All You Need to Know to Get Your Virginia Electrician License

If you’ve ever thought about getting an electrician license in the state of Virginia, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a lot to consider when applying for your electrician license with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR). You need to know which license type is right for you. You need to be ready to fill out the application and pass the required exam. You might need insurance or want to join a union, too. 

All told, getting set up to work as a professional electrician in Virginia requires a bit of legwork. But don’t worry. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to get — and maintain — an active Virginia electrician license.  

Overview of the different types of VA electrical licenses

The DPOR issues two types of electrical licenses:

Journeyman electrician license

If you’ve ever looked at the DPOR application for tradesmen, you’ve probably noticed that even journeymen electricians need a sizeable amount of work experience before they can apply for licensure. 

Specifically, you’ll need one of the following:

  • Four years of experience and 240 hours of formal vocational training
  • Five years of experience and 160 hours of formal vocational training
  • Six years of experience and 80 hours of formal vocational training 
  • Seven or more years of experience and 40 hours of formal vocational training
  • An associate’s degree or certificate of completion from at least a two-year program in an electrician-related field from an accredited community college or technical school and two years of practical experience
  • A bachelor's degree or certificate of completion from an accredited college or university in an engineering curriculum related to the electrical trade and one year of practical experience
  • Ten years of practical experience 

Ultimately, you can’t just jump straight in and get your electrical license in Virginia. To get the experience you need without your license, you’ll need to participate in an apprenticeship program. As a couple of examples, check out the apprenticeship program with the Central Virginia Electrical Contractors Association (CVECA) or the Virginia chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

As a journeyman electrician, you can work as a licensed electrician in Virginia. But you’ll still need to work under a master electrician in many cases. Which leads us to the second Virginia electrical license type.

Master electrician license

Once you’ve had your journeyman license for one year, you’re eligible to apply for a maser electrician license. This allows you to work on your own without requiring supervision from any other parties. With this license type, you can open your own electrical business or work as an independent contractor. 

How to become an electrician in Virginia

Let’s quickly look at the steps required to get your electrician license from the DPOR:

  1. Get the required education/experience: As we just went over, you’ll need a significant amount of education and on-the-job experience to qualify for either Virginia electrical license type. Look at vocational training, apprenticeship programs, or associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs to help you meet this requirement. 
  2. Complete the DPOR application. Once you have the required education/experience, you’re ready to fill out the DPOR Board of Contractors TRADESMAN EXAM & LICENSE APPLICATION. On top of proof of your experience and education (here’s the DPOR Experience Verification Form to help), you’ll need basic info like your name and address. You’ll also need to report any felony or misdemeanor convictions and explain them to the Board. You’ll need to pay the application fee, too.
  3. Pass the exam. Once the DPOR reviews and approves your application, you’re eligible to take either the journeyman or master electrician exam. This exam gets administered by PSI. The journeyman exam is three and a half hours long and 70 questions. You need to get 49 right to pass (that is, score a 70% or above). The master exam is four and a half hours long and 90 questions. You need to get 63 right, or score 70%, to pass. PSI issues an exam candidate bulletin to help you prep for your test. 

Once you pass the exam, the DPOR will mail your license to you.

Each year, you’ll need to complete three hours of electrician continuing education (you can do it online) and submit your license renewal to the DPOR. You can use the DPOR’s Online Licensing Services to renew online. Mark your calendar to stay on top of your renewal so your license stays active. 

Is my Virginia electrician license valid in other states also?

Good news. The Virginia DPOR Board of Contractors has reciprocity agreements with several other states, meaning your license is valid there, too. With a Virginia electrician license, you can legally do electrical work in:

  • Alabama
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • West Virginia
  • North Carolina

With a license that allows you to take jobs throughout Virginia and neighboring states, you might decide the process of getting your journeyman or master license is well worth it. 

Requirements about electrician insurance

Some electrical licensees get insurance through their employer or their union. But if you’re a master electrician working on your own, make sure you have the required general liability insurance to protect yourself and your earnings. 

Getting a job with your electrician license

Once you have your journeyman or master electrician license, you can legally get your own electrical jobs throughout Virginia. People can vet you by looking up your license info with the DPOR to confirm you’re properly licensed and, as a result, well-trained to do the work they need. 

It can be helpful to list your license number on your website and business cards. This helps people know you’re properly credentialed, which can give you the edge as you bid on jobs.

Virginia Electrician Unions - Should you join one?

Many electricians join a union to guarantee they get a pension plan, certain types of insurance, sick pay, a competitive salary, and other benefits. But you’ll pay union dues if you do decide to join a union, so keep that in mind. It can help to look at your local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to get an idea of what joining a union would mean for you. 

Trends in the Industry

If you’re going to go through all the work of getting a Virginia electrician license, you want to make sure you’re joining a thriving industry. The U.S. electrical industry is valued at over $163 billion. And even though COVID-19 hit the construction industry hard, the industry is only seeing a marginal decline. In fact, “over the five years to 2020, the industry has posted relatively strong revenue growth supported by new construction activity and an uptick in renovations,” IBIS World reports.  

What’s more, continuing innovations should strengthen the industry. Here are four trends worth watching