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How to Get a Contractor License in Massachusetts

Contractor Tips , Posted by Charlotte Smith on

How to Get a Contractor License in Massachusetts

The Bay State loves its buildings! 7.2 million Massachusetts residents were employed in construction in 2020, making it one of the state's biggest industries. 

If you want a great construction job in a thriving state, you should consider getting a contractor license in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the process of getting a license takes some time. Sit down and look over the steps you need to take to become a licensed contractor. 

What licensing requirements do you need to meet? How should you prepare for your licensing exam, and what should you do if you fail? Do you have to renew your license?

Answer these questions and you can reap the rewards of professional licensing in less time than you think. Here is your comprehensive guide.

Understand Massachusetts Contractor License Requirements

The Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations and Standards handles contractor licenses. You do not have to go through city or county governments in order to get your Massachusetts contractor license. 

According to state laws, a contractor must be licensed as a Home Improvement Contractor or a Construction Supervisor. A Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) license lets you perform alteration jobs like exterior painting and patio repairs. You can qualify for three different types of Construction Supervisor Licenses (CSLs). A restricted CSL lets you supervise all forms of construction work on one and two-family dwellings and their accessory buildings. An unrestricted CSL lets you work on all types of buildings that are less than 35,000 cubic feet. A specialty CSL helps you specialize in a specific construction activity like installing insulation or windows.

In order to receive a license, you must have three years of experience in building construction. You must work full-time, and all three years must be within the last ten years. You also must be at least 18 years old, though you can apply at any time after you turn 18.

Massachusetts does not have educational requirements for contractor licenses. However, some companies have educational requirements for job applicants. You generally need to have a high school diploma, and you may need a college degree to qualify for advanced jobs.

You cannot use an out-of-state or federal license in Massachusetts. The state does not offer a way to convert your license from one state to a Massachusetts license. 

Develop Experience

You can find work in construction without a license, though you will need to start with entry-level jobs. Unless you have an advanced degree, it is very hard for you to get a supervisory position. 

You can find work as a construction worker throughout the state. You can work with a company or be a freelance employee, participating in various projects. Your experience does not have to be inside of Massachusetts, so you can travel outside the state or country for work. 

If you prefer to work in an office, you can find work as an administrative support specialist. You can also work as an architect, project manager, or office manager. 

Look for opportunities to advance your career. After a year of working as a construction worker, you may be able to apply for a job as a supervisor. The more credible your experience is, the more likely you are to receive a license.

Joining a union does not count as experience. But joining one can help you find jobs and qualify for benefits. 

Do not complete any contracting work without a license. The penalties for unlicensed contractors include prison sentences and fines. You can shadow a contractor or work for them as an apprentice, but you cannot be a solo contractor.

Massachusetts has a few exceptions for its experience requirements. Three or four years of high school vocational training or a bachelor's degree can substitute for one year. A bachelor's degree in architecture or science can substitute for two years.

Construction-related military experience counts for all three years. Army construction careers include engineers, plumbers, and electricians. You do not need prior experience for these jobs, but you do need to perform well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). 

Prepare for Your Exam

Prometric runs the license exams in Massachusetts. You must register with the company and schedule an appointment to take your exam. Each exam is dozens of questions long, and you have at least two hours to complete it. 

You should prepare for the exam a few months prior to taking it. Use reference books like OSHA's Code of Federal Regulations to guide your studies. You can also use study guides from contractor licensing schools. 

You will need to memorize many regulations. Take handwritten notes and use flashcards so you can memorize as many things as possible. Try mnemonic devices to help you remember processes and acronyms for things. 

Make sure you are studying regulations specifically for Massachusetts. Using guides for other states will not help. You will need to know federal regulations, but spend most of your time on Massachusetts laws. 

In the days leading up to your test, take a few practice tests. Simulate the process of taking the test as much as possible so you feel comfortable answering questions. 

If you are applying for a HIC license and a CSL, you will be taking two tests at once. Make sure to study and register for both of them. 

Take Your Exam

In order to take your exam, you must submit a registration form. You need to list all of the people you have worked for. You also must give details about the duties you did for them. 

Provide W2 forms that corroborate your claims. If you don't have these forms, you can get affidavits from your employers. Your application will be kept for two years, so you don't have to submit another one if you fail your test. 

Each test has a $100 registration fee. If you are taking multiple tests, you need to pay multiple fees. After you submit your form, you can schedule the test whenever you want. 

You will receive your results after you complete your test. You must get at least 70% of the questions correct in order to pass. If you fail the test, you can retake it again within the next 90 days. 

If you pass, you will receive a score report with the word "pass" on it. You will not receive your numerical score, but you will receive information about the next steps to get your license.

Submit Your Massachusetts Contractor License Application

Your application goes directly to the Massachusetts contractor licensing board. Make sure you have documents of your work experience and exam scores. You should also provide your contact information, including all details listed on your driver's license or state-issued photo ID.

You can submit your application before you take your test. If you are going to do that, you need to submit your exam registration information. You will still need to send your results in, so it may save you time to wait to submit your application.

The board may conduct a background check on people applying for a contractor's license with a felony. Do not conceal your criminal record, as that may be grounds for denial, even if your felony was for a minor offense. Try to find documents that you show that you are a productive and lawful person. 

You can register as an individual, a proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation. Registering as a proprietorship or a partnership can make it easier for you to run your own business and get freelance work. If you want to get experience in the construction industry before starting a business, you should register as an individual. 

It may take 30 days for you to get your license card. Be patient and do not perform any contracting work until you get your license. You can continue working in the construction industry while you are waiting. 

Buy Liability Insurance

Before you are eligible to work, you must buy professional liability insurance. Liability insurance covers work-related accidents and damage to a client's property.

Shop around for insurance rates and find one that gives you the coverage you need for your work. If you're pursuing a specialty in contracting, you should find an insurer with experience in your specialty.

You are not required to get other types of insurance, but the more insurance you have, the more protection you have from lawsuits. Many contractors purchase builders' risk insurance that protects the property they are working on. Find an insurance policy that covers the tools and materials you are using in addition to the building itself.

Unlike other states, Massachusetts does not require you to get a contractor license bond. But having a bond can make you seem more credible when you are applying for jobs. Bonds can be expensive, so shop around for the best rate. 

Send proof of your insurance to the licensing board. Keep copies of the papers you send in case the board asks to see your paperwork again.

Remain in touch with your insurer as time goes on. Review how you can file a compensation claim so you can respond quickly if you encounter a problem. 

Avoid Revocations

Chapter 142A, Section 17 of the Massachusetts General Laws describes what contractors cannot do. You cannot abandon a project or deviate from your plans without the building owner's consent. You cannot misrepresent anything in a contract or advertisement. 

The licensing board can receive complaints from members of the public. A director will look into the claim and administer a potential penalty.

Your license can be suspended for a period of time or revoked. You may receive a written reprimand or a fine, which you must pay within 30 days. 

Follow the regulations in Section 17 exactly as they are written. If you cannot complete a project in time, talk to your client and figure out a solution. You can get help from other contractors and construction professionals if you're struggling to complete the project. 

You should have a permit for each construction project you start. Follow city guidelines so you apply for permits and register all necessary information with the city.

Be honest in all of your business practices. Do not say that you can complete services that you have no experience in. Ask a lawyer to help you with drawing up construction contracts so you avoid problems. 

If you receive a complaint, you should fight it. Talk to a lawyer who can represent you during the administrative hearing. Be willing to testify on your behalf and explain why you made the decisions you made.

Renew Your License

You're not done once you get your license. Licenses expire every two years, and you need to complete continuing education in order to get it renewed. 

Find courses online that let you study important topics like workplace safety and business practices. Keep proof that you took these classes and take notes so you can refresh your memory of what you learned. 

You will need to submit an application with a $100 fee. If you do not renew your license in time, you need to take your test again. 

As long as you are working in Massachusetts, you need to renew your license, even if your business relocates. You also need to apply for a license wherever you are expanding your business to. 

After you retire, you can continue to renew your license. This lets you act as an advisor on projects and serve on the board of construction companies. 

Get Your Contractor License in Massachusetts

You must work hard to get your contractor license in Massachusetts. Before you can even apply for one, you need to get three years of experience.

Once you've got your experience, you have to perform well on an exam as well submit a license application and supporting documents to the Board for approval.

Are you gearing up to apply for your contractor license in Massachusetts? At Contractor Training Center, we offer application assistance services to ensure you complete all the necessary forms and supporting documents to obtain your license with ease!

If you have questions about your licensing needs, book a 30-minute call with a state licensing expert at the link below to sort out all the details and apply with ease!