How To Get A Contractors License With No Experience

If you’ve chosen a job as a contractor, you may be shocked by the license requirements. If you are a contractor interested in bidding on work worth more than $500, several states require you to apply for and maintain a license.

While the regulations regulating contractor licenses differ by State, some, such as California, require contractors to have at least four years of journeyman-level experience in their field and an active contractor bond and passing a certification test.

The experience utilized to meet this condition must be confirmed by a competent third party who is judged qualified to do so. Several qualifying parties include the following:

  • Additional Journeyman Who Assisted the Applicant
  • Owner of a home that the applicant assisted in constructing
  • Employer, Past or Present
  • Representative of a union
  • Inspector of Structures
  • Architect
  • Engineer

The person certifying an applicant’s qualifying experience must have intimate knowledge of their work, generally from previous employment with them.

Regrettably, many contractors just starting lack the necessary expertise to get a license immediately. This often results in the following question:

Is It Possible To Get A Contractor’s License Without Prior Experience?

It is often possible to get a contractor’s license without prior experience. The following sections will discuss many methods for obtaining a contractor’s license without prior experience and the various licensing criteria in each State.

Contractors seeking to establish a firm in a state that demands prior expertise have a variety of other possibilities.

Using California as an example, the following methods may assist a newly licensed contractor to obtain a license without meeting the State’s experience requirement.

Receiving A Grandfather License As A Contractor

An established contractor may transfer their license to a new contractor in certain areas upon retirement. While this exemption was designed to assist family companies in effortlessly passing responsibility down through generations of ownership, this strategy is sometimes utilized to streamline the acquisitions and takeovers process.

It’s important to remember that while you may inherit the license of an experienced contractor without having the necessary experience to get your license, you will still need to pass the licensing test in the State in which you want to do business.

Collaboration With An Rmo Or Rme

Another approach for an experienced contractor to begin working without obtaining a license is with the assistance of a Responsible Managing Officer (RMO) or Responsible Managing Employee (RME). In essence, California and a few other jurisdictions allow a new contractor to “borrow” another licensed contractor’s license to remain compliant.

By engaging a licensed RMO as a project manager or a licensed RME as an RME, a new contractor may function as if they had their license.

Waiver Of The Licensing Board

While there are no assurances that this option will be available and there are often no formal rules to establish eligibility, certain state licensing boards have been known to waive applicants’ experience requirements.

Because this is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, there is no accurate method to assess if you will qualify for a waiver other than consulting with your local licensing authority. Many state licensing boards have granted similar exemptions in the past, and for many, this may be the best option for obtaining a contractor’s license without prior experience.

Improving Our Ability To Qualify

If all else fails, one last possibility for obtaining a contractor license without prior experience is to work your way up to qualification. While this may not be a practical option for contractors seeking to bid on tasks that need a license immediately, you may earn money while accumulating the expertise necessary to qualify.

There are several methods to make money while gaining experience, ranging from working as a subcontractor for a certified general contractor to working in an apprenticeship.

Most inexperienced contractors seeking qualifying experience for a license will begin by working as an apprentice. Apprenticeships with a qualified general contractor may assist someone new to the contracting industry in learning a skilled craft and the ins and outs of the company.

For people who are already proficient in their field and capable of working independently on a project, the easiest approach to get qualifying experience for the license is often via employment as a “journeyman.” A journeyman is essentially an artisan contractor (link) who lacks the requisite experience to lead a project. A journeyman, on the other hand, may get the experience required to qualify for a contractor’s licence by working on projects headed by another licenced contractor.

After a few years as a journeyman, some individuals pursue a contractor’s license advance to work as a foreman or supervisor. While experience as a foreman is not normally necessary to get a contractor’s license, the tasks of both professions are comparable, and the experience may assist prepare for the shift to licensed contractor later on.

State-by-State Contractor Licensing Laws

Fortunately for rookie contractors, many jurisdictions do not need contractors to be licensed to bid on projects with a certain total cost (including labor). Other states require contractors to register, but there is no formal certification mechanism to prevent a newly formed corporation from competing on work immediately.

The current regulations for a contractor license in each State may be found here.

For Additional Information

If you’re serious about obtaining a contractor’s license and have issues that haven’t been addressed in this article, the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies is an excellent resource.

As usual, the contractor insurance professionals at Toxins are here to assist you with any queries. We’ll work with you to determine the particular requirements of your contracting company and create a policy that’s just right for you.

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