The person responsible for the necessary materials, labor, machinery, equipment and other services needed at a construction project is the general contractor. He oversees the day-to-day operations at the job site and makes sure that everything is in order. General contractors are usually licensed individuals. However, in some states only specialized contractors need to get a license.
Becoming a licensed general contractor requires the following.
- Acquire the required years of experience. Requirements vary from state to state. Some require only a minimum of four years. Other states require that contractors who wish to obtain a license must have five years of practical experience and training as a contractor. One way to gain this experience is to join an apprenticeship program. Most of these programs provide the necessary hands-on, practical construction experience and in-classroom training. A number of apprenticeship programs last for five years. Find a local contractor union in your area and inquire about available apprenticeship programs.
- Contact the state licensing board. In all states, there is an organization responsible for licensing contractors. You can try looking for this specific organization through Contractors-License.org. Once you enter this site, a map of the United States appears. Click on the state where you plan to practice as a contractor. You will be brought to the web page corresponding to the state you selected. A list of what type of contractors need to get licenses will appear together with eligibility requirements and the organization responsible for processing the application. Find out what you need to submit, what fees have to be paid and other important information related to getting your license. Just to give you an idea, below are some of the requirements for getting a general contractor’s license. It is best to visit your particular state’s page in order to find out the exact requirements for that state.
- 18 years of age
High school diploma or equivalent
U.S. citizen or legal resident
Documentation pertaining to other occupational license in the same state
2 passport-size photos
Documentation/explanation of any violations, citations or liens as a result of construction work
Worker’s compensation coverage
- Prepare all the necessary documents. Fill out the application form provided by the licensing organization in your state. Attach the required documents. Some of these may be proof of citizenship or legal resident status, proof of financial stability, registration papers of your construction company in the state, proof of insurance both for liability and workers’ compensation, passport photos, and references from past clients, employers, architects, engineers and bankers. Proof of practical experience may also be required. If you don’t have some of the documentation required, obtain them as soon as possible. Submit all your documents in order to take the licensing exam. You may also be required to pay a fee for taking the exam depending on the state.
- Take the exams. Most states require that you pass written exams. The exams cover practical construction- related topics. They also cover construction and business laws. You have to know the laws that are relevant to the business including building codes in your state. To prepare you for the business side of the exam, look for classes in your local community college that are specifically for contractors.
Many individuals and businesses only want to work with licensed general contractors. If you don’t have a license yet, find out from your state’s licensing organization what you need to do to get one. Having a license protects you and your clients from legal problems later on.