General contractor license requirements by state

Every state has its own contractor license requirements. Find the different license requirements by state to start your business. Learn more.

contractor working

If you want to work with your hands and be your own boss, few jobs are as rewarding as becoming a general contractor. On the flipside, few jobs carry as many inherent risks. Because of this, each state has licensing requirements and criteria you must satisfy in order to get your small business up and running.

Curious what the state licensing requirements are for general contractors? This guide will explain the state-by-state so you can be prepared no matter where you live.

Licensing, certification, and registration

Before we can dive in, it’s important to note that states have different requirements for contractors. These can be broken up into three categories:

  1. Licensing – Requires that contractors pass exams and meet various criteria to demonstrate competency
  2. Certification – Typically, certifications are done on a voluntary basis. Some states require them, while others will allow them to be used as substitutes for licenses
  3. Registration – The most lax standards have no expertise or competency requirements, only written record of who is in charge of the work

General contractor license requirements by state (A-M)

The requirements to become a general contractor on a state-by-state basis looks as follows:

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
  • $10,000 for residential
  • $5,000 for swimming pools

Alaska – Requires license, registration, certification for 16-hour cold climate course and passing the trade exam. Contractors must have general liability and workers’ comp. The three forms of licenses include:

  • General contractor with residential contractor endorsement
  • General contractor without residential contractor endorsement
  • General contractor handyman

Arizona – For jobs over $750, Arizona requires licensing, registration, four years of experience, proof of a bond, and the passing of both the trade exam and the business management exam. There are three primary classifications of licenses, including:

  • General commercial contractors
  • General residential contractors
  • General dual license contracting

Arkansas – For jobs over $2,500, state license, registration, and proof of workers’ comp and a surety bond are required. License classifications are based on project cost and include:

  • Commercial license lets you work on projects that are more than $50,00
  • Restricted commercial license is for work on projects up to $750,000
  • Residential remodeler is for home improvements worth less than $50,000
  • Residential builders license is for single-family residence projects that are more than $2,500

California – Requires license and registration for jobs that are more than $500. To do so you must:

  • Have proof of 4 years of professional experience
  • Have proof of surety bond and general liability insurance
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

Colorado – Has no state license requirements, but cities and counties may have specific local licensing and registration requirements.

Connecticut – Doesn’t require general contractors to have a state license. But if you do home improvement projects, you are required to register with the Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection as a home improvement contractor.

Delaware – Has no state trade license requirements; however, you may need to register with the county or city. Also, you will need to get a business license by registering with the Delaware Division of Revenue.

Florida – Requires state license and registration. In order to do so, you must have 4 years of experience, pass trade, business and law exams, provide a financial statement, and give proof of general liability and workers’ comp insurance. There are multiple licensing classifications, including:

  • General contractor – Requires at 1 year of experience on a building that is 4 stories or lower
  • Building contractor – Is for work on residential or commercial buildings that don’t exceed 3 stories
  • Residential contractor – Is limited to work on homes that don’t exceed 2 stories

Georgia – License and registration is required for projects that cost more than $2,500. Also, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 21
  • Have a 4-year degree in a relevant field or relevant work experience
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams
  • Show financial statements
  • Present proof of insurance

Hawaii – License and registration is mandatory for residential and commercial projects that are more than $1,000. To qualify you need to:

  • Pass trade, business, and law exams
  • Give proof of general liability and workers comp insurance

Idaho – There are no state licensing requirements; however, if the job is more than $2,000 you must register with the Idaho Contractors Board.

Illinois – Has no state licensing requirements, but depending on your city or county, you may need to obtain local licenses.

Indiana – Requires no state licenses to perform work, but there may be license and registration requirements locally.

Iowa – Doesn’t have any statewide licensing conditions, but if you earn more than $2,000 per year, you must register with the Iowa Division of Labor.

Kansas – General contractors don’t need to have a state license, but there could be requirements at the city or county levels.

Louisiana – Requires a state license to operate in Louisiana. To obtain a license, you must pass trade, business, and law exams, and present proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. There are two types of licenses, including:

  • Residential license – For home improvement projects exceeding $75,000
  • Commercial license – For commercial projects that surpass $50,000

Maine – Has no state licensing requirements, but may require local licenses. For jobs that are more than $3,000, you must also have a written contract.

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’ compensation insurance

Michigan – Has 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 – Requires that general contractors be licensed and registered, whereas, residential contractors need a license but don’t have to be registered with the state. To get a license you must:

  • Provide proof of general liability and workers’ compensation
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

Mississippi – If your residential or commercial project exceeds $50,000 you must be state licensed and registered. To do that, you need to:

  • Present proof of general liability and workers’ compensation
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

Missouri – Doesn’t require general contractors to have a state license, but there may be local requirements that must be satisfied.

Montana – Has no licensing requirements, but if you have employees, you need to register with the Department of Labor and Industry, and provide them with proof of workers’ compensation insurance.

