Should I Become a Home Contractor?
Home contractors construct and renovate all facets of a home, from foundations to roofs. In addition to working with licensing agents, contractors also work with other professionals such as trade workers, architects, and engineers. Travel between various work sites is often required. This occupation can be quite stressful when deadlines loom or an emergency situation arises. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary was $57,522 as of May 2015.
|Degree Level||Varies; bachelor's degree recommended|
|Degree Field||Architecture, construction management, construction science, engineering|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensing requirements vary by state and, sometimes, by county; certification is voluntary; Associate Constructor, Certified Professional Constructor, or LEED certification may be beneficial|
|Experience||Varies; approximately 4-8 years of experience|
|Key Skills||Knowledge of regulations, codes, and relevant laws; supervision skills; knowledge of business administration and management, building and construction materials, methods and tools, design and engineering; multitasking skills; proficiency with specialized tools and technology|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net OnLine, The American Institute of Contractors, U.S. Green Building Council, The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies, PayScale.com
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Steps to Become a Home Contractor
Step 1: Obtain a Degree
The BLS states that contractors with bachelor's degrees are becoming more prevalent. Some individuals may still find positions with a combination of work experience and a high school diploma or associate's degree. You may benefit from earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in construction management. Coursework includes surveying, mathematics, and engineering. You may also take classes in geology, business law, construction accounting, and other related classes. The rise in sustainable home building indicates prospective contractors may gain an edge by taking courses in energy-efficient home construction.
Explore apprenticeships. One apprenticeship opportunity you might want to consider is the Registered Apprenticeship Program through The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration. Under the guidance of seasoned professionals, apprentices are able to gain hands-on, paid work experience. As of January 2013, the list of available occupations includes cement and stonemasons, construction craft laborers, residential carpenters, electricians, and terrazzo workers and finishers.
Develop relevant software skills. According to O*Net OnLine, construction managers need to be versed in a variety of software programs. While the type of software proficiency needed may be job related as well as based on personal preference, O*Net OnLine lists:
- Computer-aided design software such as Auto CAD
- Database user software such as Bechtel Software SETROUTE
- Integrated construction management software such as Lombardi Teamworks
- Document management software such as Axios Systems assyst
- Presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint
- Project management software such as HCSS HeavyBid and Quantum Project Manager Software
Develop technical skills. Construction managers need to be able to use a variety of tools, according to O*Net OnLine. These might include level sensors or transmitters, levels, notebook and personal computers, scanners, and the Versa-Calc Jobber 6 construction calculator.
Step 2: Become Certified
While certification isn't required for construction managers, according to the BLS, it is becoming more prevalent and recommended to demonstrate professional skills and experience. The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) provides the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation for applicants who have fulfilled experience requirements, taken a self-study course, and passed a technical exam.
Another certification option is through the American Institute of Constructors (AIC), the organization that handles the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) exams. According to the AIC, there are two routes for the AC exam: the first is four years of qualifying education and/or experience, while the second is to be within one year of graduating from a construction management bachelor's degree program. Certification, however, will not be awarded until after graduation.
According to the AIC, the CPC exam requirements include an upgrade for AC Certification holders in good standing and four years of qualifying experience and/or education where a minimum of two years was in a supervisory or project management capacity. For individuals who aren't certified or interested in taking the exam, there is another option, according to the AIC. Applicants with a minimum of eight years of qualifying experience and/or education, combined with a minimum of two years project management or supervisory experience, may also qualify.
Review qualifying education and experience guidelines. If you're interested in taking either the AC or the CPC certification exams, it's important to review the AIC's guidelines to ensure that you meet the requirements.
Step 3: Obtain a License
The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) oversees the Accredited Examination for Commercial General Builder Contractors. According to The NASCLA, this state licensing exam is intended for contractors who work in multiple jurisdictions. State contractors who pass this exam will be placed into the National Examination Database (NED). The NASCLA's state exam is administered in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina and the states that accept this license are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Review state guidelines. Since state requirements vary, it's important to review the guidelines for the state in which you're planning to work. This is particularly important with states that prefer or require licensed home contractors.
Step 4: Develop Experience
According to the BLS, construction workers tend to gain sufficient on-the-job experience to be promoted to managers. It's likely, however, that they will initially hold assistant management positions until such time as they are able to work independently.
Step 5: Become LEED Certified to Advance Your Career
According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, while voluntary, assists with optimizing green building standards as well as being competitive in the market. LEED-certified homes are more energy and cost effective, healthier, and less harmful to the environment. Both LEED-certified contractors and home owners tend to qualify for tax rebates and other incentives.
To become a home contractor, you'll like need a college degree and certification is recommended for the best job opportunities.