What’s a contractor license?

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A contractor’s license allows a contractor to state that they are licensed, with similar licensing requirements in many states but varying building laws. A license may be for general construction or specialized fields, and requires experience and proof of eligibility to work legally. Applicants must take a written exam and may retest if they fail. A licensed contractor is more likely to gain employment and ensures knowledge of state building laws.

A contractor’s license gives a building contractor the ability to state that they are licensed. In many states, licensing requirements are similar, but state building laws vary. If one is already licensed in a single state, to apply for licensing in another state, a person usually must undergo the same exams and tests to receive a contractor’s license.

The Contractor’s license may be for general construction or may be obtained for specialized fields, such as plumbing, painting or knowledge of heating and cooling systems such as HVAC. Hiring a licensed contractor tends to ensure that you get someone with knowledge of state building laws and a greater degree of experience.

Also, people usually cannot get a contractor license unless they are also incorporated as a business. This protects both the contractor and potential employers. If a worker with a contractor’s license performs substandard work or constructs any type of building that is not within the code, he or she may lose his or her license, as well as be sued by employers.

Before obtaining a contractor license, you must have some experience. For example, in California, those applying for a contractor license must have four years of construction experience and be at the journeyman or foreman level in their business. This ensures that the candidate has experience not only in construction but also in directing others on projects.

Also under California law, a portion of the four years of experience may be replaced by earning an AA degree in construction, mathematics or physics. Construction-related classes may reduce the four-year requirement. However, a full year class or internship may not qualify as a full year of experience according to the state.

To obtain a license in any state, and in addition to experience which must be documented, those applying for a contractor license must also demonstrate eligibility to work legally in the country, fingerprints may be required, and must show photographic identification . Most states require proof of a business license or a copy of a submitted application for a license. Contractors must generally be over 18 and must also provide two passport-sized photos.

Once the application has been approved, the prospective contractor must take a written exam. If the exam is passed, the applicant is granted a license. If the contractor specializes, further tests may be carried out at this time. When a Contractor Licensed Worker decides to later specialize, she usually can take the specialty exams later without retaking the general exam.

In all states, those who fail the contractor licensing exams have the option of retesting. There may be some restrictions on the number of times you can take the exam in a given time period. Applicants are eligible for courses, which can prepare one to take the test. These courses are often available on the Internet and often through community colleges. The state licensing board may have materials on exam preparation that may be helpful.
With a contractor license, the contractor is generally better paid for the work and more likely to gain employment. Most people who employ contractors, especially for large construction projects, require that the contractor be licensed, as code violations can be costly for large building owners. Even for small jobs like adding a residence, most people are likely to be more comfortable working with someone who has a contractor’s license, as this certifies that the state has assessed both the length and the experience level of the person.

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