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  • Writer's picturePaul W Abernathy, CMECP®

Master Electrician License Requirements

Updated: May 5, 2023





What is a master electrician anyway? A master electrician is a professional electrician who has completed all of the required training and has significant hands-on training and experience in the field. So, what specific training is needed and how long does it take to become a master electrician? The typical career path for master electricians includes four to five years of apprenticeship, followed by at least two years as a journeyperson. However, as in the case with this author, a 2-year all-inclusive vocational school.


Below you will find the information provided by ElectricalSchool.org and found on their official website. We have added their content here and amended various portions to interject our own thoughts into the Master Electrician Licensing process.


"Becoming a licensed master electrician is an exciting culmination of all the years of hard work you put in as an apprentice and a journeyperson. Although it may feel satisfying to be approaching this apex in your career, you will likely need to complete a few additional steps before you have earned the right to call yourself a master. Master electrician requirements can vary from state to state, but in most places, they are required to pass an examination and acquire a master electrician license." - ElectricalSchool.org


These "entrance exams" are specifically designed to establish a basic level of knowledge necessary for the tradesperson. As stated by ElectricalSchool they can vary from state to state. The prospective electrician should establish a two-path approach to learning the trade. The physical path is hands-on training and the mental path is learning and establishing a core fundamental understanding of the National Electrical Code.


You simply can't be considered a true professional until you grasp and embrace that two distinct paths of learning are necessary to be successful in the electrical trade. Yes, having any one of these skills will help you survive but having both will ensure you thrive.


How to Acquire Training in the Trade


"As mentioned above, becoming a master electrician will involve a long journey through various levels of the trade, including completing your apprenticeship and journey-level experience. However, you should know that before even beginning training as an electrician, there are specific prerequisites you’ll need to meet. Some of these requirements may be variable depending on where you will be trained, but in general, you’ll need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, have access to a reliable source of transportation and be at least 18 years of age.


However, you may be exempt from these specific rules if you are entering training through a high school trade program. You will also be expected to have sufficient physical fitness to perform the job duties and be able to pass a drug test. Some programs will also require you to pass an algebra and reading comprehension examination prior to acceptance.


There are many pathways to training in the trade. Some choose to enter directly into an apprenticeship, while others prefer to complete a training program through a local trade school or community college. Although becoming an apprentice directly may seem like a faster path to becoming fully qualified, attendance in a training program could help you to be more competitive when applying for a program and is worth considering as a valid option." - ElectricalSchool.org


As an author of electrical training programs myself, I could not agree more with the quotes above from ElectricalSchool.org. My own journey into the electrical trade began in my high school trade program back in the mid-80s. These high school programs, much like the one I attended, are immersive in that they typically span 5-days a week for an entire academic school year, usually from August to June of the following year. Sadly many young students fail to select this option as a way of building a rewarding career.


"Finding an apprenticeship can be as easy as completing a web search for employment opportunities and applying for an open position. If this is an option you’re considering, this website is a helpful resource to help you find a match in your area. However, you may also consider applying for a union apprenticeship or non-union (open-shop) apprenticeship if one is available near you." - ElectricalSchool.org


Now the next quote from ElectricalSchool.org is important for those really seeking entry into the electrical field and are post vocational school age, let's say after high school graduation age, approximately 18 to 21. You then decide this is the trade for you so you now are faced with the dilemma of "How do I get the education I need?" The answer may be apprenticeship programs so let's examine those options.


"Choosing between union and non-union apprenticeships is tricky, and your decision will depend on your confidence, ability, and personality. Union apprenticeships generally are more competitive, have more prerequisites and offer better pay. Non-union apprenticeships do not require payment of dues and have a less strict division of labor.


Union apprenticeships are offered through a partnership of two unions: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and coordinated through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs). Non-union apprenticeships are available through local contractors or by applying to an official training program offered by non-union trade organizations such as the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)."- ElectricalSchool.org


Working as a Journeyman: The Bridge from Apprentice to Master


At this stage of the learning process, you are accepted either into an apprentice program as previously discussed or you have been hired by an electrical company that may offer in-house training or job-specific training in the actual field. Either way, you will have to "pay your dues" so to speak while you obtain the confidence in the electrical trade. Let's see what ElectricalSchool.org has to say on the subject.


"Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be able to seek your credentials as a journeyperson. In general, in order to work as a fully qualified journeyperson, you’ll need to pass an examination based on local building codes and procure a license. Although this process can be stressful, it will reward you with more independence, responsibility, and a significant increase in pay.


The two or more years you spend as a journeyperson are essential to becoming a master electrician. Not only is this a required step in most places, but this is also a critical time for continued learning and preparation for your time as a master. As a journeyperson, you will be experiencing certain aspects of the career for the first time. These new responsibilities include supervising apprentices, managing a crew, and ensuring building codes are met at all times.


However, having a slew of new responsibilities does not come without support. During this stage of your career, you are still required to work under the supervision of a master electrician. This access to a master electrician will allow you to continue to learn in preparation for becoming a master yourself." ElectricalSchool.org


At this stage in the game, the electrical apprentice should also be focusing on learning the National Electrical Code. While some apprenticeship programs do cover various aspects of the "National Electrical Code (NEC)" they do not typically deep dive into the meanings of how the NEC is written and the sometimes difficult-to-understand ebb and flow of the minimum safety requirements found in that highly technical document.


This is when apprenticeship students typically enroll in programs like those found at Electrical Code Academy, Inc. (www.electricalcodeacademy.com). The programs offered at Electrical Code Academy, Inc. are designed to DEEP DIVE into the National Electrical Code so that a true electrical trade professional understands the meanings of phrases such as "shall not" and "shall be permitted".


The aforementioned code-related courses are also necessary to ensure the apprentice and journeyperson can successfully pass their electrical exams to obtain that all-important electrical license. You see, the "entrance exams" mentioned earlier are always based on the electrical codes and not the hands-on experience established in the field.


As a result, this is why it is critical to a student's success to establish early on in the electrical career path how important learning the mental aspect of the trade, such as the National Electrical Code, is equally as important as the physical, such as learning to bend raceways or installing the various types of wiring methods available.



Requirements for Master Electrician Licensing


Before we examine more about the requirements for being a Master Electrician we need to establish where you can go to see the required hours necessary to take a Masters Electrician Exam in your specific state. Here is a link to that resource - HERE


"State-by-state requirements for licensing vary greatly. However, in most places, you can expect to be required to obtain a license if you are planning to work as a master electrician. In general, in order to qualify for licensure, you’ll need to have met the minimum requirements, which include passing an exam based on local building codes.


In some states, there is no specific master electrician license, but anyone who’s doing contracting work will have to apply for a contractor’s license. In other states, licensing is not required at a statewide level, but beware because local areas will often have licensing requirements of their own. Regardless of where you plan to work, it is essential to ensure you have thoroughly researched the specific requirements in your area. For resources, you can check your statewide licensing board, local trade organization, or local union chapter." - ElectricalSchool.org


Once I have established the hours, how do I prepare for the Electrician's Exam?


While it is essential for a prospective electrician to learn the physical hands-on element of the trade as we stated earlier, it is equally important to start learning the rules that govern minimally safe electrical installations. These safety guidelines are found in the National Electrical Code, which is published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).


Learning the National Electrical Code (NEC) can be a daunting task. This "Electricians Bible" as it is sometimes called is riddled with code language and to some may even seem like masonic jargon. However, the document is designed specifically for the electrically educated tradesman who has put in the time to truly understand its intent.


It is our opinion that the moment you desire to enter into the electrical profession you start preparing for your pending electrician's exam. The process of this preparation is called electrical exam preparation or electrical exam prep. You will begin by learning electrical definitions, which are critical to the flow of the NEC, and then move into identifying the structure of the code book.


The fact is this, studying for a journeyman electrician exam and master electrician exam is tough. To fully understand the document you need to spend no less than 94-100 hours of dedicated study time in your NEC with a dedicated program that is designed to walk you step by step through the complicated electrical calculations and electrical phrasing that contribute to the confusion of the electrical safety document we call the National Electrical Code.


In the next couple of paragraphs, we will offer some recommended viewing and reading to help jumpstart you into your electrical career.


First, you need to study the electrical code with a purpose. Here is an article on preparing for an electrical exam that you may find helpful.



