If you’re looking to get into the electrical business, Illinois is a great place to build your career. From residential work to commercial properties, there are a plethora of opportunities for electricians. You just need to apply for your Illinois electrician license to take advantage of them.

The average salary for electricians in the state of Illinois is 8% higher than the national average, making it a great place for an electrical career. And, the electrical industry as a whole expects to see a 9% growth, increasing the demand for licensed electricians.

Illinois doesn’t offer a state-wide license, so you’ll have to turn to your municipality to acquire your certification. Sound confusing? Don’t worry. We’ll cover everything you need to know about getting an Illinois electrician license below:

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Do you need a license to be an electrician in Illinois?

Yes, a license is required to work as an electrician in Illinois. Despite a state requirement, there isn’t a statewide electrical license available. Instead, licenses and certifications are regulated and issued by municipalities.

Think you can get away with working on your own electrical projects at home? Think again. If you choose to take on some electrical work yourself, you may need a license for that as well. You’ll need to find the regulations set by the municipality you’ll be operating in.

Many municipal-issued licenses (like those issued by Buffalo Grove and Libertyville) are accepted statewide, but this isn’t the case in every city. In the Chicago area, for example, a Chicago electrical license is required to perform any electrical work governed by the Chicago electrical code. Each town’s license regulations define the specific allowances of an electrical license.

Types of electrician licenses in Illinois

Unlike other states, Illinois does not currently offer a statewide master electrician license. Instead, many cities offer a standard electrical contractor’s license, which provides similar allowances to what a master license would. When it comes to working as a licensed electrician in the state of Illinois, there are four types of licenses you can earn.

1. Apprenticeship or on-the-job training

You can get the required work experience one of two ways: an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Both are essentially the same, but the apprenticeship will match you with an employer so you don’t have to hunt for your own job.

2. Journeyman license

Journeyman licenses are available to those who have completed 4 years of training and have passed their initial exam. Those with a journeyman license can supervise other apprentices, but they’re not allowed to supervise a fellow journeyman.

3. Electrical contractor license

This is the license that is the most common across Illinois’ municipalities. An electrical contractor license allows an individual to supervise other electricians of any level. Electricians with a contractor license also have the ability to obtain permits for larger projects. Despite being the most common license type, not every municipality offers this option. 

4. Electrical contractor license(Chicago only)

Chicago offers two different types of licenses depending on the type of work you’ll be doing. 

  • Low-voltage License: all work involving Class 1, 2, and 3 remote-control circuits, signaling and power-limited circuits, and communications circuits. 
  • General License: free from the limitations listed in the low-voltage license. 

The low-voltage and general licenses differ from the other municipalities that offer a standard contractor license, such as Libertyville.

Illinois electrician license requirements

The requirements for an electrician license in Illinois depend on the municipality that will issue your license. Despite some minor differences between cities, many licenses require that you have completed sufficient on-the-job training and have passed your municipality’s required electrician exam.

Apprenticeship requirements

To enroll in an apprenticeship program, one must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Obtain a high school diploma or GED
  • Pass an aptitude and algebra test
  • Demonstrate physical fitness required for the tasks of the job
  • Have reliable transportation

Electrical contractor license requirements

In order to be eligible to receive an electrical license, you must have two things:

  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Have at least 8,000 hours (roughly 4 years) of training to take the electrician exam

License exam requirements

This exam varies from city to city, but in general the requirements to test are:

  • Be 21 years of age, or older
  • Have proof of successful completion from an accredited apprenticeship program
  • Verifiable work hours completed under a licensed supervising electrician

After meeting the requirements above, you will be ready to start the process to obtain your Illinois electrical contractor license.

How do I get an electrician license in Illinois?

The process to obtain an electrician license in Illinois differs from other states as it can vary at the local level. The most common way to obtain your license is to complete a process of learning, testing, and training.

  1. Gain a minimum of 8,000 verifiable hours of work experience, verified through pay stubs or an original letter signed by a licensed supervising electrician. Individuals can earn this experience through on-the-job training or an apprenticeship. Work must be performed under an electrician with at least one licensed supervising electrician. 
  2. Take the electrical contractor’s exam.

On average, the exam tends to run about 7 hours long. While it varies from each municipality, many testing sites allow you to bring a 2014 or 2017 NEC code book or handbook to use during the test. The available testing dates depend on the city where you will be taking the test. Most municipalities tend to offer at least one test date a month, but other cities only test twice a year, so it’s important to pay attention to your municipality’s testing schedule.

