Becoming an electrician is a strong career choice, with a projected above-average job growth between 2019 and 2029. In this guide, we’re going to spill the beans on how to become an electrician in Pennsylvania.
You’re very likely to obtain valuable employment when you study to become an electrician, but it does take years and dedicated effort to get there.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Overview – How to Become an Electrician in Pennsylvania
Key Steps: Get an Electrical License in Pennsylvania
Step 1. Join an Apprenticeship Program or Trade School (OR work the Required Hours)
Step 2. Pass the Exam to Become a Journeyman Electrician
Step 3. Pass the Exam to Become a Master Electrician and/or Contractor
Conclusion: The Takeaway
How to Become an Electrician in Pennsylvania- Overview
You may already know that finding out how to become an electrician in Pennsylvania doesn’t have a simple answer.
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a state licensing board for electricians or most other construction contractors. This means there’s no state-wide electrician license, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can just work anywhere without an electrician’s license.
Cities and counties in Pennsylvania usually have their own licensing departments, so you’ll need to contact each municipality to check the specific requirements. Licensing boards will issue electrician licenses locally in their own jurisdiction.
Fun Fact: There are over 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania.
Following are some general guidelines we can give you for starting to learn on the job.
Key Steps to Get an Electrical License in Pennsylvania
- Complete apprenticeship, trade school/community college, or work requirements.
- Pass the journeyman electrician exam.
- Work required years as a journeyman to sit for the master electrician exam.
- Option to become an electrical contractor.
Step 1. Fulfill Apprenticeship, Trade School, or Work Requirements
We know it can be daunting to navigate the requirements in Pennsylvania to become an electrician. But, we spell it out as simply as possible so you can be on your way to a rewarding career.
Licensing is regulated by local jurisdictions. However, participating in 1 of the 3 options below fulfill most requirements across Pennsylvania:
1. Merit-based or Union Apprenticeship Training
2. Trade School or Community College including 2 years of work experience
3. Ten years of supervised work under a licensed electrician
Most electrician apprenticeships in Pennsylvania require you to:
- be 18 years old
- have a high school diploma
- take a math & reading assessment
- provide 3 letters of reference
- attend a personal interview
A. Apprenticeship Training Programs – Merit-based (non-union)
The cost of an apprenticeship is low compared to a 4-year college degree. In many cases, contractor employers reimburse students for the cost of their apprenticeships.
When you join a merit-based electrician apprenticeship program in Pennsylvania, you’ll receive classroom training and earn wages while learning on the job. Over a 4-year period, you will complete:
- 8,000 hours on-the-job training
- attend 576 hours of classroom instruction
Two popular electrician apprenticeship programs in Pennsylvania are:
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)
- Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC)
These organizations assist you in finding apprenticeship employment with a local electrical contractor, although it’s ultimately your responsibility to secure the job.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Electrician Apprenticeship
It’s exciting to know that when you complete your apprenticeship program with ABC, you’ll have earned NCCER certification in your craft along with a Pennsylvania recognized journeyman license.
What is NCCER you ask? Way back in 1996, construction CEOs and various academic and association leaders united to revolutionize training for the construction industry. It’s a non-profit that now has 6,000 training and assessment locations in the U.S.
Find the Pennsylvania ABC electrician apprenticeship location closest to you:
Associated Builders and Contractors – Western Pennsylvania
Associated Builders and Contractors – Eastern Pennsylvania
Associated Builders and Contractors – Central Pennsylvania
Associated Builders and Contractors – Keystone Chapter (Lancaster County)
Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Pennsylvania Electrician Apprenticeship
It’s amazing what you’ll learn your first year in the IEC electrician apprenticeship. This is a robust program and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an electrician in Pennsylvania.
Find the IEC electrician apprenticeship nearest to you:
Independent Electrical Contractors – Central Pennsylvania
Independent Electrical Contractors – Serving Chesapeake
Independent Electrical Contractors – Serving western PA
Independent Electrical Contractors – Northwestern PA
Want to hear some good news? Employers sometimes cover the cost of your apprenticeship so that there is no cost to you. Some employers offer reimbursement programs based on your performance and grades. As a result, many apprentices’ school expenses are entirely reimbursed!
