must include a combination of residential, commercial, and industrial work, and all work experience must be in above ground structural wiring. Vocational training hours cannot be used to satisfy the experience requirement.
Next, you’ll take the master electrician exam. The exam contains 50 questions and 10 calculations. You’ll need to receive a score of at least 80% in order to get your license. After you pass the exam, you’ll receive your master electrician license. The Office of the State Fire Marshall requires that your license be renewed yearly. The renewal fee is $50.
At the master electrician level, the Office of the State Fire Marshall has reciprocity agreements in place with Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. You can complete an application if you are applying by reciprocity.
Step 4. Consider Becoming Licensed as an Electrical Contractor
If you’re interested in working as an electrical contractor, you’ll need to apply for an electrical contractor license through the West Virginia Department of Labor, Contractor Licensing Board. Requirements for licensure include:
- Payment of the $90 application fee
- Provide proof of worker’s compensation insurance
- Provide proof of unemployment coverage
- Complete the Wage Bond Status Affidavit and post a wage bond, if applicable
- Take and pass the electrical contractor exam
- Take and pass the West Virginia Business and Law exam
The wage bond requirement applies to electrical contractors who have not been actively engaged in construction work during the five years preceding the application for license. The wage bond is equivalent to 4 weeks of total gross payroll plus an additional 15%. This, however, does not apply to electrical contractors who perform only residential work.
Once you submit your application, you’ll receive an admission to test notice. The trade examination is open book, contains 75 questions, and has a three-hour time limit. A score of 70% is needed to pass. Test topics include:
- Electrical theory
- Three-phase theory
- Wiring methods and materials
- Conduit fill
- Service loads
- Voltage drop
- Wiring and protection
After passing the exam and providing all appropriate documentation, you’ll receive your electrical contractor license. You must renew your license every year for a fee of $90.
The West Virginia Department of Labor, Contractor Licensing Board, does have reciprocity agreements in place with North Carolina and Ohio. You can complete an application if you are applying by reciprocity.