How to get a California C-10 Electrical Contractor License

TLDR: In California, electrical contractors install and work with electrical wires and equipment. They also work with solar photovoltaic cells. Electrical contractors comprise the most specialized contractors in California, with 17,666 contractors in total (Jul, 2023). To begin working on projects worth more than $500, you will need to get licensed by the California State Licensing Board(CSLB), the state's regulatory authority. This article will take you through the steps required to get licensed as an electrical contractor.

What is a C-10 Electrical contractor

In California, an electrical contractor is a professional or a company that specializes in the installation, repair, and maintenance of electrical systems. They are licensed and regulated by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and must meet specific requirements to operate legally.

The primary responsibilities of an electrical contractor in California include:

  • Electrical System Installation: Electrical contractors are skilled in installing wiring, electrical fixtures, switches, outlets, and other components required for residential, commercial, and industrial electrical systems. They ensure that the installations meet local building codes and safety regulations.
  • Electrical Repairs and Troubleshooting: Contractors are proficient in diagnosing and repairing electrical issues. They can identify problems such as faulty wiring, circuit breaker malfunctions, power outages, and electrical equipment failures. They are responsible for fixing these issues safely and efficiently.
  • Electrical Maintenance: Contractors also provide regular maintenance services to ensure the proper functioning of electrical systems. This includes inspecting electrical equipment, checking for potential hazards, and performing preventive measures to avoid future problems.
  • Electrical Upgrades and Renovations: When a building undergoes renovations or requires electrical upgrades, electrical contractors handle the planning and execution of such projects. This may involve rewiring, panel upgrades, installation of energy-efficient lighting systems, or incorporating smart home technologies.


The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is a state regulatory agency in California that oversees and licenses contractors operating within the state. Its primary objective is to protect the public by ensuring that contractors meet the required standards of competency and professionalism.

The CSLB has several key responsibilities:

  • Contractor Licensing: The CSLB issues licenses to contractors in various classifications based on their specific trade or area of expertise. These classifications include electrical contractors, plumbing contractors, and more. The licensing process involves meeting specific education, experience, and examination requirements to demonstrate competence in the field.
  • License Regulation and Enforcement: The CSLB monitors licensed contractors to ensure they adhere to state laws, regulations, and ethical standards. It investigates complaints and takes appropriate disciplinary action against contractors who violate the law or fail to meet their contractual obligations. This may include fines, license suspensions, or revocations.
  • Consumer Protection: The CSLB aims to protect consumers from unlicensed and fraudulent contractors. It provides resources and information to help consumers make informed decisions when hiring contractors. The board maintains a database where consumers can verify a contractor's license status, check for any disciplinary actions, and access other relevant information.
  • Contractor Education: The CSLB promotes professional development and educational opportunities for contractors. It offers licensing workshops, publications, and online resources to help contractors stay informed about industry changes, building codes, safety standards, and other important topics.

Overall, the CSLB's main focus is to protect consumers by licensing qualified contractors, regulating their activities, and promoting fair and ethical practices within the construction industry in California.

Why get a C-10 Electrical Contractor License in California

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, California employs the highest number of electrical contractors. This means there is a market for contractors, and if you are eager to start working as one, it is definitely a location to consider. If you have already decided to start working as a contractor in California, you will require a license, and here are a couple of reasons why you need to apply to get it as soon as possible.

  • Legal Requirement: In California, it is illegal to perform electrical contracting work worth more than $500 without a valid contractor's license. By obtaining a license, you ensure that you are operating legally and avoid potential fines, penalties, or legal consequences associated with unlicensed work.
  • Credibility and Trust: Holding a valid contractor's license demonstrates your competence, professionalism, and commitment to meeting industry standards. It instills confidence in clients, showing them that you have the necessary skills and qualifications to perform electrical work safely and effectively.
  • Expanded Business Opportunities: Many construction projects, whether residential, commercial, or industrial, require licensed contractors to perform electrical work. By having an electrical contractor license, you can bid on a broader range of projects and potentially secure larger and more lucrative contracts.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Obtaining a contractor's license requires meeting specific education, experience, and examination requirements. This process ensures that you have a comprehensive understanding of electrical codes, safety standards, and industry practices. Compliance with these regulations helps protect public safety and ensures that electrical work is performed to the highest standards.
  • Access to Resources and Support: As a licensed electrical contractor, you gain access to a wealth of resources, industry updates, and educational opportunities provided by organizations like the CSLB. These resources can help you stay informed about the latest industry trends, regulations, and best practices.
  • Professional Development: The licensing process involves continuing education requirements, which encourage ongoing learning and professional development. This allows you to stay updated with advancements in electrical technology, safety practices, and energy-efficient solutions, enhancing your expertise and expanding your service offerings.

