If you’re passionate about building, love to work with your hands, and operate well as part of a team, you may have a future as a general contractor. Of course, the Sunshine State doesn’t let just anyone put on a hard hat, pick up a sledgehammer, and start a construction business—there are a few standard requirements before you can earn your certified general contractor license. In order to build your dreams, you’ll need to lay down a strong foundation. That’s where this guide comes in—from there, the only limitations are your imagination (and the laws of physics).
Becoming a certified general contractor in Florida
The Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board has some interesting rules about what you can and can’t do without a contractor’s license, and it’s different in every county. For example, there are certain specialized tasks that can be done without a license, like installing a pre-built tool shed under 250 square feet, building a driveway, or laying down hardwood1. You do, however, need a state license to build a carport on said driveway, or put up drywall. Suffice to say, the list can get pretty confusing. As a general rule, Florida requires a statewide contractor’s license from anyone who does any of the following for compensation (financial or otherwise)2:
- Constructs a building, structure, or add-on to an existing building or structure
- Demolishes part or all of a building
- Structurally alters load-bearing walls
- Installs or services plumbing, air conditioning, or electrical units
When all is said and done, you’ll need a Florida contractor’s license if you have any real interest in becoming a career contractor. You can apply as an individual or on behalf of a qualified business. So how do you actually acquire this coveted license? We’ll walk you through the requirements step-by-step as we build our way up to the beginning of your career as a general contractor.
Step 1: Check all the boxes
The Florida General Contractor license requirements can be a bit exhaustive—or exhausting. It’s important to know about all the hoops you’ll have to jump through before you begin the certification process itself3:
- At least 18 years of age
- Background check and electronic fingerprint scan
- Minimum credit score of 660, demonstrating financial stability
- Passing grade on the Florida state construction exam
- Certificate of insurance for general liability and workers’ compensation insurance (the latter only applies if you have employees)
In addition to the above requirements that can earn you a more limited registered license, there’s one more stipulation to qualify for the full certified license, which allows you to perform general contracting work throughout the state of Florida:
- Four years of experience—this can be divided in a variety of ways between work experience as a foreman and formal education
Many of these requirements are easy enough to check off, so long as you actually have an acceptable credit score, the prerequisite experience, and a clean background check. Your performance on the certification exam, however, can determine whether you soar high in your bucket lift or you’re stuck on the ground counting nails and screws.
Step 2: Prepare for the exam
There are two different state certification exams depending on what kind of contractor you intend to become:
Division I contractors – This portion is for those who wish to become a general, building, or residential contractor, as well as for tower specialty, demolition, and industrial facility contractors.4You’ll need a score of at least 70% across three categories of questions:
- Project management
- Contract administration
- Business and finance
Division II contractors – This second portion is for class A/B air conditioning, commercial and residential pool/spa, roofing, sheet metal, plumbing, and other similar trades. Again, this exam is also broken up into two sections:
- Business and finance
- Trade knowledge—Note: graduates from an accredited 4-year bachelor’s program with a minimum 3.0 GPA are exempt from this portion of the exam
The tests are open book, multiple-choice, and either written by hand or conducted via a computer program. Each portion ranges from four to eight hours, depending on the section. In the midst of your exam prep, don’t forget to pack snacks and a water bottle—you’re in for a long haul.
Step 3: Apply for & schedule your exam
If you meet the basic requirements and feel prepared to nail (no pun intended) the formal certification process, it’s time to get a contractor exam date up on the calendar. Throughout the year, there are six dates when the test will be administered:
It’s important to plan in advance, because you’ll need to submit a completed application and processing fee to Professional Testing, Inc. (the exam administrators) at least 30 days before your intended exam date. You’ll receive a registration receipt once your application has been processed and approved, and an admission slip 20-25 days before the exam. Hold onto both important documents and bring them on the day of the exam. Most exam sections will be completed using a computer program at an in-person Pearson Vue testing facility, located in:5
Step 4: Meet the liability insurance requirements
It’s all well and good to demonstrate your proficiency as a contractor, but without the right insurance coverage, you won’t have the opportunity to put that premium construction knowledge to good use. There are two types of insurance you’ll need before becoming certified:
Workers’ compensation insurance – If you have employees, chances are you’re legally required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This helps protect your business from the financial ramifications of a workplace injury sustained by a worker.
General liability insurance – This is a mandatory prerequisite to becoming a state certified contractor—and for good reason. It provides investigation, defense, and settlement from third-party claims of bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury. Most business owners recognize the value of general liability insurance, but Florida actually requires it of their certified general contractors—you have no choice but to protect yourself with adequate coverage. You’ll need to meet the minimum general liability coverage too, which is:
- $300,000 for bodily injury
- $50,000 for property damage
These insurance policies are necessary to maintain your licensed contractor status—and for your own peace of mind. Unlike a six-hour licensing exam, securing contractor’s general liability insurance with Thimble couldn’t be easier. Get insurance that covers you by the month, week, day, or even hour in 60 seconds or less. Just click “Get A Quote” or download the Thimble mobile app. From there, answer a few quick questions and we’ll generate an instant quote. You can purchase with one last click and have a policy and Certificates of Insurance (COI) waiting in your email inbox. Whatever you need to satisfy Florida’s GC licensing requirements, we’ve got you covered (literally) with insurance that is convenient, affordable, and perfectly built to fit your needs.
Start your general contractor career ASAP
Once you’ve inevitably passed your contractor exam and secured the minimum insurance coverage, you’ll be all set to send off your completed application, required documents, and necessary fee to:7 State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation 1940 North Monroe Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-0783 If you study hard, have the right experience, and protect yourself from liability with Thimble’s simple coverage, you should have a long, successful career as a general contractor. The future is yours—now go out there and start building it.
- Contractors Reporting Service. Which Services in Florida Need A Contractor’s License?
- Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. What Services Require a DBPR License?
- Activate MyLicense. Insurance Requirements For Your General Contractors License In Florida.
- Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Florida State Construction Examination: Examination Registration Instructions and Application.
- American Contractors Exam Services. Florida General Contractor w/ Business and Law.
- Contractors Reporting Services. Insurance Requirements For Your General Contractors License in Florida.
- General Contractors License Guide. Florida General Contractor License Types and Requirements.