Construction is on the rise in West Virginia, and that means jobs not just for general building contractors, but for electricians as well. According to West Virginia University’s economic outlook report, the construction sector should see an annual average growth rate of 1.1 percent through 2023. Residential construction, specifically single family housing starts, will see a growth rate of over 2 percent; electrical work related to infrastructure repair will be bolstered by Governor Justice’s Roads to Prosperity program, which will provide $1.6 billion for projects.
As 2023 approaches, new construction projects will create demand for electrical contractors. To become an electrical contractor in West Virginia, you can take two different routes: earn your license through school and work, or through reciprocity.
WV requires you have a contractor’s license to do any electrical project billed over $1,000. To become an electrical contractor in WV, you must first be a licensed master electrician. After you get your master’s license, you’ll complete the steps to obtaining a contractor license.
You may be able to take advantage of reciprocity to get your master electrician’s license. West Virginia provides reciprocity from a handful of states. Keep reading to find out which states, and how it works. Or, if you’re just starting out on your journey, keep reading to find out about the education and licensing process.
West Virginia Electrical License Reciprocity
The Office of the State Fire Marshal regulates electrical contractor licenses and reciprocity. If you are already licensed as journeyman, master, or contractor in these states, your license will be recognized in West Virginia:
- Virginia: Master and Journeyman;
- Ohio: Contractor;
- North Carolina: Master;
- Kentucky: Master and Journeyman;
- Maryland: Master;
You have to be able to prove you passed an exam through the current licensing entity in these states to qualify for reciprocity. You’ll need to get a letter from the testing agency or licensing board that clearly states the type of exam and the fact that you passed it. Then, you’ll need a letter of good standing from the licensing board or other state-recognized entity, such as a union. Moreover, even if you are licensed, you have to meet the Fire Marshal’s requirements for West Virginia electricians.
To start, you must be at least 18 years old. To receive reciprocity, master electricians must have a record of 10,000 hours or 5 years worth of commercial, industrial, and residential experience. If you’re a journeyman, you need 8,000 hours or 4 years worth of experience.
After you’ve obtained proof of work, proof of exam, and a letter of good standing, fill out the Reciprocity Application and submit it with a $50 license fee (check or money order) by mail to:
West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office
1207 Quarrier St – 2nd Floor Licensing
Charleston, WV 25301
You should receive your license in the mail within 15 days.
Only contractors from Ohio can receive contractor reciprocity in West Virginia. If you’re a contractor, master, journeyman, or apprentice from any state besides Ohio, you’ll need to satisfy more requirements to become a contractor in West Virginia.
West Virginia Master Electrician License Requirements
To become a master electrician in WV, you must complete 10,000 hours or five years worth of residential, commercial, and industrial electrical work that qualifies as above-ground structural wiring under National Electrical Code (NEC). Vocational school experience doesn’t count towards the experiential requirement.
After you’ve completed your 10,000 hours of work, you’ll fill out the exam application, which is the same application you would fill out to take the electrical journeyman or apprentice exams. The testing fee is $25 and the license fee is $50. You’ll need to pay an additional $50 before June 30th annually to renew your license. Mail the exam application and testing fee to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office.
West Virginia Electrical Journeyman License Requirements
In West Virginia, an electrical journeyman is an electrician who has gained the experience and demonstrated the knowledge necessary to install and maintain electrical systems. If you are hoping to become licensed as a journeyman, there are a few steps you need to take first.
- Complete 8,000 hours or 4 years worth of residential, commercial, and industrial electrical work;
- Or, complete an apprenticeship program approved by the US Department of Labor;
- Or, complete no fewer than 1,080 hours of vocational training in a course approved by the West Virginia Department of Education;
- Be sure your work experience can count as above-ground structural wiring;
- Pay $50 to get the license;
- Pass the state examination;
Once you become a journeyman, you’ll need to renew your license each year by June 30th. There’s an annual renewal fee of $50. If you miss the deadline, you can apply for renewal within a year as long as you pay the late fee of $15. The exam to become licensed also comes with a fee. Read on to find out what it takes to sit for and pass the exam.
