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How to Get a Contractor’s License in Your State

Every step to getting your contractor’s license - explained.

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Your Easy Guide to Getting Your Contractor’s License

Looking to find out how to get a contractor’s license? The process varies from state to state, but don’t worry, we’ve broken down the details for you. Just choose the state where you live —and then learn what you need to do.

Contractors License Requirements by State

No two states have the same contractor licensing requirements, so make sure you carefully follow your state’s particular licensing process. Remember, you’ll need your contractor’s license if you want to work with clients, as most states consider it illegal to build without being licensed.

Why do I even need a contractor’s license?

It’s true — not everyone has a license. But if you want to join a rapidly growing industry and expand your business, you should become official. The process can take time, depending on where you live, so you may be tempted to forgo it. But here are three good reasons why getting your contractor’s license is worth the time and effort involved.

A license can help you protect your business.

To get your license, you usually need to demonstrate proof of insurance. If you don’t already have a policy, now’s a great time to get one. It’s one of the best times to start protecting your business’s financial assets. Here are two types of policies to explore.

General liability insurance can help protect you if a third party (e.g., a customer or vendor) gets injured or experiences property damage while they’re working. It can help cover the costs of medical expenses, equipment, and even legal fees associated with a lawsuit. Meanwhile, professional liability insurance can help protect you if you’re accused of negligence or another similar claim.

To learn which policies you may need and to compare rates, complete our online quote form.

A license can help meet legal requirements, depending on where you live.

Most states require contractors to get licensed, especially if they want to work on high-paying construction jobs. But even if your state doesn’t require a license, the town or city you reside in may require it. To check, select your state above. We’ve put together instructions for you to follow.

The bottom line: Even if your state doesn’t require a license to work, it’s a good idea to get one. A license shows you’re professional and it can open the door to higher-paying jobs. In most cases, it’s well worth the effort.

A license can bring you more customers.

Once you get your contractor’s license, most states will put you in an online database or on a list of licensed contractors. This exposure can help customers find and hire you.

You also can advertise your license on your business’s vehicle, website, and marketing materials. A contractor’s license can position you as someone who is trustworthy and takes the job seriously. In turn, you can enjoy a competitive edge and get more customers.

What does it take to become a licensed contractor?

Every state operates a little differently. Some have more comprehensive licensing requirements and others are more lenient. That said, most states and municipalities ask you to:

  • Achieve work experience or similar training. This helps ensure you’re fully trained in your line of work. Some contractors work as apprentices for a period of time, while others demonstrate other work experience.

  • Take and pass a licensing exam. To get your contractor’s license, usually you have to take an exam first. But remember, this isn’t a requirement everywhere. Check the guidelines for your state first.

  • Get general liability insurance and a construction bond. Usually you need to demonstrate that you’re financially prepared to operate as a business owner. This means you’ve protected yourself by getting general liability insurance and standing behind your promises to customers — or pay them back.

  • Complete an application form. Last but not least, you’ll probably need to complete paperwork to submit. Some states offer online applications that you can complete, while others require mailed forms. Either way, it’s usually easy to check your application’s status by making a phone call or going online.

Keep in mind, the requirements differ based on where you work. Before diving in, learn the guidelines in your state.

What types of contractor’s licenses are there?

Depending on what you do, you may need to get more than one license. For example, if you’re a general contractor who also does specialized work with lead abatement, you may need to have specific requirements in order to do that type of work.

Here are some of the areas that may require a second license:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Refrigeration
  • Framing
  • Roofing
  • Fencing
  • Masonry
  • Swimming pool and spa installation
  • Well drilling
  • Lead abatement
  • Elevator mechanics
  • And more

Our resource guide can take you through the requirements for becoming a general contractor. However, when it comes to specialized construction work, it’s best to check with your state’s licensing or occupational safety division for more details.

Is getting a contractor’s license really worth the time and effort?

The short answer is — yes! If you’re considering getting a contractor’s license, good for you. It pays to get an official stamp of approval from the state. Once you complete the requirements, you’ll have a document that can make you feel proud.

A license also can open you up to bigger, higher-paying jobs and a growing customer base. In other words, your new license can pay for itself by bringing you more business and bigger jobs. So what are you waiting for? Get started by reviewing the process in your state.

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This content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, investment, or any other form of professional advice.

How to Get a Contractor’s License in Your State


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