From residential to commercial bids, construction work requires a unique set of licenses governed by local and state authorities. Whether you are
a contractor, construction business owner, site supervisor, or bidding for a new job, you will face
certification and licensing requirements at every level of your career.
Adhering to professional
licensing requirements is key to maintaining your legal authority to practice
construction. Up-to-date construction licensing allows you to enter new markets, open new facilities,
hire new employees, seek financing opportunities, and bid for new contracts and construction gigs.
Failing to observe construction industry requirements can result in state imposed penalties and even
The good news? An experienced, dedicated compliance partner can help you take a proactive approach to
maintaining construction licensure and certification. Contact Harbor Compliance today to help you
simplify the professional licensing process.
The following guide contains an overview of construction licensing and specific board requirements in
Overview of Requirements
A business entity offering construction services to the public typically must register with the
State Contractors Board and receive a construction
industry firm license. The firm license is necessary to practice construction in 35 states, and firms
practicing without one can be liable for steep penalty fees. Some states do not issue construction
industry licenses at the state level, but instead rely on licenses issued at the county or city
Licensure for construction firms usually follows
of the business entity with the Secretary of State. Common legal structures for firms are corporations
or professional corporations (PC), and
limited liability companies
(LLC) or professional LLCs. Incorporation refers to formation of the business entity, whereas
foreign qualification refers to applying for a Certificate of Authority to transact business in another
After registration with the secretary of state, firm licenses are generally divided by the type of
contracting work that a construction company might undertake. For example, Alaska has different licenses
for general contracting, specialty contracting, mechanical contracting, and residential contracting.
Depending on the practice areas of your firm, you may need to apply for several types of construction
licenses within the same state. Applications and forms vary greatly by state and several classification
types are typically available. A
dedicated compliance expert can help you keep track of varying jurisdiction requirements
and updated laws.
Despite the variation across state licensing boards, there are some requirements that are nearly
universal. Applications almost always require the firm to incorporate or foreign qualify before applying
for a construction industry license. Other common application requirements include: proof of liability
and or worker’s compensation insurance, license bonds, financial statements, and proof of experience.
Many states also require firms to have at least one employee with an
individual contractor license before applying
for a firm license. This individual is often called the qualifying agent. In several states, the
qualifying agent must submit exam scores and proof of licensure along with the firm application.
In addition to state level construction licenses, many cities and counties have their own requirements
for contractors. Local licenses and permits vary greatly and can significantly delay project start
dates, so it is important to learn the compliance expectations for every level of government.
Initial Registration Fees
Fees for initial licensure range from $30 to $1,050. Idaho’s business entity license is only $30, while
Arizona’s combined General Commercial and Residential license comes up to $1,050. The average license
cost is $225 while the most common filing fee is $300.
Firm license renewal varies by state. Over half of the states that require firm licensure call for
licenses to be renewed every two years. Almost all other state licenses renew annually. New Mexico
and Michigan are two exceptions to this rule, as they require renewal filings to be made once every
Like initial application fees, renewal fees also vary by state. Fees range from just $25 for some
Wisconsin licenses to $600 in Nevada. Firms can expect to pay closer to the national average of $210
when applying for a license, however, the most commonly applied fee is $200.
Table of Company Licenses
Looking for construction certification requirements in a particular state? The following table summarizes
construction and contractor licensing requirements across the United States. Click on any state for the
licensing information specific to that state.