What Is a C-7 License?
The C-7 Low Voltage Contractor license is the required classification for anyone looking to charge over $500 for low-voltage electrical projects involving:
- Electrical work Under 91 Voltz
- Wire Phones
- Alarm Systems
- Low Voltage Wiring and Maintenance
- Installing Phone Systems
- Closed Circuit TV
- Sound Antenna Systems
- Fiber Optics
Each day technology becomes a more significant part of our daily lives.
The low voltage license covers a variety of different expertise. These tradesmen may be called:
- low voltage contractors
- low voltage technicians
- low voltage electricians
- Studio Tech, Audio Technician
- Lighting Tech
Duties associated with the Low Voltage License
Contractors that hold the low voltage license typically work in:
- Recording Studios
- Night Clubs
- Movie Theaters
- Alarm Companies
- Landscape Lighting
- Phone and Cable Companies
- Call Centers
- Theme Parks
- Telecommunication Companies
Low voltage contractors that hold the C-7 license and are bonded, can position themselves to earn an excellent income as their services are highly sought after.
Industries that depend on functional low-voltage electrical systems will typically hire contractors holding the C-7 license.
C-7 License vs. C-10 License?
The C-7 license covers everything under 91 Voltz and the C-10 license covers everything 91 Voltz and above.
Below is an example of the different types of work that apply to each classification
- Simple Wiring
- Installing Entertainment Systems
- Wiring Phone Hook Ups
- Trouble Shooting an Internet or Wifi Connection
- Installing Cable Systems
- Designing CCTV or Alarm Systems
- Installing light fixtures and switches
- AC and DC Wiring
- Reading Phase Rotation Meters
- Underground Wiring
- Rough Wiring a residential or commercial structure
- High Voltage Transmission Distribution equipment
What is a Subcontractor?
A technician that holds the low voltage license generally will directly with a client or business seeking their specific services.
However, in a traditional construction setting, they would operate as a subcontractor.
The Low Voltage Contractor might be hired by a General Contractor to execute a specific phase of the construction project like:
- Home Entertainment System
- Landscape Lighting
- Customized Interior Lighting System
- Recording Studio
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.
Learn more about the General Contractor License!
How To Get A Low Voltage License
To get the Low Voltage License in California you have to meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 Years of Age
- Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
- Social Security OR ITIN #
- Not Currently on Probation or Parole
You must also have
- 4 Years of Journeyman Level Experience
- Have a Certifier to sign off on your experience
- A way to document your experience if the CSLB asks
Journeyman Level Experience
Journeyman-level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full-time for an electrical company, or contractor that holds the C-7 License.
- A journeyman low voltage technician 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.
Signature of a Certifier
The following people can sign off on your experience
- Licensed General Contractor
- C-7 License Holder
- Fellow Employee (within last 10 years)
- Current or former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
- Business Associate
- Fellow Journeyman
- Union Representative
Proving Your Low Voltage Electrical Work Experience
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.
- Tax Returns
- Check Stubs
- 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 Low Voltage License Application
This person will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skill set.
How this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted.
“John is a nice guy and he has been installing audio systems for a long time…” will not work
The CSLB will want to see something more like:
“John has installed, inspected, and maintained closed-circuit systems, alarm systems, and sound systems as well as rewired and installed master antenna systems”
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 somewhere they got their test date much later.
- Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays)
- Criminal History
- Proving Experience
- Mistakes on your application
Application Costs for the C-7 License
The Current CSLB fees are:
Can you get a Contractor's License with a Felony in California?
Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-7 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.
See the CSLB's verbiage on background checks:
Just because you have been convicted of a crime does not automatically mean your application will be denied. CSLB's Criminal Background Unit (CBU) reviews all criminal convictions to determine if the crime is substantially related to the duties, qualifications, and/or functions of a contractor. Since no two conviction records are the same, they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The criteria used by CSLB include whether the crime shows the present or potential unfitness of an applicant or licensee to perform the functions authorized by the license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, or welfare. In addition, CSLB reviews and considers any evidence of rehabilitation submitted by the applicant or licensee. Please see the above link to the California Code of Regulations sections 868 and 869 for more specific information on the criteria for determining substantial relationship and rehabilitation.
Learn more about the CSLB's background check process here
BE 100% HONEST ON THE APPLICATION, because they will see everything anyway when you do fingerprint. The CSLB handles criminal records on a case-by-case basis.
Remember, their responsibility is to protect the public. In my experience, they are primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with:
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.
Low Voltage Contractor Exam
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)
- C-7 Online Practice Exams and Study Guides
- Introduction to Blueprint Reading Course
- Electrical Trade Skills Fundamentals
The Low Voltage License (C-7) Examination is divided into seven sections:
1. Job Planning and Design (18%)
- Interpret plans and specifications
- Plan wire routes and equipment locations
- Compliance with codes and industry standards
- Knowledge of impact on other trades
- Integration of new and existing infrastructure
2. Material Selection and Estimation (15%)
- Knowledge of materials and their applications
- Knowledge of tools and equipment and their applications
- Estimate project costs and prepare proposals
3. Wire/Cable Installation and Termination (12%)
- Layout, install, and support pathways
- Knowledge of tools and methods of termination
- Placement and termination of wires/cables
- Knowledge of labeling schemes for wires/cables
4. Systems Configuration and Installation (16%)
- Install equipment room components
- Install satellite, CCTV, telephone, data, instrumentation, battery systems, audio, video, and fiber optic systems
- Install building automation
- IP networking and VoIP configuration
5. Testing and Project Closeout (17%)
- Tools and methods used to test the functioning of low-voltage equipment
- Project closeout, documentation, and training
6. System Troubleshooting and/or Repair or Replacement (7%)
- Troubleshoot various problems and make repairs/replacements
7. Safety (15%)
- Cal/OSHA regulations
- Identification of job site hazards
- Safe work practices
CSLB Test Locations
The CSLB has testing centers all over the state of California. Once approved you will be given a list of locations based on your zip code where you can go and take the test.
C-7 Low Voltage License Tests and Study Guides
- 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.
Most people that take the exam 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 minutes a day consistently can dramatically increase your chances of passing the test on your first try.
Low Voltage Apprenticeships
If you don’t have the four years required journeyman-level experience to obtain the C-7 Contractor License, not to worry.
Tech is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled electrical tradesmen are always in demand.
Generally, someone looking to become a low-voltage contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship or certification program.
Whether you are completely new or have some experience already, there are resources available to you. For information on low-voltage licenses in other states check out our guides for Arizona and Georgia
For a detailed explanation of this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman!
Blueprint reading is a fundamental skill for low voltage contractors
Executing wire installations safely is a critical part of the job.
Quickly interpreting construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesmen but especially for low-voltage contractors.
Your journey begins here!
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.
Understanding how to safely contain lead-based paint when altering structures built before 1978 is required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The most profitable low voltage contractors are the ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgeable and helpful to their clients.
Getting an EPA Certification is a quick and inexpensive process. The certification is good for 5 years
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 to the safety of your customers.
For a complete guide on how to get the EPA Certification, check out this article.
Getting the C-7 Low Voltage Contractor 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!