A contractor's license is required to legally bid for a job that exceeds the state maximum for unlicensed projects. In California, any job that pays more than $500 requires a contractor's license, while in Tennessee it is only required for projects over $25,000. Although the procedure to obtain a contractor's license is similar whether you are a civil engineer, a certified electrician or any other tradesman, there are certain special requirements and releases a civil engineer must consider.
There are some legal requirements all applicants for a contractor's license must follow regardless of the state in which they apply, the type of license they request or their professional background. These include being at least 18 years old, having a high school diploma or GED, being a legal resident or citizen, providing an up-to-date criminal history with explanations on all violations and citations related to construction work, and registration with the Secretary of State office.
Contractor's License Types
In California, for example, there are three main types of contractor's license: general engineering, general building and specialty, which are labeled A, B and C respectively. The specialty license has 39 classifications, ranging from asbestos abatement to plumbing. Civil engineers will generally apply for a type A contractor's license in general engineering.
To receive a contractor's license applicants must have at least four years experience in the line of work for which they are applying. An electrical contractor, for instance, must spend at least four years as an electrical journeyman to be eligible. In certain cases, technical training programs and college courses, such as a degree in civil engineering, can be used as a substitute for some of the four-year experience period.
If you meet the minimum requirements and your application is approved, you will still need to pass examinations relevant to your trade. A civil engineer seeking to work as a general engineering contractor will need to pass tests in law, businesses, bid procedures, licensing contracts, and topics specific to the equipment, materials and codes uses in civil engineering. The education requirements and agencies that manage examinations vary depending on jurisdiction. In Virginia, for example, license requirements are regulated by the Board for Contractors, part of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. In 2009 the Virginia legislature mandated a continuing education program, as well, for licensed engineers.
Some contractor's license applicants (like California's Class A or B) must also provide a financial statement form as part of their application. Other states, such as Arizona, require contractors to place a cash or surety bond with a regulatory entity, in this case the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. The amount required depends on the estimated gross income of the license holder. Staying with Arizona, a residential general contractor with an estimated gross income of more than $750,000 should submit a bond of $15,000.
Forms and Filing
The agency that issues and files contractor's licenses varies from one state to another and even by county or city. Application forms are available online at the relevant agency's website. For instance, if you plan to work as a contractor in Arizona, you can download an application package for contractors from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors website. The application package includes application forms for both the license and the educational courses needed to comply with the license requirements.