Be a Certified Contractor: Certification and Licensure Information

Research the requirements to become a certified contractor in this lesson. Learn about the job description, and see the step-by-step process to start a career in contracting. View article »

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  • 0:03 Certified Contractors
  • 1:04 Gain Experience
  • 1:56 Attain Certification
  • 3:41 Obtain Licensure

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Video Transcript

Certified Contractors

Certified contractors, also known as construction managers, oversee many types of projects and personnel and are responsible for coordinating construction and hiring subcontractors. They must obtain licenses to demonstrate knowledge of legal issues concerning the construction industry.

Although some construction managers work for corporations, most contractors are self-employed and are hired for particular projects. Certified contractors work out of an office and some have a secondary office at the construction site as well. Some travel may be required, depending on where work is available. Most construction managers work at least full-time, with overtime common as demanded by the workload and deadlines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for construction managers is $87,400 as of May 2015.

Career Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level Bachelor's degrees are becoming common
Degree Field Construction-related discipline
Licensure and Certification Licensure requirements vary by state; certification is preferred by employers and is available through professional organizations
Experience The amount varies, but prior construction experience is required
Key Skills Analytical, decision-making, managerial, verbal and written communication, and time management skills; proficient in scheduling, project management, document management, database, construction management, and computer-aided drafting software; knowledge of construction equipment
Salary (2015) $87,400 per year (median salary for construction managers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Okay, so now that we've covered the job description, let's go over the steps to becoming a certified contractor.

Step 1: Gain Experience

According to the BLS, contractors are expected to have construction experience before entering the job force. This experience can be attained through internships, previous jobs, or other training programs. Before becoming construction managers, construction workers typically begin as assistants to more experienced contractors.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a bachelor's degree. Earning a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field is becoming increasingly common among contractors. Majors may include construction science, building science, construction management, or construction engineering. Students can learn about building codes, estimating, finance, contracts, surveying, and construction materials. These programs typically include a co-operative work experience to gain practical knowledge.

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Step 2: Attain Certification

Voluntary certification is becoming important in this profession. Many organizations provide certification for general contractors as well as specialty contractors, such as those who work with plumbing or electrical components. Each certification requires different prerequisites, including work experience and education, so prospective contractors should research the requirements before applying.

The American Institute of Constructors (AIC) provides two levels of certification, including the Associate Constructor (AC) and the Certified Professional Constructor (CPC). For the AC certification, candidates need four years of experience in the construction industry, the equivalent education, or a mixture of both. For the CPC certification, candidates require either eight years of industry or educational experience but only four years if they have already obtained the AC certification. Getting certified requires passing an exam that focuses on questions about the industry, legal concerns, and construction management.

Also, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) offers the Certified Construction Manager credential. To be eligible, applicants need 48 months of managerial experience, as well as an educational background in a construction-related field. CMAA notes that individuals can meet the educational requirement by earning either an associate's or bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering, or construction management. An additional eight years of experience in the construction industry can compensate for lack of a degree.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure

Contractors obtain licensing in their states of employment to prove they have an understanding of state building laws, business management skills, and a thorough knowledge of the industry. Obtaining a license involves paying applicable fees, filing paperwork, and passing examinations concerning legal issues within the construction industry.

Each state has varying requirements for contractor licenses, but there are some general requirements, including that applicants must be at least 18 years old, show proof of any industry-related state licenses, show documentation of U.S. citizenship, and provide explanations for construction-related violations. Some cities and counties require contractors to obtain business licenses. Additionally, several states require certified contractors to take out state license bonds as well as workers' compensation insurance to safeguard customers and employees.

In summary, the steps to becoming a certified contractor include gaining some experience while considering earning a bachelor's degree, attaining official certification from the AIC or CMAA, and obtaining a state-based license.

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