A number of individual materials and parts go into building a residential or commercial structure. Similarly, crews responsible for constructing these developments also consist of many components - professional trade workers to be exact.
From masons and carpenters to electricians and plumbers, construction businesses employ a variety of occupational types. Trade workers often start by attending a vocational school for education, ultimately working for a building company to gain experience and on-the-job training. Professional advancement usually involves acquiring additional licensing and certification to branch out and start one's own contracting business.
General Licensing and Certification for Construction Advancement [top]
Construction Management Certification
Designations such as Certified Construction Manager or Certified Professional Constructor are credentials that ensure the holder understands regulatory, insurance, management, safety, estimating and environmental aspects as they apply to the industry. Generally, these certificates cover light construction (residential and small office buildings) as well as heavy construction (large office buildings, infrastructures and facilities).
Some areas usually included in coursework for the certificate are:
- Project cost determination
- Establishing schedules
- Applying time value of money concepts
- Interpreting construction material properties and standards
- Performing managerial functions
- Gaining perspective on emerging issues in construction
State governmental departments generally break down the construction industry into different trade classifications. To operate a business under one of these classifications, the individual must acquire a related Contractor's License. In addition, many states require a contractor's license for individuals/firms bidding on projects over a set amount of money.
While certain contractor's license requirements tend to be the same from one part of the country to the next, each state has its own set of building laws and codes. Because of these variances, contractors in most construction occupations must take an exam specific to that region's building legislation. Those who want to specialize in a specific trade area can take tests later for additional licensing credentials.
Trade Specific Licensing and Certification
The following licensing and certification information targets the more popular fields in the construction industry:
Masonry (Brick, Block and Stone)
This certification, available through the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), is designed to display the mason's expertise and commitment to quality. The MCAA spearheaded this credential to halt low bidding and stop unqualified mason contractors from damaging industry standards. In turn, this certification provides construction clients with a measurable tool to gage a mason's knowledge and professional know-how.
According to the MCAA, the overall benefit of this certification is that it lets firms stand out over competitors when architects, specifiers and design experts seek quality. It's important to note that while the Masonry Certification applies to the entire firm, it must be earned by the b owner of the business.
(General) Electrician License
Surprisingly, not all states require electricians to carry a license. Still, the idea seems to be catching on nationwide. In order to receive the credential, the professional must take a state exam. In most cases, the state offers different classes of electrician license, the categories based on the applicants experience level. For instance, Electrical Contractor, Master Electrician, Journeyman, Apprentice and Special Electrician designations apply to areas like residential, sign installation, irrigation system wiring, etc.
Electrician Licenses help insure public health and safety by identifying qualified people enlightened about the trade. Even more appealing to some, licensed electricians earn more money, according to industry experts.
Those who choose to pursue licensing should first visit their local building department, planning and development office, bureau of building inspection, etc. While requirements for the Electrician License vary from state to state, most exams cover the areas of electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local electric and building codes.
Journeyman Electrician License/Certification
After an electrician student graduates from trade school, he or she takes on an apprenticeship with a firm, which often provides on-the-job training in conjunction with additional classroom instruction. These apprenticeship programs are usually sponsored by local chapters of electrical unions and electrical trade associations. The Journeyman Electrician License indicates that the holder has worked under such an apprenticeship program usually for a minimum of five years (could differ based on state regulation). This often allows an individual to work on a jobsite unsupervised (as long as there is a licensed electrical contractor onsite).
This license indicates the electrician possesses the skill to install, alter, repair, add or change conductors, appliances, apparatus, fixtures, conduit, raceways and any device that generates, transforms or utilizes electrical energy.
Master Electrician/ Electrical Contractors License
This state-issued credential usually lets the journeyman take the next step in professional advancement. This license usually indicates that the holder has worked in electrical contracting for a minimum of seven years or possesses a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering or a related field. Additionally, at least five years of hands-on experience with tools and machines in wire repair for electric lighting, installation, alteration, and heat or power are required. Moreover, this process must be conducted in compliance with the National Electrical Code.
The five-years of hands-on-experience can not include time spent in engineering, performing managerial tasks, estimating and supervising. Though each state holds its own standards and requirements, this license usually lets the electrician launch his business with the needed electrical permits and other paperwork
(General) Construction Supervisor License
Since carpenters witness the entire building process, they make ideal candidates for this particular license. Generally, a Construction Supervisor License allows an individual to legally manage workers engaged in construction, repair, reconstruction, alteration, removal or demolition of certain buildings, as specified by state code.
Certified Green Professional (CGP)
This certification from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recognizes builders, remodelers, carpenters and other trade professionals who regularly use green building principles in home development. At the same time, CGP holders strive to keep project costs down.
CGP holders must fulfill 12 hours of continuing education every three years, with a minimum of eight hours through green building-related educational programs .
Journeyman Plumber License
This credential typically means the professional has finished a four-year apprenticeship program, usually through a local chapter of a union or a trade association, or has other work experience, and has passed a state exam.. This individual has experience utilizing tools for installation, maintenance, extension alteration repair and removal of all piping, plumbing appliances, plumbing fixtures and apparatus.