General contractor license requirements by state (N-W)

Nevada – Has state licensing requirements for any business or individual that works on any road, highway, building, parking facility, or railroad. To receive a license from the Nevada State Contractors Board you must:

  • Provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance
  • Present proof of a bond
  • Demonstrate 4 years of experience
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

New Hampshire – Doesn’t have requirements for state licensing, but that may not be the case with local state or county governments.

New Jersey – Has no state licensing requirements for general contractors. But, if you work on building, remodeling, or repairing homes, you must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

New Mexico – Requires that a general contractor obtain one of the hundreds of license classifications given out by the Department of Regulation and Licensing. To apply you need to:

  • Provide proof of insurance
  • Give proof of 4 years of experience (can count 2 years of education)
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

New York – Doesn’t have state licensing or registration requirements, although there may be with local governments.

North Carolina – Requires general contractors license for jobs that exceed $30,000. There are dozens of license classifications, but for all of them you’ll need to pass trade, license, and board exams.

North Dakota – Has four classes of license requirements for any job that exceeds $4,000. They are:

  • Class A – Job exceeds $500,000
  • Class B – Job is less than $500,000
  • Class C – Job is less than $300,000
  • Class D – Job is less than $100,000

For each class, you will need to show proof of insurance.

Ohio – Leaves licensing and registration to the local governments. So, what is required in one city or county may not be the same in the next one over.

Oklahoma – Doesn’t require license or registration at the state level, but may require it locally.

Oregon – Has licensing requirements for commercial, residential, or commercial and residential general contracting work. To apply for any of the three you must:

  • Show proof of insurance
  • Take training classes and pass the exam
  • File a Public Works Bond of $30,000 with the Construction Contractors Board for projects that exceed $100,000

Pennsylvania – Doesn’t have state level licensing requirements. But, projects that exceed $5,000 need to be registered with the state’s AG Office.

Rhode Island – Has no state licensing requirements, but both contractors and subcontractors must register with the state’s Registration and Licensing Board. To register you need to:

  • Finish a 5 hour training course
  • Give proof of a general liability insurance that has at least $50,000 of coverage
  • Show proof of workers’ compensation (if you have employees)

South Carolina – Requires a license for projects exceeding $5,000. The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation office offers two primary forms of license: general contractors and mechanical contractors. To apply for either, you need to:

  • Show an audited financial statement or submit a surety bond
  • Have 2 years of experience within the last 5 years
  • Pass trade, business, and law exams

South Dakota – Doesn’t require licensing or registration at the state level, but local governments might.

Tennessee – Requires a state license for projects that exceed $25,000. To apply you must:

  • Pass trade, business, and law exams
  • Provide proof of 3 years of relevant work experience
  • Show audited financial statements

Texas – Doesn’t have state licensing or registration requirements; however, local governments could require one or both.

Utah – Requires a General Building Contractor License on jobs that exceed $3,000. To apply, you’ll need to present the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing with the following:

  • Proof of insurance
  • Pass business, trade, and law exams
  • Financial statements
  • Proof of 2 years of work experience

Vermont – Has no state license or registration requirements, but cities and counties may.

Virginia – Requires general contractors to obtain one of the three license classes. They are:

  • Class A – For jobs ranging annually from $10,000 – $150,000, you must have 2 years of experience
  • Class B – For jobs ranging annually from $120,000 – $750,000, you must have 3 years of experience
  • Class C – For jobs that exceed $750,000, you need to have 5 years of experience and complete a pre-license education class and pass the exams

Washington – Has no state licensing requirements, but does require general contractors to register with the Washington State Department of Labor. To do so you must:

  • Provide proof of a surety bond exceeding $12,000
  • Pass board, trade, and business exams
  • Give proof of insurance

West Virginia – Requires license and registration for projects that exceed $2,500. There are several different license classification. To apply for any of them you need to:

  • Submit proof of insurance
  • Pass business and law exams

Wisconsin – Compels general contractors to obtain a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license for projects exceeding $1,000. To apply you need to:

  • Provide proof of insurance
  • Complete a 12-hour class, then pass the exam

Wyoming – Has no statewide licensing or registration requirements; however, the same can’t be said for local governments.

Protecting your business with Thimble

Even if the state you work in doesn’t require general liability insurance, it’s still wise to have a plan in effect. A general liability insurance policy provides coverage from third-party claims of property damage and bodily injury.

Here at Thimble, we offer affordable contractor insurance you can get the moment you need it. Thimble’s on-demand policies are sold by the hour, day, or month, meaning you only pay for insurance when you’re on a project. It’s 21st-century insurance for the modern small business (We even have an app).

Getting a policy with Thimble is fast and easy. To purchase a policy in under 60 seconds, simply download the Thimble mobile app, answer three questions, and you’ll have a quote on hand.

While you may not be required by your state to carry general liability insurance, if you want the peace of mind to work confidently, you shouldn’t go without it.

Hopefully, this guide helped you understand the general contractor requirements in each state. Now you can plan ahead, get your license, and start working on bigger projects.

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

Related Articles

contractors and workers comp
Contractors

Workers’ comp for contractors

We break down the details of workers’ comp for contractor and why it’s needed even when not required. At the end of the day, you want your risk protection to be concrete, not putty.

Read More