Second, studying with a purpose means you study in a logical progression. This means you start with the beginning and the program pulls you through the important things necessary to be proficient on an electrician's exam while offering the best flow for electrical exam prep available. There is no better-structured plan than the Fast Trax® Black Program offered by Electrical Code Academy, Inc.


The Fast Trax® Black Program is made up of 19 units. These units cover everything from the introduction to the National Electrical Code to complex calculations for dwellings, both single-family and multifamily are included. In fact, their trademarked Fast Trax® even examined non-dwelling calculations for commercial and industrial installations and the electrical codes associated with those structures. At the end of every unit, there is a competency review exam that is personally graded by the CEO and Founder of the corporation. The entire Fast Trax® Black Program is dedicated to learning and retaining the National Electrical Code. With over 1,200 electrical exam study questions included in the program, the electrician will be fully prepared for any electrical exam.


What makes the Fast Trax® Exam Prep Course different?


The primary benefit of the Fast Trax® Programs is the cost. The electrical student gets full access to the online course for 12 months. They can access the content, videos, illustrations, and so forth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as well.


While prospective electrical students can buy electrician exam study guides, known as electrical exam preparation publications online at Amazon and via Google. The fact is they are just as dry and simply opening up the National Electrical Code and trying to study without any dedicated plan of attack. These "books" simply cover topics that offer no explanation from experts and they are riddled with errors and correction notices. The Fast Trax® Black Program allows you direct access to an electrical code expert that actively serves on the National Fire Protection Associations' voluntary code-making panels that help author the National Electrical Code. No other program offers you that direct access to the creator.


In fact, here is another article on preparing for an electrical exam you may be interested in https://www.electricalcodeacademy.net/post/electrical-exam-preparation-1


Once Licensed, Now Working as a Master Electrician


"You may be wondering if the job responsibilities of a master electrician are so different from those of a journeyperson electrician. In many aspects, they may be the same. As a master electrician, you will still be responsible for inspecting, repairing, and installing, wiring, transformers, circuit breakers, motors, and controls. You will also need to adhere to code regulations and read blueprints as part of your day-to-day work.


However, there are a few significant differences between a master electrician and a journeyperson. In fact, there are specific job duties that only a master is qualified to perform. These include designing electrical systems, dealing with permit agents, and owning a business. In addition, masters are the only electricians who can work with complete independence, as they are not required to have another electrician provide oversight for their work.


This increased amount of freedom in your career carries a significant amount of responsibility. At the top of the ladder, master electricians are responsible for every electrician who works beneath them and reports to them as a direct supervisor. This considerable responsibility means that any mistakes made on the job site will ultimately need to be answered for by the master. As such, if you lack experience managing others, you may want to seek some training in this area.


As the only electricians who can oversee all other electricians on the job and work without direct supervision themselves, the master electrician has the ability to own their own contracting company. For some, this may mean working entirely alone, managing their own schedules and client load, while others who are more ambitious may wish to start a larger, more lucrative contracting company. However, business ownership does not need to a goal be for you, as master electricians are hired in many industries, including factories, hospitals, and office buildings, to provide ongoing maintenance." - ElectricalSchool.org


Finally, Is the effort with the reward?


The answer to this question can mean many things to different people.


In my personal experience, I can't imagine doing anything else. I started in the trade in the mid-80s as a young electrical student, progressed to Journeyman electrician, then to master electrician, ownership of an electrical contracting firm, electrical inspector, and finally an electrical engineer with a large municipality. The feeling of accomplishment along that journey never subsided.


As a mentor to thousands of other electricians around the country, and as the CEO and Founder of Electrical Code Academy, Inc., I have witnessed the amazing accomplishments of many students. I love experiencing our student's success vicariously through their eyes. While we are a "For-Profit" corporation, we do have bills to pay as any corporation would, the greatest joy I personally get is seeing how our programs change lives and build futures. I am personally invested in their success.


For more information on our Fast Trax® NEC Learning Programs please consider visiting our website at https://fasttraxsystem.com and browsing the programs we offer.


Paul Abernathy, CMECP® | CEO & President

Electrical Code Academy, Inc. | www.FastTraxSystem.com 3913 Edward Drive., McKinney, TX 75071 Office: 214-945-0653


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