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general contractor in North Carolina in front of new home being built

So you've got your eyes set on a new vacation home or maybe you are considering building a beach house in North Carolina but you are from another state. The laws and regulations regarding general contractor licenses is something that you owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes exploring. Quite frankly, I didn't do that when we moved to Michigan and while things worked out ... I got lucky. You might not have the same experience as we did!

When it comes to pursuing a career in construction or home improvement, obtaining a general contractor license is a crucial step. However, the requirements for obtaining this license can vary significantly from one state to another. In this article, we will explore the key differences in general contractor license requirements across different states, with a specific focus on North Carolina.

10 Reasons Why You Should Hire A Licensed Contractor

Hiring a licensed contractor comes with a multitude of benefits that can impact the quality, legality, and overall success of your construction or renovation project. Below is a chart that outlines the primary benefits of choosing a licensed contractor over an unlicensed individual or company.

Legal Compliance Licensed contractors are required to adhere to state and local building codes, ensuring that your project is compliant with all legal requirements. This can save you from potential fines and legal issues.
Quality Assurance Licensing typically requires passing competency examinations and meeting certain standards, which means licensed contractors are more likely to provide high-quality workmanship.
Liability Insurance Most licensed contractors carry liability insurance, which protects you from being held financially responsible if an accident or damage occurs on your property during the project.
Worker’s Compensation Licensed contractors are required to provide worker’s compensation, which covers injuries that their employees might sustain while working on your project. This protects you from potential lawsuits.
Permit Acquisition Licensed contractors are familiar with the process of obtaining the necessary permits for your project, ensuring that all work is legally sanctioned and inspected if required.
Warranty Protection Many licensed contractors offer warranties on their work, giving you recourse if the work does not meet the agreed-upon standards or if issues arise after completion.
Professionalism Licensing indicates a level of professionalism and commitment to the trade. Licensed contractors are more likely to follow ethical business practices and maintain a high level of professionalism throughout the project.
Financial Recourse Should a dispute arise, having hired a licensed contractor often gives you more options for financial recourse, including access to state funds or bonds set aside for resolving such disputes.
Peace of Mind Knowing that your contractor has met the stringent requirements for licensing can provide peace of mind, ensuring that your project is in capable and qualified hands.
Project Financing Some financial institutions may require licensed contractors perform that work as a condition of financing. Hiring a licensed contractor can make it easier to secure loans or mortgages related to your project.

Choosing a licensed contractor ensures that your project adheres to the highest standards of safety, legality, and quality. It's an important step in protecting your investment and achieving the desired outcome for your construction or renovation project.

At this point, you probably "get it" why it's typically better to hire a licensed general contractor but I think it's important to better understand what these licenses entail too. While the differences between each of the 50 states is quite vast and differs from municipality too, here is a look at the training and regulations required in four states: California, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.

Understanding General Contractor Licenses

Before exploring a state-by-state comparison, let's first understand what a general contractor license entails. A general contractor license is typically issued by state licensing boards or agencies and is required for individuals or companies to perform construction work legally.

This includes overseeing projects, hiring subcontractors, and ensuring that all work complies with building codes and regulations.

State-by-State Variations

Discovering the intricate world of general contractor licenses means understanding the varied criteria and procedures found across different regions of the United States.


  • Requirements: Minimum of three years of work experience, vocational training, apprenticeship, or a bachelor's degree in a related field. 
  • Examination: Must pass the California Contractor State License Board (CSLB) exam.
  • Fees: Application and exam fees apply.


In California, aspiring general contractors must either demonstrate at least three years of relevant experience or possess a bachelor's degree in a related field to qualify for a license. Additionally, they must successfully pass the California Contractor State License Board (CSLB) exam and pay applicable application and exam fees to obtain their license.


  • Requirements: There is no state-wide requirement for licensure of general contractors in Texas. However, specialty contractors such as heating and air installers do have required statewide licenses. General contracting is regulated at a local level in this state.
  • Examination: NA
  • Fees: NA


While there is no high-level general contractor examination or license that general contractors need to secure on a state-wide basis, they must comply with local regulations at the county and city level. However, if a general contractor will be providing specific contracting services such as electricians, plumbers, and heating / air installation, then there are licenses and regulations that they need to comply with from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations.


  • Experience: Four years of experience working in the discipline for which you seek a license. One of those years must be as a supervisor and the remaining three years can be college credit or experience gained from an aprenticeship.
  • Examination: Must pass the Florida General Contractor Exam.
  • Fees: Registration and licensing fees both apply but upon successfully being granted the license you can work anywhere in Florida as a general contractor.


Florida has a fairly robust set of requirements, including not just experience and examination but also proof of financial stability that includes a review of both your business and personal credit score. Additionally, you need to ensure that your business entity is officially registered with the Florida Divisions of Corporations and the Department of Revenue.

North Carolina

  • Experience: While there is no official requirement for formal education or contracting experience, applicants must be able to have the appropriate knowledge to pass the exam. Additionally, aspiring general contractors need to be at least 18 years of age, able to demonstrate financial responsibility, and have good moral character. A
  • Examination: Pass the North Carolina General Contractor Exam.
  • Fees: Application and examination fees apply.


The essential prerequisites for obtaining a license involve filling out the application form, being a minimum of 18 years old, demonstrating good moral character, satisfying the financial criteria relevant to the license category being applied for, and passing an exam tailored to the specific license classification desired. Unlike other states, there is no general requirement for being bonded or insured - though these requirements may differ when working in specific municipalities and while executing complex technical types of contracting work such as electrical or masonry.

Additionally, applicants should be prepared to pay application and examination fees as part of the licensing process. That said, based on the scope of work and project size, there are also different classifications and online prep exams you can take for a general contractor license in NC.

These classifications include Building, Residential, and Unclassified licenses, each with its own set of requirements and limitations.

It's Up To You To Do Due Diligence And Understand Your General Contractor's Qualifications And Requirements

The requirements for obtaining a general contractor license vary significantly across different states. While some states prioritize experience and education, others may emphasize passing rigorous examinations or obtaining specific types of insurance. Still others emphasize the character and business stability of the contractor - something I think every state and county should require so as to ensure that the contractor is able to successfully complete the job without financial issues that might cause problems for the homeowner.

Whatever path you decide to take though, remember ... this is about arming yourself with knowledge. I've never seen a contracting project executed on time and under budget or without some sort of drama associated with it. So make sure to take a deep breath and plan to roll with the punches when they come!