SkillSET Blog
Advice For Pros · November 28, 2022 · AUTHOR: Stanley Bawalan

General Contractor Licenses Needed To Operate

A contractor is a professional who performs construction services for the building industry. The term is also used to describe a person who provides professional advice in this field. Contractors are required to have licenses and insurance specific to their area of work and expertise. 

Contracting can be an incredibly lucrative career, but it requires extensive training, experience, and knowledge of laws specific to an area's climate conditions, zoning ordinances, and building codes.

State Level Licenses

When you decide to operate as a general contractor, you must get state-level licenses. 

These vary by state, but most require that you be properly registered with the Department of Labor and have a federal tax identification number. Some states also require insurance certificates or background checks before granting licenses. It's important for any prospective general contractor to check with their local government officials about what is required for their specific area.

In some cases, licenses can only be obtained through an apprenticeship program or other training providers; this usually requires several years' worth of experience working on construction sites under the supervision of a licensed general contractor or architect.

Federal Licenses

While federal licenses are not as common as state-level licenses, it’s important to know that some types of work require one. Federal licenses are only required if your business crosses state lines and/or operates in more than one state.

Some federal licenses may require you to have a state-level license first. For example, the International Code Council (ICC) has created the International Residential Building Code (IRC), which needs approval from your local municipality before it comes into effect. However, this code is only approved in certain states—namely Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—and therefore may be a federal rather than a state requirement for contractors working in those states.

Local Licenses

If you live in a large city, chances are that you’ve been to a building that was built by a general contractor. This is because most large commercial buildings require the use of experienced contractors who can handle all aspects of construction.

General contractors typically have several different licenses required by local authorities. These include:

  • Building permits, which are usually required for non-residential construction

  • Electrical permits, which are usually required for any electrical work done on or near existing electrical systems

  • Mechanical permits, which are usually required for any mechanical work done on or near existing mechanical systems

In addition to these licenses and permits, many states like NY have home improvement contractor licenses that must be obtained before undertaking renovations or repairs on residential property.

Licensing is essential and varies by region.

Licensing is essential to the health and safety of consumers. It's also important for quality assurance, which is why clients always hire an insured contractor for their projects.

In some areas, a general contractor's license is required for any construction project that exceeds $30,000 in value. In other cities and states, a GC might not be necessary if only small repairs are being done around your home or office; however, it wouldn't hurt your chances of being awarded the job if you could show proof of licensing at some point in the future.


Contractors can find it difficult to operate without proper licensing. Local governments make sure that contractors have the required licenses before issuing permits for any work. Licensing also provides protection for consumers by ensuring that contractors are qualified and insured.

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