If you have excellent management skills, extensive experience in construction jobs, and want to be your own boss, few careers are as solid as becoming a general contractor.
However, due to the risk factors, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to building a successful general contractor career. Each state has different licensing requirements that prospective general contractors must meet in order to bid on jobs—and ensure that they carry out those jobs safely.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to earn your general contractor status in each state. Let’s get to work.
Types of general contractor license requirements
It’s important to note that states have different types of requirements for contractors. These can be broken up into three categories:
- Licensing – To get licensed, contractors must pass exams and meet various criteria to demonstrate competency in their field.
- Certification – Typically, certificates are voluntary, but some jobs require special certification.
- Registration – The laxest standard, registration is merely a written record that the general contractor is overseeing a job.
States typically set licensing requirements based on:
- The job’s value
- The type of job (like residential or commercial)
- Worker category (e.g., contractor, general contractor, subcontractor, or specialty worker, like an electrician)
Sometimes, states don’t set licensing requirements; instead, they’re issued at a city or county level.
General contractor license requirements by state
With that primer in mind, here’s a rundown of general contractor license requirements by state.
While this provides an overview of general contractor license requirements, you must do your legwork, too. Check your state’s licensing board to ensure you don’t miss out on key steps and details you’ll need to know to receive your license.
Alabama – Requires a license, registration, and proof of general liability insurance if the project cost (including labor) is at least:
- $50,000 for commercial and industrial jobs
- $10,000 for residential jobs
- $5,000 for swimming pools
Alaska – Requires a license, registration, certification for a 16-hour cold climate course, and passing the trade exam. Contractors must have proof of general liability insurance, workers’ comp, and a surety bond whose value varies depending on the type of contractor:
- General contractor
- General contractor with residential contractor endorsement
- Specialty or mechanical contractor
- General contractor handyman.
Arizona – For jobs over $750, Arizona requires licensing, registration, four years of experience, proof of a surety bond, and passing both the trade exam and business management exam. The state has three primary license classifications:
- General commercial contractors
- General residential contractors
- General dual license contracting
Arkansas – Any remodeling or repair work worth at or over $2,000 on single-family homes requires a state license. Contractors must receive an “unlimited” Home Improvement license to work on jobs worth over $50,000.1 Subcontractors working for a licensed contractor don’t need a separate license, but they do need a license if the general contractor is unlicensed.
California – Contractors need a license and registration for jobs worth over $500. You may need to pass a trade exam to obtain your license.
Colorado – There are no state license requirements, but cities and counties set their own licensing and registration requirements.
Connecticut – Connecticut splits contractors into two classes: “major contractors” and “minor contractors.” Major contractors work on commercial projects and large residential projects, and they require licensure. Minor contractors work on single-family homes and small multi-family units, and need to register with Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection as a home improvement contractor.
Delaware – Contractors must get a business license and register with the Delaware Division of Revenue.
Florida – The state offers two types of licenses: Registered, which limits the contractor to work within their locality, and certified, which allows the contractor to work anywhere in the state. There are also specific types of licenses under these umbrellas, including general contractor, building contractor, and residential contractor.
Georgia – License and registration is required for projects that cost more than $2,500 and for certain types of jobs. Contractors need to pass a Business and Law exam, as well as a licensing exam.
Hawaii – License and registration are mandatory for residential and commercial projects that are more than $1,000 and for projects that require permits. To qualify, you need to:
- Pass trade, business, and law exams
- Provide proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance
Idaho – There are no state licensing requirements, but contractors must register with the Idaho Contractors Board. Contractors also must have proof of general liability and workers’ comp insurance.
Illinois – There are no state licensing requirements, but you may need to obtain local licenses depending on your city or county. However, plumbers and roofers need a state license.
Indiana – Only plumbers are required to obtain a state license, but there may be license and registration requirements locally.
Iowa – Doesn’t have any statewide licensing conditions, but you must register with the Iowa Division of Labor if you earn more than $2,000 per year.
Kansas – General contractors don’t need to have a state license, but there could be requirements at the city or county levels.
Kentucky – Kentucky licenses electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians at a state level, although homeowners may perform their own plumbing work without a license. Check your city or county for local licensing requirements.
Louisiana – Contractors require licenses to work on jobs worth $7,500 or more. There are four types of permits, including:
- Residential license for home improvement projects over $75,000
- Commercial license for commercial projects over $50,000
- Home improvement license for home improvement projects over $7,500 but less than $75,000
- Mold remediation license, a specialized license for contractors working with hazardous materials
Maine – General contractors are not licensed at the state level, but electricians and plumbers do need a state license. Home improvement jobs worth more than $3,000 require a written contract.
Maryland – Maryland requires state licenses for electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, and home improvement. Specialty trade licenses might be issued at a local level.
Massachusetts – Requires a state license and registration. To do so, you must apply with the Home Improvement Commission and provide the following:
- Pass trade, business, and law exams
- Proof of 3 years of experience
- Financial statements
- Proof of general liability and workers’ comp insurance
Michigan – There are both state license and registration requirements. To obtain a Residential Builders License or a Maintenance and Alterations Contractors License, you must take a 60-hour licensure course and then pass the exam.
