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C-10 Licenses: Everything Future Electricians Need to Know

Published: July 13, 2022
Last updated: December 28, 2022
Read time: 5 minutes

Electrical subcontractors are in high demand across the country, and large contractors are constantly hiring to keep up with the demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job opportunities for electricians will increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030, owing to an increase in construction spending.

But what exactly do you need to do before starting your own practice? Aspiring electricians in California thinking about starting their own electrical contracting business will need to obtain a C-10 license. If you’re one of them, but don’t know where to begin, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the C-10 license.

What is a C-10 license?

A C-10 Electrical Contractor License is required to practice electrical work on any residential or commercial project in California where the labor and material costs exceed $500. It is one of the most important licenses in subcontracting, along with general engineering, general contractor, C-16 Fire Protection, and C-20 HVAC licenses, all of which must be obtained before one can practice.

A person with a C-10 license is known as a C-10 Electrical Licensed Contractor, who “places, installs, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, apparatus, raceways, conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part thereof, which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form or for any purpose,” as described in the California Code of Regulations.

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How do I get a C-10 license?

To get a C-10 Electrical Contractor License, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Experience

There are several ways to become a licensed electrical contractor, and you should know them beforehand to determine which is the most cost-effective. Before you can take the exam, you must have some experience and the necessary documents or proof. 

  • Completing an electrical apprenticeship program – An apprenticeship program lasts at least four years and consists of classroom and hands-on training. You will also need to pass a certification exam to receive your Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship. This is required for your C-10 license application.

You must have a qualified individual sign off on this experience, and the company or contractor must hold a C-10 license. The four full-time years of experience must be within the last ten years, but they do not have to be consecutive.

  • Earning an electrical certification card and working as a journeyman – If you choose to be a journeyman, you must also have at least four years of experience before taking the two-part state exam. The distinction between a journeyman and an apprentice is that a journeyman understands the job well enough to work on-site without supervision. They can also perform a variety of operations if necessary.
  • Completing 1-year experience as a journeyman and an apprenticeship program – If you have completed an apprenticeship and intend to work as a journeyman, you will be credited with three years of experience and exempt from the four-year requirement. In this case, you will only need one year of journeyman experience.

2. Proof of Experience

When you’ve completed the required number of years of experience, there are various documents you can collect to serve as proof. These must be submitted for you to take the licensing exam. These examples of proof could be:

3. Disclose Criminal Records

Having a criminal record does not disqualify you from taking the tests, but it must be disclosed. Regardless of when they occurred or whether the case was dismissed, it would be preferable if the information came from you rather than from their background check.

There are, however, some exceptions that you should not report. These are:

  • Marijuana offenses before January 1, 1976
  • Drug offenses in the Penal Code 1000
  • Juvenile court convictions
  • Convictions under the California Health and Safety Code which are over two years old

It is best to consult with a lawyer if you are unsure about what should and should not be reported.

4. Take 2 Required Exams

To obtain your C-10 license, you must pass the Electrical Exam and the Law and Business Exam. The C-10 exam is a closed-book, multiple-choice exam, so you’ll want to prepare thoroughly. The questions cover topics such as planning, estimating, rough wiring, troubleshooting, maintenance, safety, and finishing wiring and trim.

The Law and Business Exam, on the other hand, is a requirement for many contractor licenses. It is not limited to electrical contractors and covers eight different topic areas. This will cover public works, safety, licensing requirements, bonds, insurance, liens, contracts, employment, and business finances and organization.

5. Other General Requirements

You’ll also need the following to take the board exam:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • With a driver’s license or USA identification card
  • Social Security or ITIN Number
  • Not currently on parole or probation

6. Get a surety bond

If you pass the exam, you’ll be instructed to get a surety bond of $15,000, proof of workers’ compensation insurance, and a licensing fee and submit it to Contractors State License Board (CSLB) within 90 days of the effective date of the bond. 

A surety bond is required in case a customer sues for damages, faulty work, defective products, or violations of the contractor’s state license law. It can also be to compensate employees who have not been paid. The CSLB website has a searchable list of insurance companies that offer these bonds.

How much does it cost to get a C-10 license?

When applying to take the C-10 Licensing Exam, you will be required to pay several fees. This is in addition to any other costs associated with the apprenticeship program. Currently, the CSLB fees are as follows:

  • $330 for state application 
  • $200 for license activation after passing the exam
  • Fee for fingerprinting
  • Bond fees

If you are unable to take your exam on the scheduled date, it can be rescheduled within three weeks. You may retake the exam as many times as necessary, but each attempt will cost you $60.

Different states have different requirements and, thus, have different costs for obtaining a C-10 license. Because the C-10 License Exam is specific to California, the cost may be as well. Other states have requirements such as being a journeyman, having specific education, and having specific electrician work experience depending on your chosen field (i.e., Residential Electrician).

In Arizona, for example, R-11 is required for residential electrical systems, C-11 for wiring less than 600 volts, and CR-11 for residential and commercial electrical work. Because the requirements for practicing in 50 states differ, so will the cost.

How long does it take to get a C-10?

The application’s waiting time and test dates vary from year to year, but in general, there is a 6-8 week processing time for the application and a 3-4 week waiting time for an exam schedule.

If your application is held up for any reason, it could be due to the time of year you applied, as applications tend to slow down during the holidays. It could also be due to your criminal history, proof of experience, or mistakes in your application.

After completing the preceding steps and submitting your licensing fee to the CSLB, you will be issued a license. You will also receive a wall certificate and a permanent wallet-size pocket license. The wall certificate must be displayed in your office at all times.

Resources for Getting a C-10 License

You can download a copy of the Original Contractor’s License packet from the CSLB website to familiarize yourself with the licensing process. You can also check out the Contractors State License Schools (CSLS), which offers a live online program with condensed study materials to help you prepare.

They offer online classes, law and business review, test-taking practice, and online study materials on the various topics to be covered. They also provide additional services such as student support and state application review. You will also have access to 60 days of practice exams.

CSLB also provides a study guide for exam preparation, including recommended study sources.

Obtaining a C-10 license is a simple process if you are equipped with experience, have the correct information, and know which path to take. 

With a C-10 license, you can work for a company or be your own boss and start your own electrical contracting business. Whichever you choose, you can be confident that you will be able to compete for the best and highest-paying projects legally. You can expand your business and collaborate with other professionals who have the same qualifications to provide the best workmanship to your clients. 

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Robbie ReynoldsVP of Business Development

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