Should Security Integrators Be Required To Be Licensed Journeymen Electrician?

Many states require security integrators to have an electrical contractor's license, even if it is a low voltage one.

One state wants to go further.

What do you think about states requiring that to get that license one has to already be/have a licensed journeymen electrician?

Well, if the State of Hawaii has its way, that may happen.

Here's the proposed Hawaii bill, the existing electrician law in Hawaii and SIA's objection.

If Hawaii wants the security DIY market to boom, this is a good strategy.

Smacks of crony capitalism to me. Most state electrical licensing boards are governed by electrical contractors and they look out for themselves. Is Hawaii predominately a union state? Perhaps this a methodology for ensuring full employment for licensed union journeymen?

I am finding more often the cabling part of IP video/access control systems is "subbed out" to structured cabling contractors by integrators or excluded from the scope on new projects and included in the structured cable contractors scope of work for uniformity and warrant reasons.

I may be painting with a broad brush, but most journeyman electricians I have worked with do not have much experience with low voltage or data cabling/devices, but are fluent with conduit and high-voltage installation. Requiring a journeyman for security installs is absurd in my opinion when most new systems are running on PoE with a CAT6 cable.

I am in favor of security contractors being licensed, passing criminal background checks, having the requisite liability and workman's comp insurance, and a means of disciplining the bad ones. But requiring a journeyman does not help in this regard. I don't see the benefit.

Licensing and certification s are just a way of proving your qualifications and making sure some one is watching and protecting the industry.

If you are completing the task at hand and you do electrical work in the process then you should be approved and skilled.

Licensing is the process to make sure things are done right and not just another trunk slammer, handyman, slap in something that works kind of job.

Clean, Neat, Safe, Professional in appearance, functionaliy, workmanship all come from apprenticeship programs that lead up to journeylevel skilled technicians.

Anyone can slapin some junky work

But Licensing keeps people accountable, and traceable

When you stamp your name, license on the work you take full responsibility that the work is to a professional level

This is silly. Electrician and security integrator are two related but different skillsets. I can understand making fire alarm installers get electrician licenses. I don't agree with it but I understand it. But unless the state of Hawaii adds a low voltage and datacomm component to the requirements for an electricians license, I don't see what benefit this scheme has.

Unless... does this mean that security systems will have to be filed and inspected? I mean, it follows logically, doesn't it?

It is not the low voltage work, but the electrical changes that accompany the integration process and the load calc's to circuits you change in the process.

If as an integrator I just added a 40 va transformer to a circuit, that's no big thing.

But when I add a load of equipment plugs, transformers, power supplies to a circuit say 20 amp and i am just a low voltage guy. Then I set up a circumstance or situation for a meltdown or potential electrical fire'

The little Dvr, Nvr is not the reason for the license . It is the circuit changes, additions , to panels , and equipment completed by the integrator.

How often do you go to install a cctv system and the panels electrical system is full, maxed out.

You have added a 4 amp nvr , a 1 amp switch , wifi hub , encoders, decoders , power conditioning equipment .

Non licensed personnel are not usually from an electrical background and don't know not to just keep adding plugs, receptacles, outlets that just cause fires .

When you exceed the max in a panel or wire or undersize the wires or transformers you cause heat loading and set up for a future fire .

How often have you gone into a closet or closed area and felt the extreme heat load with no ventilation or Hot transformers?

This is Why!

As An industry expert with over 35 years experience in integration, I have seen it all!

ungrounded, unbonded, outright safety violations, and worse!

Licensing keeps us to a standard of excellence!

As a Security Systems Installer (who has tried to become an Electrician, though not very hard) I agree that we should either be Journeyman Electricians, or have a sub-trade all our own with an apprenticeship program.

I will also agree that the majority of electricians I have dealt with don't understand low-voltage very well, but it would then be added into their training would it not? If not, this is where I lean a little more towards a Journeyman Classification all our own, maybe a two or three years apprenceship instead of 4-5. There is still so much I am sure I don't know because I didn't have some one to mentor me, I was 'thrown to the wolves' and forced to learn everything on my own.

