Electrical contracting is a huge industry with more than $130 billion of annual revenue.
The electrical contracting industry includes more than 70,000 electrical contracting firms and more than 650,000 electrical workers in the US.
They deliver communications and power to homes, businesses, and service providers.
Electrical contractors are individual electricians or companies.
They provide electrical installation, servicing, maintenance, and repair services to residential, commercial, or industrial customers.
Becoming an electrical contractor is an essential step in an electrician’s career, as you move up from being an employee to a business owner.
The Organization of the Electrical Contracting Companies
Electrical contractors design, install and maintain communications and electrical systems.
The electrical contracting business can include a multi-area contracting firm or a small business with only a few employees.
It can even be only you.
Commonly, the work of a contractor or a contracting firm is related to the following areas:
This work involves high-voltage distribution and power transmission lines.
Contractors working in this area focus on substations, power plants, and high-voltage lines.
Inside contracting work is related to homes, buildings, and other structures’ wiring.
These professionals perform primarily cabling and electrical design, installation, and maintenance.
Integrated Building Systems (IBS)/Voice Data Video (VDV)
This work covers installations, maintenance, and repair of low voltage systems.
These contractors or firms work with such systems as:
- Security systems.
- Back-up power.
- Energy-efficient lighting.
- Climate control.
- Wireless networks.
- Fiber optics.
Electrical Contractors Handle Large and Small Scale Projects
Electrical contractors can work on a wide range of projects, including extensive commercial construction projects or small residential maintenance:
Commercial and Industrial Projects
In industrial and commercial settings, electrical contractors handle large projects in schools, office buildings, hospitals, factories, distribution centers, assembly plants, and more.
They are hired to design and install electrical panels, wiring, switchgear, systems, and related equipment, such as switches, lighting fixtures, and receptacles.
To get a job, electrical contractors should bid competitively for commercial jobs.
Commonly, they work as specialty subcontractors under a general contractor.
Sometimes, they can work directly for the owner of the building as a part of a design-build team.
Commercial projects can last for months or even for a few years.
Service and Maintenance Jobs
Electrical contractors engaged in maintenance and servicing provide repair and service in commercial and residential settings.
These services are usually completed during a single visit.
Typically, they are paid for on a cost-plus-fee basis or flat fee schedule.
Some contractors in this field also make regular maintenance contracts with clients.
These contracts are usually for preventative maintenance of the electrical system of the building.
Work in the residential area has become quite profitable for many contractors, with a wide variety of communication and electrical systems integrated into homes, such as security or entertainment systems.
Residential electrical contractors upgrade systems in home offices or home theaters.
As a part of renovation projects, they install automated environmental control, upgrade electrical panels, relocate electrical receptacles, and install new lighting.
Becoming an Individual or Business Electrical Contractor
The regulations and laws can widely vary from one jurisdiction to another.
But the general process includes obtaining a master electrician’s license to be eligible for a contractor’s license.
To move from the master electrician to an electrical contractor, you need to meet certain state and/or local regulations.
The common process to become a master electrician involves the following:
Complete an Electrical Apprenticeship
First, to become a journeyman electrician, you need to complete 500-1,000 classroom hours and 8,000-10,000 practical hours as an apprentice.
Apprentices work under the direct supervision of an experienced and licensed electrician.
Meet State Requirements to Become a Journeyman
Most states require you to meet the minimum number of theoretical and practical hours to be eligible for a journeyman license.
Then, you will also have to pass a written examination based on electrical theory, local electrical codes, as well as the National Electrical Code.
Qualify to Earn a Master Electrician License
Before you are eligible to apply for a master electrician license, you need to work as a journeyman for about two years at least (4,000 practical hours).
With a master electrician license, you can design electrical systems, pull permits, supervise other electricians and job sites.
Also, of course, you can apply for an independent electrical contractor’s license.
How to Apply for an Electrical Contractor’s License
It’s essential to understand the primary difference between the licenses.
An electrical contractor license in a business license.
Master electrician, on the other hand, is a professional license.
So, you can’t hold a contractor’s license without becoming a master electrician first.
However, there are exceptions in some states.
In some areas, for instance, Texas, you can apply for an electrical contractor’s license if you have at least one licensed master electrician in staff.
In Colorado, any firm fully or partially owned by a master electrician can obtain an electrical contractor registration.
Also, any master electrician can apply for an electrical contractor’s license.
Other firms going for an electrical contractor’s registration should hire a licensed master electrician for a supervisory role.
The majority of states license contractors at the state level.
Others, however, such as Illinois, leave it up to municipalities to issue licensing registrations.
There is a set of requirements you should meet to be eligible for a contractor’s license.
Many of them require you to pass an examination and meet certain experience requirements.
For instance, New Jersey issues contractor licenses to individuals or firms with proof of a minimum of five years of practice in the electrical constructions and installation.
The examination is also required.
Some states provide electricians with a few options for working as an electrical contractor.
In Florida, electrical contractors can register locally.
For that, they need to file evidence of a current occupational license and meet the local examination and licensing requirements.
They can also be state-certified by taking and passing the examination for state licensing.
Certified electrical contractors can offer services and perform jobs in the entire Florida state.
In most jurisdictions, electrical contractors should also receive a business permit and carry liability insurance.
For instance, in Texas electrical contractors should carry a minimum of:
- $600,000 aggregate.
- $300,000 per occurrence.
- $300,000 aggregate for products and completed operations.
Generally, you need to renew your license once in two years.
Typically, you have to meet some continuing education requirements to renew the electrical contractor license.
Hours will be distributed among specific areas.
For instance, in Florida, registered and certified contractors equally should complete a minimum of 14 hours of Board-approved continuing education within every two years.
Seven of these hours should include technical subjects, one – workplace safety, one for workers’ compensation.
Also, one hour on business practices, and one more in an advanced course.