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Electrical Contractor Licensing in California

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The State of California defines an Electrical Contractor as “anyone who places, installs, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, raceways, conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part thereof, which generates, transmits, transforms or utilizes electrical energy in any form or for any purpose.”  All Electrical Contractors are required to hold a license from the Contractor’s State Licensing Board (CSLB) when working on projects of $500 or more, including labor and materials.

Electrical Contractor Licenses fall beneath the Class C Specialty Contractor Licenses offered by the CSLB.  Class C licenses include 43 different sub-classifications related to various building trades and crafts.   Of the 43 different sub-classifications offered, there are two related to electrical contracting:

  1. Class C-10 Electrical Contractor (General)
  2. Class C-45 Electrical Sign Contractor

As part of the licensing process, contractors are required to prove a number of years work experience, meet financial requirements and pass a qualifying exam.

Process to Obtain an Electrical Contractor License in California

  1. Contractor must be at least 18 years of age or older
  2. Contractors must have at least 4 years of full-time work experience in the field of electrical contracting, or choose a qualifying individual who meets the work experience requirement
  3. Contractors must have more than $2,500 in operating capital
  4. Corporations must register with the California Secretary of State
  5. Contractors must complete and submit an application to the CSLB along with all the required documents and fees
  6. Contractors must take and pass the state Law and Business Exam, as well as the electrical Trade Exam
  7. Contractors must submit their initial licensing fees, post a bond and submit proof of worker’s compensation insurance to the CSLB once they pass the exam

Age, Financial and Work Experience Requirements

In order to qualify to take the exam, all contractors must meet the following requirements related to age, work experience and financial responsibility:

  • All applicants must be at least 18 years old
  • All applicants must have at least 4 years of full-time work experience within the past 10 years. All work experiences must be verifiable by someone with first-hand knowledge of the contractor’s work.  This person must complete the experience certification portion of the application on the contractor’s behalf.  Acceptable work experiences include work as:
    • Journeyman
    • Foreman
    • Supervisor
    • Owner-Builder
  • All new applicants are required to prove that they have more than $2,500 in operating capital. Operating capital is determined by subtracting the contractor’s current asset from their current liabilities
*In some cases, education, technical training or apprenticeship programs may count for up to 3 years of the work experience requirement, as long as the contractor has at least 1 year of practical experience.

 

All businesses have the option of choosing a Responsible Managing Employee within their company to act as a Qualifying Individual.  The Qualifying Individual is tasked with meeting the requirements for work experience and passing the exam on their business’ behalf.  To act as a Qualifying Individual, this person must:

  • Be regularly employed with the contractor’s business
  • Work at least 32 hours per week

Preparing to Submit an Application

A copy of the “Original Application for Contractors License,” is available online.

Contractors may also obtain a copy of the application by calling the CSLB’s public information line at:

1-800-321-CSLB (2752)

*Please note that limited liability companies and joint ventures have a separate, specialized application that they must fill out. 

Be sure to read all the instructions and information provided in the application packet.  Print on the application using blue or black ink.  Do not leave spaces blank.  If a question does not apply, simply write, “N/A” (not applicable).

Along with the application the contractor will be required to provide the following information:

  • Contractor’s full legal name or business name as it will appear on the license
  • Personal address and business address
  • Information about the Qualifying Individual
  • Social Security Number

The following business types are required to complete these steps:

  • Partnerships must provide their Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN). For more information, contact the IRS at:
    800-829-1040
  • Corporations must register and remain in good standing with the California Secretary of State. The office is also available by phone at: 916-653-6814

For questions about filling out the application, call the CSLB’s public information line at:

1-800-CSLB (2752)

Submitting an Application

Once the contractor has met all the CSLB requirements and gathered all the required documents, it is time to submit the application.

There is a $300 application fee which must be submitted along with the application.  Make checks payable to “Registrar of Contractors.” All fees are non-refundable.

Mail the completed application along with all the required documents and fees to:

Contractors State Licensing Board

P.O. Box 26000

Sacramento, CA 95826

Once the contractor has submitted their application, they will have 90 days to make sure that all the correct information is on file.  If all the required documents and information are not on file within 90 days, the application is null and void.

Once the CSLB accepts the contractor’s application, they will mail out a letter of acknowledgement, along with a notice to appear for the exam.   This notice will also contain information about tracking the status of the contractor’s application online.

Upon passing the examination, the contractor will receive further steps for licensing.  At this time they will also have to pay the initial licensing fee.

Contractors will also receive instructions for submitting a full set of fingerprints and undergoing a background check around the time that the CSLB receives their application.

The Examination Process

All contractors are required to pass a 2-part examination:

  1. Law and Business Exam
  2. Electrical Trade Exam

The CSLB will issue a notice to appear for the exam once they have reviewed the license application and verified that the contractor meets all the requirements to sit for the test.  The notice to appear for the exam will contain important information about the examination process, as well as study materials, including:

  • Information about scheduling the exam
  • Study guides for each portion of the exam
  • Information about what forms of identification to bring to the testing center on the day of the exam
  • Directions to the testing center where the exam will be held. The CSLB has testing centers across the state, in:
    • San Diego
    • San Bernardino
    • Norwalk
    • Oxford
    • Oakland
    • Sacramento
    • San Jose
    • Fresno

Additional information on the Law and Business Exam is contained in the California Contractors License Law & Reference Book. For more information about obtaining a copy of this reference, please call:

800-562-1197

Contractors have 18 months in which to pass the exam.  Each time the contractor re-takes the exam; there is a fee of $50.  If the contractor does not pass the exam within 18 months, their application becomes null and void and they must start the application process over again.

Final Licensing Steps

Once the contractor passes both portions of the exam, they will receive further instructions for completing the final licensing steps and paying the initial licensing fee.

Contractors must pay an initial licensing fee of $150 to receive their license.  They must also do the following:

  • File a bond or cash deposit with the Registrar in the amount of $12,500. There is a separate bond to file if the contractor is using a Qualifying Individual.  The Qualifying Individual bond must be worth $7,500.
  • Submit proof of workers compensation insurance if the contractor plans to hire workers. If workers compensation is not required, the contractor must file an exemption form with the Registrar.
*All bonds and insurance must be from an insurance agent or private holding company that is licensed by the State Department of Insurance. 

Once approved, the contractor will receive their license in the mail, including:

  • Wall Certificate- to be posted in the contractor’s primary place of business
  • Plastic Pocket Card- to be kept on the contractor’s person at all times when conducting business

The contractor’s license will display the following information:

  • Contractors Name/ Business Name
  • License Number
  • Issuance Date
  • Contractor’s License Classification

How Long is a California Electrical Contractor License Valid?

Electrical Contracting Licenses are good for 2 years in the State of California.  All licenses expire every 2 years on the last day of the month that they were originally issued.

The cost to renew an Electrical Contractor License is $300.

For more information about renewal, contact the CSLB at:

1-800-321-CSLB (2752)

Table of Fees

Fee What is it For? When is it Due?
$300 License Application Fee Upon submitting the Original Application for Contractors License
$50 Cost to re-take the exam Upon scheduling and exam re-take
$150 Initial License Fee Upon passing the exam to receive a license

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