No. The correct term would be "licensed low voltage journeymen electrician". These are two separate skillsets ( systems integrator vs. electrician) for sure but for sure much of the scope of work has overlap. An LV journeyman rarely just goes to an already hung camera and does setup alone. There is an entire infrastructure between that camera and the server/head end. He/she best have an understanding of the mechanical backbone involved. Same with a fire alarm. Load calculations? Device placement? NFPA codes? What about intrusion detection? Best practices? Alarm communication methods? EOL resistor? These are all integrator and technician skills. But what of the mechanical skills? Where does that get taught? This is where a journeyman teaches an apprentice these skills. Not just shoot from the hip but with actual structure to the program. To become a good mechanic takes years. You really never stop learning the mechanics just like you never really stop learning the technical side. But I believe you must have a firm grasp on both to become a journeyman. And then the learning never stops. Ever. From there you go on to whatever your employer does or wherever you drive yourselk to. Then come the "product specific skills" certifications. You name it. But it all must start with a good foundation.

Being "thrown to the wolves" is bush league. Not knowing the mechanical side is dangerous. It is a damm shame there is no national standard here. In CT, the apprentice to journeyman ratio is 1:1. Everybody is either licensed or has an apprentice card. This insures, to the best effort, that everyone has a clue. In neighboring states, the company owner gets licensed and everybody works under "the company license". That is insane to me and precludes reciprocity. The guy wearing a paper hat and serving you tacos yesterday can be installing your alarm today. Does that make sense?

I see kids get out of trade school today with their laptop ready to go. OK, where do I plug in and start programming? Sure, if the need today is IT centric- perfect. But today we have cable to pull from IDF 7 to the lobby and fit out that double inswing door for Access control. Where are your safety glasses? Remember your training from the 2nd week? That sticker on the mirror in the head? The person you are looking at is responsible for your safety...101 right?

Yes. Security integrators should be required to be licensed.

CT, huh? One main reason why I left The Constitution State is their stupid licensing system. When I moved there from New York, I had been repairing Consumer Electronics equipment for nearly 10 years. Connecticut required apprenticeship for one year, which they reluctantly waived when my employer requested it.

Even then, they still required me to take a "Black and White TV CET" test. Then, when I wanted to open my own business in 1981 servicing VCRs, cameras and computers, they told me I had to apprentice for a year under someone with a "Color TV CET" license, followed by another round of stupid tests (I say "stupid" because the Black and White CET test was a complete joke: totally out of date and so easy, a moron could pass it).

Even in 1975, when I took the test, car radios had been totally solid state for many years, yet one of the questions went something like this:

  • Q: A customer brings in his car radio, saying it is dead. After checking the fuse and power wiring, what is the next component to check?
  • A: The vibrator


One main reason why I left The Constitution State is their stupid licensing system.

Though not before testing for and then swiping, their one crown jewel, the rare and coveted 'License to Drill'... ;)

Q: A customer brings in his car radio, saying it is dead. After checking the fuse and power wiring, what is the next component to check? A: The vibrator

To be fair, they have since brought the question up-to-date by adding this modernizing coda:

Q: And if the vibrator is present and functioning, what is the next most likely thing to be dead? A: The customer

And if...

Car radios had been totally solid state for many years...

Does that imply tube car radios? Wow! Or just not 'solid state'? How did the car manage the high plate voltage requirements, not to mention the nonstop shock? Looking back, although the invention of the car was big, whoever first had the idea to 'crank the tunes' at the same time must be equally honored...

Does that imply tube car radios? Wow! Or just not 'solid state'? How did the car manage the high plate voltage requirements, not to mention the nonstop shock?

Yes. Early car radios were all tubes while later ones went hybrid first, in early the 60's, then all solid state starting in the mid-late 60's. By the early 70's, all car radios were 100% solid state.

The function of a vibrator is the same as the function of the dc-to-ac circuit in modern electronics. A vibrator is a mechanical dc-to-ac convertor. The contacts mechanically switch states, causing pulsed dc, which is filtered, fed to transformer(s) and rectified and filtered to other voltages. In the case of tube and hybrid radios, the output of the circuit can range to hundreds of volts - sufficient to drive the plate and grids of the tubes.

I'm all for having good quality contractors, but I've failed to find any government regulation that gaurantees such. I work with a lot of union electricians that are licensed and there are still good ones and bad ones. It certainly does not gaurantee any knowledge or properly running low voltage cabling or any expectation of understanding how to design a system in our markets.

