Most states require contractors overseeing a significant amount of construction work to have a license or to register with a state agency. Some states offer multiple classification options, such as a general, commercial or residential license. Exact eligibility guidelines and licensure options vary by state and may include a licensing exam.
In general, it's not possible to earn or apply for a construction license online. However, candidates can prepare for state exams by completing distance-learning preparation programs, or through fully online or hybrid associate's and bachelor's degree programs in construction management and construction technology. To apply for a degree program, prospective students may need previous construction or educational experience.
Some private schools and commercial businesses offer online course materials for prospective contractors studying for construction or contractor licensing exams. Candidates at all levels of experience can select their prospective state of employment and find a curriculum that meets the region's exact requirements. They then pay a fee in order to enroll and begin accessing online lessons, study guides and practice exams.
Once someone has enrolled in an online training program for a construction trade, materials are delivered online or through the mail. This may include software that needs to be installed; content may also come in the form of a textbook, audiotape, CD or DVD. Individuals follow a course sequence while completing self-guided study and taking practice exams. They can often submit questions online, where licensed professionals can provide guidance and feedback. Some organizations also provide live, local classes and seminars that students can take in person to complement their online studies.
Many commercial contractor exam preparation programs have a policy that guarantees refunds if students do not pass their state licensure exams. Another distinguishing trait to look for is some form of professional affiliation that lends the program credibility, such as membership with the Better Business Bureau. Alternately, the program may supply references for companies or individuals that it has worked with in the past or supply pass-rate statistics.
Construction Degree Programs
In some states, completion of a postsecondary education program in a construction field is required as part of the licensing process. Academic programs may require that applicants have a certain amount of construction experience or minimum educational experience, such as an associate degree or a minimum number of college credits. Course content may be generic or designed to meet the regulations for the state in which the school is based. Common topics of discussion may include preparing estimates and project bids, change orders, scheduling team members and supervising subcontractors. Programs may also include management skills and responsibilities.
Associate and bachelor's degree programs are available in fully online and hybrid formats where some limited on-campus attendance is required. These programs are often available only through private, for-profit schools. Upon graduation, individuals may still need to gain a certain amount of experience before they can pursue licensure in most states; the requirement tends to range from about 1-4 years.
To become a licensed contractor, construction professionals may need to pass a state exam. It is possible to find distance learning prep programs that deliver study materials online or through traditional mail, but in some states, applicants must get college credit before they can take the exam, so it may be necessary to complete an online associate's or bachelor's degree program in a related field.