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Pennsylvania Contractors License: A Simple How-To Guide

5-minute read

Man in grey and red clothing with a PA contractor license using a drill on a window pane
Kat Ambrose

Kat Ambrose

23 July 2020

Do you want to become a licensed contractor, handyman, or home renovator in Pennsylvania, but aren't sure where to start?

There's a lot of information out there—a lot of it confusing. The last thing you want to do is miss a step in the process or act on incorrect information. Well, you’re in luck! I've done all the research for you.

This guide includes everything you need to know about how to get a contractor’s license in Pennsylvania.

Let's get started!

Who Needs a PA Contractor License?

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania contractors licenses and registration is handled at the city level, not the state level. In other words, depending on where you live will determine the licensure requirements for your specific trade. Also, the specifications vary depending on the type of license you want to obtain.

However, there are a few blanket details that apply to all contractors, including:

  • Contractors that meet the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requirements must register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.
  • Contractors will need general liability and workers compensation insurance, tax identification numbers, and more.

You don't need a state license to work as a handyman in Pennsylvania; however, because of the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act passed in 2008, if you make more than $5,000 doing home improvement work per year, you must register with the Attorney General's Office.

So what's considered home improvement work?

According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, home improvement projects include things like repairs, remodeling, demolition, installation, etc., "when they are done in connection with land or a portion of the land adjacent to a private residence or a building or a portion of the building which is used or designed to be used as a private residence for which the total cash price of all work agreed upon between the contractor and owner is more than $500."

Under this law, a home improvement contractor includes a subcontractor or independent contractor working with a home improvement retailer to serve that retailer's customers.

Now, let's take a look at the process of obtaining a license in more detail.

Here's How to Get Your Pennsylvania Contractor License

All contractor licenses and permits are distributed at the city level.

Because PA contractor licenses are handled at the city level, where you operate your business in will determine the license you'll need to acquire.

The registration process is simple. To apply, create an account, submit the non-refundable $50 application fee, and register with the Office of Attorney General. You may register for your license online or by mailing your application to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

Of course, completing your registration online is quicker; you'll receive your registration number and a temporary registration certificate immediately after you submit your application.

You'll need to provide information like:

  • The type of business you've filed (e.g., limited liability company, Sole proprietor, etc.)
  • Your business address
  • Personal information like your Social Security Number and your driver's license number

If this is your first time applying, you'll be issued a Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor number (PAHIC#), which is unique to you. If you're re-registering, you'll use the same number you were given initially.

Your PAHIC# is how customers can find you within the Pennsylvania Attorney General's database—and verify that you're operating legally.

It's mandatory to include this number in all advertisements, contracts, estimates, and proposals you submit in the state of Pennsylvania.

Each registration is valid for two years. For more information about this process, visit the Attorney General's Contractor Frequently Asked Questions page.

Though every contractor follows the same process to apply, there are a few nuances depending on the type of contractor you are. Let's break it down further.

Applying for a PA Contractor’s License?

You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.

That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $25.95/month.*

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Handyman services, builders, and other trades may need to apply for a contractors license.

If you're interested in becoming a handyman, a builder, or another type of home improvement contractor, simply follow the process outlined above. Just make sure your application is accurate and complete; applications that are not complete will take longer to process.

Visit the Registered Contractors page or call their toll-free number at 1-888-520-6680 to verify your registration once you complete the application process.

Plumbers follow a separate contractor licensing process.

Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania doesn't oversee the licensure of contractors, those who wish to apply will need to follow their local jurisdiction's process.

Depending on the type of plumber you are will determine the application process for your license in Pennsylvania.

Journeyman and master plumbers need a license, which enables them to work as plumbing contractors. However, apprentice plumbers do not need a license to operate in the state of Pennsylvania.

For more details on the information required for each level of plumbing contractor per city, check out the resources below.

Electricians have their own category of contractors license.

There are a few routes you can take to become a licensed electrician in Pennsylvania. Because journeyman electrician follows apprenticeship, let's focus on that.

Whether you've completed an apprenticeship program, attended a trade school, or worked under the direct supervision of a licensed electrician, becoming a licensed journeyman electrician will vary depending on where you live—just like for plumbers.

It's worth noting that not all Pennsylvania cities—like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia—offer a journeyman electrician license, so your process will be unique to your jurisdiction. Contact your local government to learn more about the specific application process.

HVAC services can apply for city-based licensing.

For those who want to pursue a career in HVAC services, licensing occurs at the city level and may vary depending on the type of license you're after.

A few of the types of HVAC licenses offered include:

  • Sheet Metal Systems Apprentice and Technician
  • Engineer - Boiler, Stationary, and Refrigeration
  • Warm Air Installer
  • HVAC Contractor

Many of these applications require years of experience and a passing score on the designated exam. Below are resources for applicants who live in the three largest cities in Pennsylvania, so be sure to contact your local jurisdiction for more details on your city's application requirements.

Take the Designated PA Contractor Licensing Exam.

In addition to the application, all contractors in the state of Pennsylvania will need to take and pass a licensing exam to operate legally. Depending on the type of contractor you want to become, that will determine the exam you'll need to take.

When you contact your local government, ask for information regarding the exam you're interested in taking to ensure you have everything you need to complete your application.

Don't Forget to Get General Liability Insurance.

As much as we try to plan in business, the unexpected can happen. Before you start operating, make sure you get business insurance, particularly general liability coverage.

As I mentioned above, some cities may require you to have different levels of coverage depending on the type of contract work you do. For example, if you're a roofer, you may be required to have a certain level of GL coverage to get your PA contractor license.

Don't forget, you may need to get a Pennsylvania business license as well. Read our guide for more information on that process!

* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.

Kat Ambrose

Written by

Kat Ambrose

I’m a writer who specializes in creating value-packed blog content for eCommerce and SaaS companies and small businesses. When I'm not writing, I’m probably out running, checking out a thriller novel—or two—from the library, or trying to pet the nearest dog.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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