Reciprocity agreements with other states

Though electrical licenses can be valid across municipal lines, the same is not true over state borders. Licenses issued in Illinois will not be accepted in other states, and Illinois will not accept licenses from other states. To do any electrical work in Illinois, you’ll need a license from one of its municipalities.

How much does it cost to get an electrician license in Illinois?

The specific cost of an electrician license varies from city to city. Here are the license fees from a few municipalities:

Almost all licenses have a renewal fee as well, so you can expect to pay a yearly cost for maintaining your license.

Do I need to renew my electrician license? 

Though the specific requirements depend on the municipality, nearly all electrician licenses require renewal on a yearly basis. There is typically a fee associated with renewing your license.

Here are the fees associated with license renewal in the following municipalities:

  • Chicago: $150 to renew
  • Libertyville: $100 to renew
  • Naperville: No longer renewing licenses starting on Jan 1, 2023. (Impacted electricians will need to test for a new license at a participating municipality)
  • Buffalo Grove: $50 to renew 
  • Elgin: $25 to renew

Regardless of your municipality’s specific expiration policy, it’s best to learn your license expiration date so you can renew ahead of time to avoid your license expiring.

What happens if my electrician license expires? 

You’ll be unable to complete any electrical work with an expired license. In Illinois, many electrician licenses need to be renewed annually, but the specific expiration date is governed locally. To look up the status of your license, you can search on the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation website. 

If you don’t renew your license, you could potentially face a penalty depending on your city’s regulations. Since February 2016, neglecting to pay the license renewal fee for over 2 years and 9 months past the expiration date cancels the license without notification. You must then apply for a new electrician license online. It’s recommended that you stay up to date with your city’s renewal terms and complete them within the required time frame to avoid an expired license.

Requirements for business owners

Beyond receiving your contractor’s license, there are additional steps you’ll need to take to perform work as an electrical business owner. 

Almost all municipalities in Illinois require you to obtain a business owner permit. You’ll need to be a licensed electrical contractor to obtain this permit. The specific type of permit needed is dependent on the city’s permit requirements.

Chicago

In the Chicago area, you’ll need to have your electrical contractor’s license or your supervising electrician’s license to run a business. After obtaining either of those licenses, you can then apply for the necessary business permits through the city’s online permit portal.

Libertyville

Libertyville has a variety of business permits depending on the project. They offer a general permit that covers a wide range of work, including electrical work. The fee for this permit ranges based on the overall construction cost. Libertyville also offers a commercial permit for any work conducted on commercial/industrial property. You’ll need a residential permit if you’re doing some electrical work in a residential area.

Naperville

Naperville offers two variations of electrical permits for business owners, a low voltage permit, and a general electrical permit. The low voltage electrical permit is required for any wiring during the installation of security systems or office data cable network systems that exceed 25 volts or 50 watts. The general electrical permit covers all other electrical work.

Buffalo Grove

Buffalo Grove offers three tiers of business permits, but most electrical work tends to fall under their standard permit. To receive this permit, contractors must be registered within The Village of Buffalo Grove (even if their license is not from Buffalo Grove).

Elgin

In Elgin, electricians are required to obtain a business permit for any electrical work. There are a variety of permits available depending on the project, but most electrical projects would require the New Commercial/Industrial Construction/Addition Permit. In addition to a permit, the city of Elgin also requires electrical contractors to complete a notarized letter of intent with a company seal on company letterhead.

While many municipalities have online portals available to apply for permits, some municipalities have PDF permits to be completed and mailed to the town’s Community Development office.

Does an electrician license increase your earning potential? 

Yes. Not only is an electrician’s license required for nearly all electrical work in Illinois, but it increases your earning potential compared to more junior levels, such as an apprentice. While the salary for apprentices ranges, on average, licensed electricians earn 67% more than entry-level electrical apprentices.

With the increasing trade demand, now is a great time to earn your electrical license. The average salary for an electrician in the United States is $53,136. But in Illinois, the average salary for an electrician is $57,098. Like any other industry, salary potential increases with more years of experience. Electricians’ salary increases tend to jump after gaining three years of experience under their belt.

Want to know what the earning potential looks like for electricians across the nation? Check out our Essential Electrician Salary Guide to find answers to your salary-based questions. This guide includes national wages, state averages, and salary breakdowns based on experience. Take a look to understand your earning potential as an electrician and how to establish rates for your own business.

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