Jumping Through The State’s Hoops to Earn a Living

I was enjoying the post by Naveed today titled “The power to license is the power to control“, and wanted to comment on it how good it was, and quickly mention my experience with “Professional Licensing”. As I started to type, I found that it was too much to put in a comment , so it inspired me to write my own post about licensing, and how it’s insane rules effect me and my ability to earn a living.

I am a licensed electrician in all 5 New England states. I started out with my Rhode Island license, which required me to work as an apprentice for 6000 hours at that time (the early 90′s, it’s now 12000 hours). After paying to take the test, and then paying separately for the license after passing the test, From then on, you are required to pay a yearly renewal fee, and every three years must complete a 15 hour continuing course, which costs about $160, plus you need to buy a code book, $75. This is the National Electrical Code (NEC), which comes out every three years, which is the reason for the continuing education.

Several years later, I worked for a company that wanted me to get all of the New England licenses. It’s easier for them to land jobs in states if they can show that they can man the jobs with licensed guys.


Here’s where the fun starts with the insane rules. Rhode Island was only reciprocal with Oregon, I think. Which meant that I could get an Oregon license without taking a test. But I didn’t want Oregon. Massachusetts was reciprocal with New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. And Connecticut wasn’t reciprocal with any of them. So, I had to take the test for MA, $300. And I failed half of it, and had to pay another $150 to retake it, and then another $90 for the license. The tests are 100 questions, and that is a lot of mind numbing stuff to study, so as soon as I passed MA, I signed up to take the CT. Funny, the CT test is given by the same company as the MA test, so I got to take it in the same room in the same building as the MA test, and it is also 100 mind numbing questions. Does this make any sense. And it cost only slightly less money. So, with these in hand, I now got a $5 raise. Seemed worth it to me. Until the company closed its doors a year later, but I won’t get into that.

So, now I have 5 licenses, in 5 states. 4 of those five states require 15 hours of continuing education every code cycle, 3 years. $160, plus $75 for a code book. Luckily the instructors can cover all 4 states in one 15 hour course. Massachusetts requires an additional 6 hours on top of that. Connecticut does there own thing. They require 4 hours every year. $75. It was 7 hours up until last year, so that’s not so bad.

The reason for all of this is that each state adapts the NEC differently. Connecticut, for example, is still using the 2005 code, and making their own amendments, adapting small parts of 2008, and 2011. You need to know this working in that state. MA and RI also have their own amendments, and sometimes they go above and beyond the NEC.

Then, keeping track of expiration and renewal is a nightmare. Some states expire on your birth month, some in September, and others the end of December.  Some renew every year, some 2 years, and some 3 years. RI is $36 a year, MA is $90 a year, NH is $150 every 3 years.

They make it harder and harder to work every year. A Journeyman electrician could pull a permit to work in a home or business by himself. Then the last couple of years, you have to have a Master Electricians license, which is another test, and you need to take business classes, and carry insurance. A job has to have a ratio of journeyman to apprentices. In RI, if you are an out of state company, it is 3 journeyman to every 1 apprentice, if you are an in state company, its 1 to 1.

To work on any jobs now, you need to have taken an OSHA 10 hour course, which never expires. (OSHA is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration). But in MA, if you work on any state funded job, you need to renew it every 5 years, and there is talk of going to a 30 hour course. Next year, some states are going to require that you have a license to work with lead in any buildings built before 1972.

Everything is so arbitrary. The job I was just on, the company had to spend thousands of dollars to install fire alarm  devices that will no longer be required January first. They fought with the fire department, but had to install them anyway.  What difference does it make, you know that they are not going to be needed, but you have to wait for this arbitrary time.

It is so frustrating. So arbitrary. So ridiculous. But we just have to go along with it. If I tried to take a stand, my company would just say “Too Bad, go somewhere else.” If you even mention to anyone else in the field that you don’t believe in licensing, they laugh at you like you’re a mad man. They agree that some of this stuff is stupid, but that’s the way it is. Normal people have been so conditioned to this stuff. It’s all about power and money, none of it is about safety. None of it is about protecting the consumer.

Well, that turned out to be a much longer rant than I wanted it to be. Thanks again Naveed for the inspiration. I’d like to opt out, and maybe someday I will, but I have a mortgage and kids and I just can’t right now. But at least I can see the ridiculousness in it all, which is more than can be said for most.


This was originally posted by me at The Freedom Feens Blog.

22. September 2012 by sean
Categories: My Freedom Feens Blog Posts | Leave a comment

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