How To Get a C-10 License

To get a C-10 Electrical Contractor License in California, you must prove a minimum of 4 years journeyman level experience and pass a two part state exam with the Contractor State License Board

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid driver's license or USA Issued identification
  • Have a social security or ITIN #
  • Cannot Currently be on Probation or Parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
  • Have a Qualifying Individual to sign off on your Experience
  • A way to prove experience if the State Board asks

Journey Level Experience

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for an electrical company, or contractor that holds the C-10 License.

  • A journeyman can perform all of the duties associated with his or her trade.

The CSLB will want to see four full-time years over the last ten years. The years do not need to be consecutive, but they do need to be four years in total. 

Two men elevated up to light pole working on the wires

Electrical Contractors may be asked to prove 4 years experience

Electrical Certification - Journeyman Electrician (ECE)

California Department of Industrial Relations Logo

Department of Industrial Relations

In the state of California, anyone performing electrical work must hold an electrical Certification. If you are working under a C-10 Contractor, you are required to have this certification.

This certification applies to individuals that hold the C-10 License who are working under another C-10 Contractor as well.

The exam is 100% code and will require a minimum of 8,000 proof of work experience even to receive a date to take it.

The exam is an open book and administered by the California Department of Industrial Relations. For more information on the electrical certification, feel free to check out our article.

Signature of a Qualifying Individual

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience when applying for the electrical contractor license:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-10 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Current or Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Proving Your Work Experience for the Concrete License

A calculator and pen laying on top of a balance sheet. electrical contractors are sometimes asked to prove 4 full time years work experience before they are allowed to take the exam

The CSLB may ask you to document your electrical experience

  • Tax Returns
  • Check Stubs
  • Contracts
  • Material Order Invoices or Receipts

The CSLB  receives thousands of applications per month so there is a good chance they won’t document your experience but if you are one of the applicants that get reviewed you will need to be ready to submit something. 

The CSLB does not accept pictures of projects.

Filling out the C-10 License Application

You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have. The Contractors State License Board gives you a few ways that you can prove your experience.

"Bill is a great guy he rewired our house…” will not cut it.

 The CSLB will want to see something more like: "Bill has worked with A/C and D/C wiring, 440V wiring, and underground wiring. He has worked above and below normal elevation and has read phase rotation meters" 

What is the C-10 License?

An electrical contractor places, installs, erect 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 purposeCSLB.GOV

The C-10 license is the classification required in the state of California for all anyone looking to bid on residential and commercial electrical projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Electrical Contractors looking to start businesses will need to obtain the C-10 license. 

Duties of  an Electrical Contractor

The duties of an electrical contractor may typically include:

  • Using and reading ohmmeters, voltmeters, ammeters, phase rotation meters, and megohmeters
  • Working near high voltage transmission/distribution equipment
  • Installing fixtures and receptacles 
  • Low Voltage Wiring
  • Installing A/C and D/C wiring 
  • Underground wiring 
  • Installing rough wiring 
  • System evaluations
  • Grounding and Bonding
  • Repairing and replacing electrical equipment
  • Photovoltaic project planing
Electrician adjusting wires in an electrical box

Electrical Contractors may work in a variety of different settings

Prime License

The C-10 License along with the: General Contractor, General Engineering License, C-20 HVAC, and C-16 Fire Protection are what are referred to as prime licenses in the state of California because so much of our society, as well as the safety public, is dependent on these specific services.

Electrical Companies often have an individual who holds the C-10 license or an RMO working for their company which certifies the business to perform electrical work. For a more in-depth look at the RMO, License check out this article.

Electrical Subcontractor

Electrical Contractors that hold the C-10 License often function as an independent unit subcontracted by a General Contractor to perform specific duties associated with a construction project.

The state exam for General Contractors includes questions about electrical systems.  It is a critical skillset for anyone overseeing a full construction or remodel project. 

an electrical contractor up on a telephone pole working around several wires

Electrical subcontractors may work under Engineering or General Building Contractors

  • Making electrical calculations
  • Safely installing electrical systems within a residential or commercial project
  • Adhering to code requirements
  • Following accessibility requirements for electrical wiring

The General Contractor reports directly to the client and is in charge of the overall project and its day to day operations, including subcontractors and job site safety.

To learn more about the General Contractor License, check out this article.

Application Processing, Fees, and Criminal History

The time it takes to get your application processed and assigned a test date fluctuates throughout the year. Typically you can expect:

  • 6-8 Week Application Processing Time
  • 3-4 Week wait for an Exam date

I have seen some situations where applicants got their test date sooner and some where they got their test date much later.

The most common reasons your application would get held up are:

  1. Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays) 
  2. Criminal History 
  3. Proving Experience
  4. Mistakes on your application 

Application Costs for the C-10 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

Can you get a C-10 License with a Felony in California?

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting an electrical contractor License. I have personally helped guys with all types of criminal records obtain multiple licenses. The key is to be honest on the application, even if the felony or misdemeanor happened years ago and even if it was expunged.