What licensing does do is add to everyones cost of doing business and bar new companies from reasonable entry to the market. Around me, the states continue to add regulation and up the requirments to do business witch tends to only benefit the established companies who drove the legislation.

Michael, good feedback. I'll play devil's advocate to the implication that licensing is negative / adds no value.

Though it's true that licensing does not guarantee that everyone who is licensed knows what they are doing, without any licensing, it guarantees there will be a lot of claimed professionals who have no idea what they are doing, far higher than if there was a license.

I am not advocating licenses but buyers need a simpler metric to better validate skill / performance, whether that's reviews or certifications, etc.

So in Indiana we have Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. It's not the governments job to protect us from outselves and I do believe that. Even Indiana has begun adding code to mandate certifications in some fields, which ironically you can see was done to decrease competition even though it may have been well intentioned.

Wouldn't we be better getting certified by a private body (IPVM, BISCI, NSCA, Manufacturer) and promoting that in addition to using the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and other groups that are available?

I just see no evidence that the higher cost of us doing business benefits the client in the long run, it just raises prices and the barrier to entry to the market is higher.

In the end, I feel it's our industries and my companies job to educate the buyer, not the government to protect them from themselves.


Indiana is one of only 4 states that does not require a state issued license and subsequent training for any electrical disipline including "electronic systems contractor" and is not State Regulated (Regulated at local and/or municipal level only)

Informational bodies like those you mentioned are outstanding for .....information. The problem is they have no teeth and no jurisdiction over anywhere. The individual states Dept of Consumer Protection have the teeth within the state limits to enforce eggregious acts of negligence when proven in court.

And lawsuits get brought.....all the time. Where does the buck stop? It stops with the licensed contractor and of course his/her liability insurance. The state is insulated. They issued a license based upon a cirriculum of theory and practical experience which that state electrical board approved. Its not a perfect system but it does do a lot of good and help weed out the trunkslammers. Oh, and Carl, the testing has come a long way since "75"

Not a fan of "big govenment" but this is one area where a federal standard sure makes sense.

Well stated comment Daniel T.

...This is a great topic and may also offer some insight of why some are questioning whether or not to leave our industry. While licensing can be an annoying process, especially to those who are and have been in the industry for several years making a living without it, it would offer some form of standarization and bring a sense of nation-wide (if not, world-wide) respect to what we do in the future, like some other skilled trades.

Sure, we as installers, integrators, and the like take pride and ownership in what we do and respect the skillset, but do the customers we serve? How often has your skillset and the associated cost you've quoted been questioned or haggled to death simply because there's no emphasis, prestige or solid structure placed on how we know what we know. I think licensing can move us in the right direction. This is not to say that licensing alone solves the problem, but it does offer a benchmark for all interested parties to look at and work toward.

After obtaining a journeyman's apprenticeship then dropping out due to financial strains, I'm not a fan of the typical apprenticeship pay scale structuring, but I do see the benefits that some form of specific low voltage licensing can offer our industry with a 2-3 year program.


Thanks for the thoughtful feedback.

I agree that there are some benefits but even the type of licensing being discussed does not cover the current / hard / challenging aspects of video surveillance specifically. So one might have a journeymen electrician's license but that does not mean they are good at surveillance, right?


I agree 100%. Which speaks to exactly why we need a licensing/certification program of our own (definitely not as journeymen electricians)...there's no standardization that allows/directs all interested parties to a common place for a common understanding/education on the subjects/products we deal with.

opinion only... i see this as a power grab from the high volt industry... i understand training and certifications as being necessary and even a power limited licensing but making it a requirement to be a journeyman i think that is going too far... certifications and licensing lend legitimacy to our industry, without them i feel we open up our industry to anyone who can pull a cable or program... we are contracted on many occasions by electrical companies to do structured wiring for them... reason being is that they don't understand it nor do they desire to understand it... more and more as low voltage technology advances the need for high voltage electricians will be less and less...

Others have mentioned that as well. The license needs to be low voltage specific. I know a lot of electricians that are licensed that I would never have pull a category cable or install a security device. It's two different worlds with some common ground. An interesting side to that is that many electricians no longer even commission the systems they install from a controls standpoint. Factory and manufacturer reps come in and help program lighting controls etc. and then bring them online. You have to know your limitations and I agree that a component of this is a power play by licensed electricians.