Minnesota – General contractors must be licensed and registered at a state level. Licenses are available through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. However, residential building contractors whose gross annual receipts are under $15,000 and have a Certificate of Exemption don’t need a state license.
Mississippi – Mississippi requires licenses for most commercial and residential work. State licenses aren’t necessary for people performing residential electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work under $10,000.
Missouri – Doesn’t require general contractors to have a state license, but there may be local licensing requirements.
Montana – Electricians and plumbers need a state license. General contractors don’t need a state license. However, if you have employees, you need to register with the Department of Labor and Industry and provide them with proof of workers’ compensation insurance. Contractors with no employees can register as independent contractors.
Nebraska – Contractors and subcontractors don’t need to obtain a state license, but they do need to register with the Department of Labor.
Nevada – All businesses or individuals who work on any road, highway, building, parking facility, railroad, or other structure must obtain a state license from the Nevada State Contractors Board. There are exemptions, however, including homeowners working on their own property.
New Hampshire – There are no state licensing requirements for general contractors. Licenses are issued at a local level. Specialty contractors, such as electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians must obtain a state license.
New Jersey – There are state licensing requirements for general contractors, but contractors and home repair professionals must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
New Mexico – General contractors must obtain a state license. There are hundreds of license classifications, so check with the Department of Regulation and Licensing to ensure you apply for the appropriate license.
New York – Crane operators and asbestos-handling contractors must receive a state license. Otherwise, licensure is issued at a city or county level.
North Carolina – Requires general contractors licenses for jobs that exceed $30,000. There are dozens of license classifications, but you’ll need to pass trade, license, and board exams for all of them. Specialty contractors need state licenses regardless of the job’s value.
North Dakota – Contractors require licenses to bid on jobs worth over $4,000.
Ohio – Licensing and registration is handled at a local level, but specialty contractors require a state license.
Oklahoma – Doesn’t require license or registration at the state level but may require it locally.
Oregon – Anyone receiving compensation for construction work needs a license from the state. There are some exemptions to this rule, such as gutter cleaning, debris clean up in a yard or construction site, and power and pressure washing for cleaning purposes.
Pennsylvania – Doesn’t have state-level licensing requirements. Crane operators need to be licensed by the state, and asbestos and lead removal experts need to be certified. Most home improvement contractors need to register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
Rhode Island – Contractors and subcontractors must register with the Contractor’s Registration and Licensing Board. Licensure is required for specialty workers, including (but not limited to) electricians and plumbers.
South Carolina – There are a few types of contractors that require licenses in South Carolina:
- General and mechanical contractors,
- Residential home builders and manufactured housing contractors
- Residential specialty contractors.
Each category has its own licensing requirements, including passing an exam.
South Dakota – Doesn’t require licensing or registration at the state level, but local governments might have their own rules.
Tennessee – Requires a state license for projects worth $25,000 or more.
Texas – Doesn’t have state licensing or registration requirements; however, local governments could require one or both.
Utah – All individuals or businesses performing construction work must obtain a state-issued license. To get a permit, applicants need to complete a state-approved pre-licensure program and pass a series of tests.
Vermont – There are no state license or registration requirements, but cities and counties may. Plumbers, HVAC technicians, and electricians need a state-issued license.
Virginia – Anyone performing construction work worth more than $1,000 must obtain a license from the state. Licenses in Virginia consist of two parts. One is the class of the license, which determines the project’s value. The second is classification or specialty, which determines the type of work performed. Applicants need to complete a pre-license education program and may need to complete trade-related exams.
Washington – General contractors and specialty contractors must register with the Washington State Department of Labor. You must purchase a general liability insurance policy, among other requirements.
Washington D.C. – General contractors and construction managers must obtain a license from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
West Virginia – State-issued licenses are required for projects valued at $2,500 or more. There are several types of license classifications, such as electrical contractors, general building contractors, and plumbing contractors. To apply for any kind of license, you’ll need to submit proof of insurance and pass exams.
Wisconsin – Licenses and certification are required if a business or individual works on a project that needs to pull permits. There may be additional licensing requirements at the local level.
Wyoming – Only electricians require state-level licensing. Otherwise, licenses are handled at the local level.
Insurance as a license requirement
Even if the state you work in doesn’t require general liability insurance to obtain a license, you’ll still need a policy once you get on the construction site. That way, you’ll be covered from the impact of third-party claims of property damage, non-employee bodily injury, and personal and advertising injury — which even the most seasoned general contractors may encounter.
At Thimble, we provide flexible, on-demand policies by the job, month, or year, meaning you only pay for insurance when you’re working on a project.
Getting Thimble’s Contractor Insurance is fast and easy, too. All you need is 60 seconds. Just download the Thimble mobile app or click “Get a Quote,” answer three quick questions, and we’ll generate a quote instantly. When you’re ready to purchase, we’ll deliver your policy and as many Certificates of Insurance (COI) as you need right to your inbox.
No matter where you’re working in the U.S., we hope we could guide you through the general contractor licensing requirements in your state.
With the proper licenses and insurance under your belt, you can safely and legally take on bigger projects. Brick by brick, you can grow your business and maintain peace of mind.