How To Get a General Contractor's License

Learn About the Requirements and License Needed in General Contracting

Project engineer having discussion with construction workers

If you offer or submit a bid to construct, remodel or alter, repair, renovate, improve, wreck, move, or do demolition work for any real estate property, you are required to get a general contractor's license. A license is needed not just for major construction projects but also for doing work like floor coverings, painting jobs, and roofing, electrical or general repairs.

Penalties may be imposed on anyone who accepts contracted work without a license. Other specific kinds of licenses, like a builder's license, master electrician, inspector license, or low voltage contractor's license may also be required depending on the scope of work.

The first step in getting a General Contractor License is to find out the local state rules followed in getting a license in your state. If you are licensed in one state, it does not automatically mean you have the right to do work on construction jobs in another state. Each state specifies its list of exceptions as part of the license requirements.

There are sites on the web that list the specific requirements per state. You need to gather all the information you need including getting web and email addresses, contact persons, phone and fax numbers, the relative application fees, coverage of the state test or exam, and recommended schools or reference materials for the license examination. 

The following are some of the similar basic general contracting requirements in applying for a license in the different states:

  • Proof of legal residency or U.S. citizenship
  • Age requirement of at least 18 years old
  • A high school diploma or its equivalent in educational achievement
  • Legal document proving any other professional license from the state
  • Two pieces passport-size photos
  • An explanation for any issued violations, citations, or liens from construction work done
  • Copy of incorporation registration from the local Secretary of State
  • Prequalification for bidding for work submitted for state projects

The following may be additional requirements needed for licensed contractors on major construction projects:

  • A business or occupation license from the local county or city
  • Compliance to set conditions required by the tax authority in the state
  • A state license bond posted as required by the state
  • Liability and workers’ compensation coverage in the state where the job will be completed

Applicants for a license are usually required to take a written exam on business organization, construction law, and an exam to assess their skills to practice their specific occupation.

Depending on the state, applicants may be required to present proof of their capability to operate a contracting business and their previous on-the-job experience. Reference letters from customers, previous employers, bankers, engineers or architects may be required to be submitted as well.

For any organization that would like to be awarded a contract, under a FAR-based contract for the federal government, must register at the CCR or Central Contractor Registration. The CCR’s User's Guide online provides the specific guidelines on how to obtain the minimum and non-mandatory information to be submitted.

For a general builder's license, inspector license, master electrician, electrical, low voltage contractor's license, or other kinds of occupation, you may search the net for specific requirements by state. A test may be required or school courses completed.


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