Below are the steps you should follow to obtain your license.

Step 1: Gain working experience

To qualify for the C-10 electrical contractor license exam in California, applicants must have a minimum of four years of experience working as a journeyman. A journeyman refers to a skilled worker who possesses full qualifications in their trade and can perform tasks independently without supervision. This experience can be acquired through completing an apprenticeship program or obtaining the necessary training and qualification from a Joint Examination Board.

The primary objective of this requirement is to ensure that contractors demonstrate the necessary competence and proficiency in the electrical trade. By working as a journeyman for a significant period, applicants have the opportunity to gain practical knowledge and skills under the guidance of experienced professionals. This hands-on experience encompasses various aspects of electrical work, enabling individuals to develop a comprehensive understanding of techniques, materials, and safety protocols involved in the trade.

During the four-year journeyman experience, individuals have the chance to work on diverse electrical projects, which enhances their expertise. This exposure allows them to engage in different types of electrical work, such as wiring installations, troubleshooting electrical systems, and conducting repairs. The range of projects and tasks undertaken contributes to their well-rounded understanding of the trade and strengthens their proficiency.

Once the required training period has been completed, applicants need to complete the Certification of Work Experience form, which verifies their practical experience. This form is included in their application packet and serves as evidence of their qualifications, ensuring that they meet the necessary prerequisites to be eligible for the C-10 electrical contractor license exam in California.

Step 2: Get credible witnesses to testify to your background

To validate the authenticity of your experience, it is crucial to obtain testimonials from credible individuals who have direct knowledge of your work. These endorsements can be obtained from various sources, such as employers, contractors, supervisors, co-workers, fellow journeyman workers, union representatives, building inspectors, architects, engineers, or even homeowners. The individuals providing endorsements should have personally witnessed and observed the tasks you have undertaken. Their participation involves completing the experience certification section of your application.

Here is an acceptable supporting experience documentation. You can refer to this list when determining which documents to submit as evidence of your work history.

Step 3: Fill in the original contractor license application

The subsequent step involves filling out the Application for Original Contractor’s License. It is vital to carefully review the instructions provided, as an incomplete application can result in delays or potential rejection. After submission, the CSLB will send an acknowledgment letter containing an application fee number and a four-digit PIN. These details are necessary for checking the status of your application.

Step 4:Submit the dealer application and pay any required fees

After ensuring that you have fulfilled all the necessary requirements and completed your application, it is time to proceed with the submission process. Submit your application along with the required documents and the application processing fee of $450 to:

CSLB Headquarters
Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826-0026

It is important to note that you should make the payments to CSLB's Sacramento office by made by cash, check, or money order.

Step 5: Submit your fingerprints

After your application is approved, you'll receive a fingerprinting live scan packet. This step is crucial as it allows the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to conduct a thorough criminal background check. Your fingerprints will be compared against records held by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI to determine if any criminal history exists.

All applicants for a license, including officers, partners, owners, responsible managing employees, and home improvement salesperson applicants, are required to undergo fingerprinting. However, individuals who currently hold a CSLB license and are not making any changes to their license, as well as joint venture license applicants, are exempt from this requirement.

Once your application is deemed complete by the CSLB, each individual listed on the application will receive instructions on how to obtain and submit fingerprints. You will also receive a "Request for Live Scan Service" form (BCII 8016).

Complete the necessary fields in the third section (applicant information) of the form and bring three copies of the completed form to a Live Scan station. The Live Scan station will process your fingerprints and forward them to the DOJ and the FBI for review. Local police and sheriff departments, as well as other public Live Scan sites, provide Live Scan fingerprinting services.

Remember to follow the provided instructions carefully to ensure the proper submission of your fingerprints for the background check.

Here is a list of live scan locations.

Step 6: Take the CSLB Examination

After your application is approved, you'll receive a notification to attend the examination. The examination notice should be sent to you at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination date. It is crucial to dedicate time to studying to prepare for the CSLB exam.