BE 100% HONEST ON THE APPLICATION, because they will see everything anyway when you do fingerprinting. The CSLB handles criminal records on a case by case basis. Remember, their responsibility is to protect the public. In my experience, they primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with:

a blue fingerprint scan infront of a black background. be 100% honest on the application when applying for your c-10 license

Be 100% honest on the application

  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement 
  • Forgery

In the state of California, you are required to divulge any criminal charges when applying for any state license even if they have been expunged. You will need to be prepared to submit anything they ask for regarding your criminal history. 

C-10 License Test

Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:

1) A-General Engineering                            (LAW + TRADE EXAM )

2) B-General Building                                     (LAW + TRADE EXAM)

3) C-Specialty Classes                                    (LAW + TRADE EXAM )

4) C-61/D- Limited Specialty                     (LAW TEST ONLY EXAM)


The C-10 contractors license exam will be:

  • 115 Questions of Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions of Electrical
  • 3 Hours to Complete Each Portion
  • Multiple Choice Exam on Computer
  • Closed Book


1.    Planning and Estimation (26%)

  • Existing system evaluation
  • Plan and specification interpretation
  • Electrical calculations
  • Code requirements
  • Material selection
  • Photovoltaic project planning

2.    Rough Wiring (24%)

  • System layout
  • Clearance and accessibility requirements
  • Raceway and panel installation
  • Wire and equipment installation
  • Grounding and bonding
  • Photovoltaic rough wiring

3.    Finish Wiring and Trim (11%)

  • Finish device placement and installation
  • Motor and equipment installation
  • Wire and equipment labeling
  • Trims and sealants
  • Photovoltaic finish wiring

4.    Startup, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance (21%)

  • System energizing and testing
  • Common electrical problems
  • Location, repair, and replacement of inoperable electrical wires/components
  • Selection and use of electrical testing equipment
  • Photovoltaic system performance

5. Safety (18%)

  • Lockout/tag out procedures
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Tools/equipment
  • Hazardous materials and job site environments

CSLB Test Locations

Logo of the contractors state license board. illustration features a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

Contractors State License Board

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

Electrical Exam Prep

Some things to remember:

  • The questions you will see on the exam may use outdated terms
  • Processes may be completely different from how things are done on the job site
  • You will see questions about things you may have never done before
  • Questions will be presented to you as if you are running a large scale construction business with several employees and jobs happening all at once. 
  • Know all aspects of your trade
Old General Electric Megohmmeter

Study 10 mintues a day to ensure you pass the C-10 license exam on your first try

I have helped thousands of electricians licenses. Most are startled by how different the subject matter on the state exam is from their years of first-hand experience. 

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Studying just 10 mintues a day consistently can dramatically increase your chances of passing the test on your first try.

Focus on and study ONLY the information that you need to pass the C-10 License test

Electrical Apprenticeship

If you don’t have the four years required journeyman level experience to obtain the C-10 contractor license, not to worry. Your journey begins here!

Construction is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled electricians are always in demand. Whether you are completely new or have some experience already, there are resources available to you.  

Generally someone looking to become an electrical contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship  or certification program. For a detailed explanation on this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman.

Blue Print Reading Course

The electrical phase of the construction process is critical in ensuring the safety of a building. Being able to quickly interpret construction blue prints is a core skill for everyone, including electrical contractors. 

Blueprint Reading Skills are also critical to pass the General Contractor exam. Check out this Blue Print Reading Course for a basic introduction to the concepts you will want to know about.

Electrical Blue Print and a pencil

Blueprint reading is essential for electrical contractors

EPA Certification

Logo of the united states environmental protection agency

Environmental Protection Agency

Understanding how to safely contain lead-based paint when altering structures built before 1978 is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. The most profitable drywall contractors are ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgable and helpful to their clients. 

Becoming EPA Certified can help you expand your business and can be completed in a one day 8 hour course. Staying EPA compliant is not only important to the survival of your business but also the safety of your customers.  For a complete guide on how to get the EPA Certification, check out this article.

Construction Math

Math skills are critical for most construction professionals but especially for electrical contractors hoping to pass the C-10 license exam the first time. There are a variety of publications available that will teach you the basics and most utilized math skills in the electrical world including:

  • Ohm's law
  • Currents
  • Voltage
  • Scientific notations
  • Units of measurement
  • The metric system
  • Algebra
  • Division of monomials and
  • Polynomials,
  • Calculating area

You will be allowed to use a calculator on the C-10 License exam, but punching each equation in will most certainly take all of your time up. You will need to be able to do basic equations in your head.

Take the time to brush up on your electrical math skills. We have a database of the most accurate resources available to help you prepare.

Conclusion

Skilled electricians are always in demand. A licensed electrical contractor is required in virtually all construction projects. Getting the C-10 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to open your company or expand to larger clients! The key is to take action and follow these steps from beginning to end. If you have found this article helpful feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to check back for updates!

About the Author

Digital Constructive is the #1 Online Resource for Construction Professionals

Save Time and Energy:

Stay Up To Date On Changes To Contractor License LAW!