General contractors are people who oversee construction work. They provide leadership on a construction site, managing personnel, working with architects to ensure that work proceeds in accordance with their vision for projects and procuring materials, equipment and subcontractors as needed. Those who are licensed as such tend to have a better chance at getting higher-paying jobs with supervisory obligations.
Jobs Requiring Licensing
A wide variety of jobs in the construction field often require licensed general contractors. This includes construction site foreman, as well as positions in insulation, framing, drywall and plastering, masonry, flooring installation, roofing, parking and highway improvements, and demolition. While other, less skilled jobs in construction often don't require a general contractor's license, often job candidates who have one are preferred.
Importance of Licensing
According to the Associated General Contractors of America trade group, construction employment fell in 27 states and Washington, D.C., between February and March of 2011, as the U.S. economy continued to sag. Licensing as a general contractor is increasingly important during times of economic hardship, because they are better able to compete for the limited jobs available.
Road to Licensing
Community colleges and technical schools often offer certificates and degrees in general contracting. While not always necessary, such programs prepare aspiring general contractors for licensing requirements, which vary from state to state. They include a good mix of classroom work and hands-on experience, which also prepares aspiring general contractors for all aspects of leading a work site.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. You can contact your state's licensing board to find out the requirements in your state. For instance, in Florida, the Department of Business and Professional Regulations is responsible for issuing general contractor's licenses. To qualify for a license there, individuals must be at least 18 years of age and have either 1) a four-year construction-related degree from an accredited postsecondary experience, 2) one year of experience as a construction foreman and at least three years of college-level work, 3) a year's experience working in construction, plus a year's experience as a foreman and two years of college coursework, or 4) four years of experience working in construction, with at least one of those years having served as a foreman. In that state, individuals must also pass a three-part exam that tests their project management, business and finance, and contract administration knowledge.
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