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How to Become an Electrical Trainee in California

How to Become an Electrical Trainee in California

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Do you enjoy working with your hands and have a knack for problem-solving? Are you good at math and physics? Are you detailed oriented and dependable?

If that sounds like you, then you might make a great electrician.

Choosing a new career can be exciting, but the questions that follow can be overwhelming. How will I get training? Do I need to go back to school? 

Luckily, there are a few ways to become an electrician. One option to consider to work in the field is to become a trainee by getting an Electrician Trainee Card or ET Card.

Read on to find out how to register as an Electrical Trainee and what to expect during this training program.

Electrician Trainee vs. Apprentice

Even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, electrician trainees and apprentices follow very different training programs. In both programs, you can be on the right track to becoming a certified electrician and get paid for your work, but the journey is different. 

Apprentice – Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by unions or professional organizations. They are extremely competitive, and there is a possibility that you may have to be put on a waiting list until you’re accepted.

Usually, there is a written exam, an interview, orientation, and a drug screening. Many times you have to sign an indenture agreement, which is a contract that sets out the terms of your apprenticeship. For more information on how to become an apprentice in California, you can visit

Electrician Trainee – Trainees register with the state to get an ET Card. This card makes it legal for you to learn electrical work on job sites while also attending an approved trade school. As a trainee, you can work for a C-10 state-certified electrician until you’re qualified to take the State Electrical Certification Exam.

You have to log the required experience hours to take the state exam once you finish your trade school program. Working as a registered electrical trainee is a great way to gain experience and the necessary hours.

To become a registered electrician trainee in the state of California, you have to:

  1. Enroll in an electrical program at a state-approved school. The school needs to offer a Whole General Electrician Curriculum.
  2. Then you need to register with the state to get an ET Card.
  3. Finally, when working on a job site, you have to be supervised by a state-certified electrician. 

How to Get an Electrician Trainee Card

An Electrician Trainee Card or ET Card provides proof that you are registered with the state as a trainee. In California, you also have to renew your trainee application every year to continue working.

When you’re enrolled in coursework at an InterCoast College campus, we will assist you in the process of applying for an Electrical Trainee (ET) Card.

Here’s how to apply:

  1. Visit the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website and navigate to the page about the Electrician Certification Program.
  2. Fill out an Electrician Trainee registration application.
  3. Submit your application along with a $25 check.
  4. Get proof that you are enrolled in an approved school.
  5. Mail your application, check, and proof of enrollment to:

    DIR-Division of Labor Standards Department
    ATTN: Electrician Certification Unit
    PO Box 511286
    Los Angeles, CA 90051-7841

How to Remain an Eligible Electrician Trainee

Once you get approved as an electrician trainee, your responsibilities don’t end there. You also have to remain eligible.

To continue with your training card, you have to renew your application each year. While you won’t need an electrician trainee card forever, you need one until you qualify to take the State Electrical Certification Exam. 

You’ll have to prove to the state that you’ve completed coursework, are employed in the electrical industry, and gained hours of work experience. 

Each year, you have to complete at least 150 hours of trade school classes. Keep in mind that if you didn’t attend enough hours, even if you passed your classes, you won’t meet this requirement. Do your best to make sure you don’t miss any classes.

Benefits of Being an Electrician Trainee

One benefit of being an electrician trainee is that it’s not as competitive and doesn’t take as long to complete as an apprenticeship.

Once you decide you’re interested in becoming an electrician, you can enroll in an approved trade school as long as you have a high school diploma or GED. You won’t need to go through the long application process of an apprenticeship. All you have to do is get your ET Card and find a certified electrician that can supervise you.

Most trainee programs are much shorter than apprenticeships which usually take four or five years. But, trainee programs can still vary in length depending on the trade school you choose. With our InterCoast College program, you can finish in as little as 50 weeks.

As a trainee electrician, you aren’t locked in with a particular master electrician like you would be in an apprenticeship. As an electrical trainee, you can choose to work for different electricians. This will give you experience working in different environments with different people.  

While you do have to pay for your own tuition, many schools offer financial aid assistance if you qualify.

Becoming an Electrician

Once you’ve completed your General Electrician Curriculum at your trade school and logged enough hours of on-the-job training, you can take the State Electrical Certification Exam.

You have to log between 2,000 and 8,000 work experience hours to qualify for the exam. The amount of hours you need depends on the type of electrician you want to be. General Electricians need the most hours of work experience and Non-residential Lighting Technicians need the least.

If you pass the exam, let your school know. Your school will unenroll you from the program and tell the state that you are no longer an electrician trainee.

You are now a state-certified electrician! 

Start Your Career Today

Electrical work can be a professionally satisfying career that pays well. If you’re good at solving problems and understand technical information, this career could be yours.

InterCoast Colleges can help you apply for an electrician trainee card and start working as a trainee. You’ll be able to graduate and begin your career in less than a year.

If you’re interested in becoming an electrician, consider our electrical training program as the first step in your new career.

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