In addition, when you successfully complete the IEC apprenticeship, you may have earned up to 40 college credits. The American Council of Education (ACE) has evaluated the IEC apprenticeship and rewards students the credits to use toward a 4-year college program.
B. Apprenticeship Training Program – Union Option
You will find many electrician apprenticeship opportunities across Pennsylvania provided by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which is a union-based program in the United States.
Apprenticeship training through IBEW is a joint program with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) that’s designed for students to work and attend school to learn the electrical trade.
Find the Pennsylvania location that will be most convenient for you:
Western Central PA JATC – Neshannock Township
Williamsport JATC – Phone: 570-368-8984
York Electrical Institute
Local 98 JATC – Philadelphia area
You might find this map helpful to see where the IBEW apprenticeships are located. IBEW JATC location map.
C. Trade School or Community College Option
If available in your jurisdiction, you may find that attending a trade school or community college is your best option to getting started in the electrical trade.
This can be a good option if you have no previous knowledge of electricity, and you prefer to have formal studies as your base. It’s a good way to get your feet wet and learn basic skills and knowledge.
D. Ten Years Supervised Work Under a Licensed Contractor Option
Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be able to complete your training to become a licensed journeyman electrician simply by working. In this case, you wouldn’t need formal studies or an apprenticeship license before you start working.
But you may have to work for as long as 10 years before you can sign up for an exam. The extra years of experience are required to show you’ve acquired the necessary knowledge to work on the job.
If your jurisdiction has an electrical journeyman license, you’ll likely need to hold it for a few years before becoming an electrical contractor. If not, you can show your experience of working for a licensed contractor with IRS records.
In Pittsburgh, the experience required is 10 years, or two years and a completed degree from an accredited school.
For Philadelphia and Allentown, you’ll need to show four years of practical experience from working with a licensed electrical contractor. You can substitute two years of that experience with formal studies. Two years of studies equal one year of practical experience, given that on-the-job learning is often faster.
Step 2. Pass the Exam to Become a Journeyman Electrician in Pennsylvania
Whether you need a license to work as a journeyman electrician in Pennsylvania depends on where you’re planning to work.
For example, Pittsburgh and Philadephia do not dispense journeyman and master electrician licenses.
Following is Allentown as an example of how to get your journeyman electrician license in their jurisdiction.
Allentown Journeyman Electrician License
To become a journeyman electrician in Allentown, you need to meet these requirements:
- be over 21 years old
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Have at least 4 years of practical experience
- Signed and notarized application
Take a look at the Allentown Journeyman License application and instructions.
After your application is approved, you will receive a letter in the mail about how to take your exam.
Details of the Allentown exam can be found with the International Code Council and answers most questions that candidates have.
Electrical licenses issued by the municipalities below will be recognized by the city of Allentown:
- City of Bethlehem
- State of Connecticut
Harrisburg Journeyman Electrician
- 4-years of practical experience (apprenticeships accepted)
- OR 4-years of technical school and 2 years of practical experience
- Proof of passing the ICC exam
Step 3. Pass the Exam to Become a Master Electrician and/or Electrical Contractor in Pennsylvania
Master electricians and electrical contractors usually require separate licenses in most jurisdictions across the country and Pennsylvania. With these licenses, you can start your own business and not have to work for another contractor.
Just like with journeyman electrician’s licenses, there’s not a statewide path to becoming an independent electrical contractor or master electrician in Pennsylvania. Local Pennsylvania licensing boards issue electrician licenses within their own jurisdiction.
You’ll need to check with your licensing authorities to find out the exact requirements and the license you need.
To start the process of becoming licensed, you’ll need to fill out an application, submit two or three photos, and pay a fee.
In some cities, the application is the first step in the process of becoming an electrical contractor. Others will require you to take the exam first.
But in any case, you’ll generally have to move diligently, because both the exams and the applications tend to expire in 12 months. Make sure you have fulfilled all the experience requirements before applying, in case you run into unexpected problems.
In all cases, you’ll need to provide proof of sufficient experience in the field to become an independently working electrical contractor or master electrician. You can show this experience either in years of working with a licensed electrical contractor or completing a degree and working.
In most cases, you’ll have to complete an exam to show you’ve got the necessary level of knowledge to work independently. In some cases, you’ll need preapproval of your application and work experience from the city to take the exam. Check the requirements well before signing up.