When going to the testing center, remember to bring a valid form of picture identification. Personal calculators, cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices aren't allowed in the testing area. The exam itself has a duration of three and a half hours.

The exam consists of two sections: the first section focuses on contractor law and consists of 115 multiple-choice questions, while the second section concentrates on the specific trade and also consists of 115 multiple-choice questions. Both sections of the exam are computer-based and administered at the designated testing location. The examination is conducted in English, but if you make prior arrangements, you may be permitted to bring a translator.

You can use the California Contractor License Law & Reference Book as a study guide in preparation for your exam.

Step 7: Get bonded

After you have passed the exam, you'll receive a bond and fee notification form at the testing site. This form will outline the requirements you must fulfill to obtain your license.

One of the requirements is obtaining a California contractor bond valued at $25,000. This specific type of surety bond is designed for contractors and serves as a financial protection for clients and the public. It ensures that contractors fulfill their contractual obligations, adhere to relevant laws and regulations, and conduct their business ethically.

To obtain a contractor bond, you typically need to provide basic information such as your business name, owner's name, and address and undergo a soft credit check by providing your social security number.

Once your dealer bond application is approved, you can proceed with making the payment for the bond. Subsequently, you can expect to receive the physical copy of the bond via mail within 3-5 business days. It is essential to have a hard copy of the bond for your license application.

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Step 8: Receive your license

Congratulations on successfully completing all the necessary steps to become a licensed contractor. It is indeed an accomplishment to navigate through these processes. The final step involves receiving your license and commencing work as a contractor.

Once your license is issued, you will receive a wall certificate that displays important information, including the name of the license holder (individual or company), license number, classification held, and the date of issue. This certificate should be prominently displayed in your primary office or main place of business as required by law.

In addition to the wall certificate, you will also receive a plastic pocket card. The pocket card includes essential details such as your license number, business name, classification, and the expiration date of your license. It is recommended to carry this pocket card with you regularly, especially when engaging in business solicitation or interacting with potential customers.

By displaying your wall certificate and keeping your pocket card readily available, you ensure compliance with legal requirements and demonstrate your official status as a licensed contractor.


How often should I renew my contractor license?

In California, it is mandatory to renew your contractor license every two years. During the renewal process, any changes to your general business information must be accurately reflected on the renewal application.

If ownership of a business changes, is the contractor’s license considered to be a part of the purchase?

In general, except for corporations, the contractor license is not tied to the business itself. If a corporation maintains the same registration number assigned by the California Secretary of State, the existing license can be used as long as it remains current and active. It is not required for the officers or the qualifying individual to remain the same, although there must be a qualifying individual in place to ensure the validity of the license.

Are there any financial requirements to meet in order to qualify for a contractor’s license?

Financial requirements are not necessary to qualify for a contractor's license in California. However, it is important to note that obtaining a $25,000 bond is a requirement before becoming licensed. The purpose of this bond is to protect consumers who may suffer from faulty construction or other violations of license laws, as well as to ensure that employees receive their owed wages.

My original exam application was returned for correction; what do I do?

If your application is deemed insufficient or incomplete, it will be returned to you. In such cases, you are required to provide any missing information, make necessary corrections, and resubmit the application within 90 days from the date of its return. Failure to resubmit the application within this timeframe will result in the application becoming void. It cannot be reinstated, and if you wish to pursue a license, you will need to submit a new application along with the processing fee.

How will I know if I have passed the contractor examination

Test-takers will receive their score results immediately at the test site. Those who pass the examination will be informed of their success without receiving specific details about their score. On the other hand, unsuccessful test-takers will be provided with a statement that indicates their performance in each section of the test. This breakdown enables them to identify the areas they need to focus on when preparing for a reattempt. 

Where can I take the CSLB test?

Currently, the CSLB has testing locations in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego

You can find a comprehensive list of testing locations on the PSI website.

The CSLB will allocate a testing venue according to your city of residence. After your application is approved, you will have a timeframe of 18 months to pass both examinations.

What are the fees involved in getting a contractor license?

Original Application (exam or waiver for one classification $500
Initial License Fee (Sole Owner) $200
Initial License Fee (Non-Sole Owner) $350
Re-Examination $100
Fingerprinting Fees—Paid to Live Scan Operator Dept. of Justice Processing Fee $32
Federal Bureau of Investigation Processing Fee $17


Other fees are available on the Contractor’s State Licensing Board.