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What is a C-10 License for California Electricians?

Per the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), to do electrical work in the state, you need an electrician certification. And since getting that certification requires quite a few steps and fairly extensive industry experience, a lot of people assume the cert is enough to strike off on their own.

It’s not. Even with your DIR-issued electrician certification, you still need to work under the supervision of a C-10 electrical contractor. If you want to operate independently, you’ll need to get the C-10 license yourself.

So what is a C-10 license, exactly? What does it do for California electricians and how do you get one? Let’s find out.  

C-10 101

Per the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB), a C-10 licensee “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.”

If that sounds an awful lot like your electrician certification, you’re not wrong. The key difference here is that the C-10 license falls under the CSLB’s “specialty contractor” designation. That basically means that you can have a contracting business offering services within a specific trade, which, in this case, is electrical work. That allows you to start your own business instead of having to work under another contractor’s supervision. 

Another key difference between the electrician certification and a C-10 license is the issuing authority. You get and renew your electrician certification through the DIR, while you get and renew your C-10 license through the CSLB. 

Getting and maintaining a C-10 license in California

Because the C-10 license is a type of contractor license, you’re subject to all the same requirements as contractors across the state. That means you’ll need to:

  • Complete the contractor license application and designate that you want a C-10 license on it
  • Pay the $330 application fee
  • Register a business entity with the state
  • Meet the bonding (e.g., $15,000 contractor’s bond) and insurance (e.g., workers’ compensation) requirements
  • Pass both the business and law exam and the electrical-focused exam
  • Certify the proper amount of experience

Specifically, the CSLB requires that you have at least four years of industry experience at a journeyman level or higher. That said, you can get credit for specific education, technical training, or apprenticeship training. You’ll still need at least a year of experience as a journeyman+, though, because you can only get up to three years of credit for education or training. 

With all the effort you put into securing a C-10 electrical contractor license in California, you’ll definitely want to keep it active. You should get a renewal application from the CSLB about two months before your license will expire. If you don’t and you’re within 45 days of expiration, you can order a renewal form online or call the CSLB and request one at (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

While a C-10 license technically doesn’t require any continuing education for renewal, you might still need CE hours. If you continue to work under a C-10 contractor, you will need to maintain your electrician certification with the DIR. And that means taking the required 32 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle.