The Difference Between a Certified Electrician and an Electrical Contractor
In California, there are strict requirements for certification and licensing of people involved in certain trades, including electrical work. But to some people the differences can seem confusing at first glance. If you are looking for a professional to undertake work on your electrical systems, do you need an electrical contractor or an electrician and what is the difference?
Certification applies only to individuals. All electricians who work for electrical contractors are required to be certified. For a person to become a certified electrician he or she has to pass an exam and demonstrate either successful completion of an approved apprenticeship program or completion of on the job experience in different aspects of electrical work. Apprenticeship programs include on the job training as well as classes, which are usually run in the evenings. For a general electrician’s certificate, the work experience needed covers such matters as wiring, installing underground conduits, dealing with materials, fire safety and troubleshooting and maintenance. The exam consists of multiple choice questions and a mark of at least 70% is needed to pass.
Certification expires after three years. To renew the certificate, the electrician has to demonstrate that they have completed at least 2,000 hours of work and have taken a minimum of 32 hours continuing education in the relevant field. That helps to ensure that their knowledge is kept up to date and new developments are well understood.
The State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations website allows anybody to check the status of an electrician’s certification status. You do not have to use a certified electrician for small jobs but the certification gives you peace of mind that work is carried out properly and safely.
An electrical contractor is a person or business that undertakes electrical work and employs certified electricians. California law requires that any work undertaken costing $500 or more must be performed by a licensed contractor. Different classes of license relate to different trades. The license class for electrical work is C10.
To obtain a contractor’s license, the applicant must have either four years experience working in the relevant area or one year experience if they have also completed an approved apprenticeship program, pass exams in business law and their trade, have working capital of at least $2,500 and lodge a bond with the Registrar in the sum of $10,000. The pass mark for this exam is 72%. Additional processes include fingerprinting and a background check. Contractors also need to take out worker’s compensation insurance to cover costs incurred if any employees are injured on the job.
When a license is granted, the contractor receives a certificate to be displayed in their office as well as a card to keep in their wallet. If you are looking to hire a contractor, you can check whether they have a license and whether the license is still current on the California Contractor’s State License Board’s website. You can search the database using either the license number, the name of the business or the name of the individual. Where a license is granted in the name of a company, only the person who sat the exams is permitted to undertake work without individual certification.
Active licenses have to be renewed every two years and the applicant must demonstrate that they have undertaken at least 32 hours of continuing education in their field to keep abreast of new developments and the latest innovations.
To protect consumers, workers and ensure a level playing field for business, the Contractor’s State Licensing Board carries out frequent sting operations, uncovering and taking enforcement proceedings against unlicensed contractors. Don’t feel shy about asking for the details of your contractor ‘s license. Any reputable contractor will be happy to put your mind at rest and demonstrate that they can complete your work to a high and safe standard.