Electrical Journeyman Exam
Here’s what you’ll need for the journeyman exam:
- Detailed work experience description (8,000 hours or 4 years worth of residential, commercial, and industrial electrical work) submitted with the exam application;
- Or, certificate of completion for an apprenticeship or vocational school;
- Testing fee of $25 (check or money order made payable to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office);
- A passing grade of at least 80 percent.
You’re allowed to take no longer than four hours to complete the test. The exam is based on the National Electric Code Book and it’s an open-book exam with 42 multiple choice questions and four calculations. The exam application lists the dates as well as locations for testing. Testing begins at 9am with a check-in time of 8:30.
Electrician Apprenticeship Requirements
To become an electrical apprentice in West Virginia, you only need to be at least 18 years old — no work experience is required. You’ll need to pay a $10 testing fee and pass the exam with a score of at least 80 percent. The exam consists of 20 multiple choice questions from the first four chapters of the National Electric Code Book. After passing the exam, you must pay a $50 license fee, with an annual renewal fee of $50 due before the license expiration date of June 30th each year.
Fill out the exam application and be sure to read it in full. After you pass the exam, your next step is to do one of the following:
- Apply for an apprentice position under a master electrician;
- Or, apply for an apprenticeship program that has been approved by the US Department of Labor;
- Or, apply for a vocational program that has been approved by the West Virginia Department of Education.
The next step of your journey will be training to become a journeyman.
West Virginia Electrical Apprentice Jobs
You can take several different routes to find work as an electrical apprentice.
The first route is through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). IBEW partners with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) to offer the Electrical Training Alliance apprenticeship program.
This program is an “earn while you learn” apprenticeship. There are multiple IBEW apprenticeships in West Virginia from which to choose. Among these, the Steubenville chapter has an articulation agreement with Eastern Gateway Community College that lets you earn your Associate Degree of Technical Study in Electrical Trades Technology. You’ll be earning wages as you rack up work experience and classroom knowledge the whole time.
Pay is based on the union’s collective bargaining agreement with IBEW and other governing bodies. According to Electrician Apprentice HQ, IBEW apprentices earn 50 percent of journeyman wages the first year, with raises every 6 to 12 months.
Your other option is to search the internet for apprentice jobs. Over time, you can earn your 8,000 hours of training on the job. Search sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and SimplyHired for electrician apprentice jobs in West Virginia. Many of these jobs simply require you to have a High School diploma or GED and a WV electrical apprentice license. Some prefer additional qualifications, such as OSHA 10 or 30.
Electrical Trade Schools in West Virginia
Unlike an apprenticeship, you don’t get paid to do electrician work while you’re attending trade school. However, trade school can offer a valuable education and the certificate of completion you need to move up to journeyman status.
The Carver Career and Tech Center’s Electrical Technology program meets National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) standards, allowing you to sit for the apprentice or journeyman exam after completion. There’s an adult course and a High School course. The former requires 1250 hours of class, while the latter requires 1080 hours.
- Type of institution: private;
- Cost of tuition and fees: $4,831;
- Cost of books/supplies: $2,018.
The Mercer County Tech Education Center’s 10-month Electrical Technician program meets National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) standards, allowing you to complete the 1,080 hours of vocational training necessary to sit for the journeyman exam.
- Type of institution: private;
- Cost of tuition: $2,970;
- Cost of books/supplies: $2,015;
- Additional fees: $485.
Putnam’s Electrical Technician program provides Level 1 NCCER certification and prepares you to sit for the WV electrical apprentice or journeyman exam.
- Type of institution: private;
- Cost of tuition and fees: $3,515;
- Cost of books/supplies: $280.
Virginia Western’s Electrical Wiring program provides 240 hours of job training, but VW does not indicate whether it meets NCCER standards, and there’s a caveat that you must complete 4 years of electrician work — in addition to VW’s coursework — to qualify for the journeyman license.
- Type of institution: public;
- Cost of tuition and fees: $2,788 for in-state students, $5,949 for out-of-state students;
- Cost of books/supplies: $588.
West Virginia Professional License Search
The Office of the State Fire Marshal updates its database of licensed electricians every 4 weeks. To search for a licensed electrician in West Virginia, visit the Fire Marshal’s licensee search page.
Image source: By Gabor Eszes (UED77) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0