If your town has an electrical journeyman license, you likely need to hold it for a few years before becoming an electrical contractor. If not, you can show your experience of working for a licensed contractor with IRS records.
In Pittsburgh, the experience required is 10 years, or two years and a completed degree from an accredited school. For Philadelphia and Allentown, you’ll need to show four years of practical experience from working with a licensed electrical contractor.
In the cases where you’re taking an exam to become an electrical contractor, you’ll need to show proof of general liability insurance. The exact amount depends on the jurisdiction.
For example, Philadelphia requires general liability insurance for $500,000, auto insurance for $300,000, and worker’s compensation for $100,000 per employee. You can also sign an affidavit stating you have no employees.
In Allentown, there are no insurance requirements for master electricians, but the license gives you the same qualifications as an electrical contractor’s in other jurisdictions.
Electrical Contractor or Master Electrician’s Exam in Pennsylvania
The exam is similar to the journeyman electrician’s exam, but it’s usually longer and you’ll need to show a deeper understanding of the field. This is common across the country. Electrical contractors are able to take on all types of projects and have apprentices, so they have a bigger responsibility.
Cities generally outsource their exams to ICC (International Code Council), and they contain the basic knowledge for working as a professional electrician. You’ll need to answer questions on wiring, equipment, motors and circuits, as well as local, state, and national electric regulations.
Continuing Education Courses
Some jurisdictions, including Philadelphia, require the completion of continuing education courses in safety and NEC. The providers of these courses must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
You may need to complete these courses each time you wish to renew your electrical contractor’s license. This depends on your city, so make sure to check the local requirements for renewal before your license expires.
You’ll generally need to be in compliance with all city taxes to get your license approved.
Philadelphia Electrician Licensing
Philadelphia does not dispense journeyman or master electrician licenses. However, in order to be hired by an electrical contractor, employers will want to see work experience and school training commonly found in a 4-5 year electrician apprenticeship.
Philadelphia Electrical Contractor Licensing Requirements:
- Have a minimum of 4-years electrical work experience for a local or state-licensed electrical company
- You can substitute 2 years of related education for 1-year work experience. (You may replace up to 2 years of work experience)
You must show proof of experience. This can be
- Tax records showing work for an electrical contractor OR
- Proof of licensure through a local or state jurisdiction. Must be approved by the Dept. of Licenses and Inspections.
- Pass the Philadelphia Electrical Contractor Exam. ( Here is a resource to help you schedule your exam in Philadelphia.)
- Must apply within 12 months of passing the exam
To Renew Your License
- Be current on Philadelphia taxes
- Provide proof of 8 hours coursework in NFPA70 within the previous license period
- Have an active insurance policy
Pittsburgh Electrician Licensing
To qualify to work as an electrician in Pittsburgh you need to obtain a trade license issued by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections.
- Valid ID
- be 18 years old
- Proof of passing the Standardized Certification test. (Will also accept proof of passing the test in Philadelphia.)
- Have 6 years of combined experience and education
- Education can be a degree or certification in Electrical Wiring or a related field from an accredited school or apprenticeship program.
- Must provide documentation of work experience.
- Pay license fee
- Maintain proof of general liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance if applicable.
The application to obtain a trade license in Pittsburgh is short, but you do need to make sure you submit all required documentation.
For more information on taking the required exam, this resource should give you everything you need to know.
To renew your license, you must complete 8 hours of continuing education credits per year and pay the applicable fee.
Harrisburg Master Electrician Licensing
- 6-years of practical experience
- OR 4-years of technical school and 4-years of practical experience
- Proof of passing the ICC exam
- Photo ID
- Current certificate of insurance
- A letter from the City/Municipality stating that the electrician is in good standing.
An application and requirements can be downloaded from the City of Harrisburg here.
Learning how to become an electrician in Pennsylvania doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. Since there’s no state-wide license for electricians, each city or county has its own licensing and requirements.
In general, you’ll need several years of work experience, which you can complete with a degree from a community college or trade school. Even in the big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that don’t provide licenses for journeymen, your future employer will want proof of your experience.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of gaining work experience and theoretical knowledge before you’re hired. Trade unions like IBEW and NECA provide this kind of training. They can also be a great way of finding a job in the future.