In most states, this license entitles the holder to work at the plumbing trade as an employee of a licensed plumbing contractor. Still, the title makes room for pay advancement. In fact, some experts say the Journeyman Plumber often makes nearly as much as the Master Plumber.
In certain states, the aspiring Journeyman Plumber might need to select a specific area of specialization. These could include: Drain Layer, Pipe Fitter, Sprinkler Fitter, Lawn Irrigation Installer and Water Heater Specialist
Master Plumber License
This license usually allows the holder to pull permits for jobs, garnering a bit more money in the process. In many states, an individual must possess a Master Plumber License to run his own business. This license tells the customer that the individual possesses at least two years of full-time work as a licensed journeyman plumber. Application requirements and exams vary from state to state.
Certification for Cross Connection Control/ Backflow Prevention Testers
This credential, provided by the American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE), aims to assure that only qualified professionals are testing, repairing and surveying backflow equipment. The certificate entails course work on suitable equipment.
According to ASSE, certified cross connection control/backflow testers, repairers and surveyors have a thorough knowledge of the history of plumbing as it pertains to backflow and cross-connections as well as the public health; regulations, statutes, ordinances and codes; purpose of a backflow program; backflow, back pressure and back siphonage; the proper testing of backflow prevention assemblies; the responsibilities of the general tester, water purveyor, and building safety departments; and documentation and safety.
How to Pursue General Licensing and Certifications
Construction Management Certification
Those who want to advance in this direction usually can find programs at universities specializing in construction and at some trade associations. The Certified Construction Manager designation is offered by an independent affiliate of the Construction Management Association of America, and the American Institute of Constructors offers the Certified Professional Constructor designation.
Most institutions expect students to complete coursework within five years of application. Usually there are no prerequisites other than qualifying education and/or equivalent work experience year. These certifications are geared toward construction project planners and designers, project engineers, project managers, general construction managers, executive construction managers, construction superintendents, general superintendents and individuals seeking a new career path as construction consultants.
For those workers who decide to take the plunge into proprietorship and want to obtain a Contractor's License, the State Contractor Licensing Board (SCLB) makes a great starting point. To begin, the applicant must:
- Determine which license classification / code best applies to the line of service they offer.
- Sign up for a particular exam date - usually the subject focuses on two areas: trade/ business and law.
After taking these initial steps, the applicant should:
- Request information on seminars and available prep courses related to the exam. Trade schools and community colleges are a great place to find such services.
- Apply for the Contractor License through the SCLB after passing the exam. Many states offer same-day scoring for those eager to get the ball rolling.
In most states, exam scores are valid for approximately one year. When the individual applies for the license, they will need to determine a business type or entity - Sole proprietor, LLC, Corporation, Partnership, etc. Depending on the state, an active Contractor License might need to be renewed (generally every two to three years).
Below is a list of contact information with links to each State Contractor Licensing Board. These departments of government usually provide study materials, preparation seminars or information packs for specific exams.
General Contractors Board
(334) 272-5030 (334) 272-5030
Contractors License Board
(602) 372-4661 (602) 372-4661
Contractors State License Board
Division of Registrations
Department of Consumer Protection
Division of Professional Regulation
District of Columbia
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation
Board of Construction Industry
Division of Building Safety
Department of Professional Regulation
Indiana Professional Licensing Agency
Department of Economic Development 800-532-1216
Kansas N/A (not required on state level)
Department of Housing, Buildings, and Construction
Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors
Office of Licensing and Registration 207- 624-8603
Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation 410-230-6220
Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs 517-371-8376
Department of Labor and Industry 800-342-5354
Mississippi State Board of Contractors
Missouri Business Portal
Department of Labor and Industry
Nebraska Department of Labor
Nevada State Contractors Board
Economic and Labor Market and Information Bureau
Division of Consumer Affairs 973-504-6200
Regulation and Licensing Department
New York State Office for Technology Online Permit Assistance and Licensing 800-342-3464
North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors
Secretary of State 800-352-0867
Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board
Construction Industries Board
Construction Contractors Board
Department of Labor and Industry 717-772-2425
Contractor's Registration and Licensing Board
South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation
Department of Labor and Regulation
Department of Commerce and Insurance Regulatory Boards Division 615-741-3449
Department of Licensing and Regulation 800-803-9202
Division of Occupational and Professional licensing
Division of Public Safety 800-640-2106
Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
Board for Contractors
Department of Labor & Industries
Department of Commerce, Safety and Buildings Division
State of Wyoming, Electrical Safety Division
Construction Industry Training and Continuing Education [top]
How to Pursue Trade Specific Licensing and Certification
This certificate, one of the most widely-recognized in the field, can be earned through the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Before applying to take the standard exam, however, the individual must earn certification credits through mason contractor-related courses. Note - those earned through a formal apprenticeship training program are not valid.
While some choose to turn to an outside institution to build credits, the MCAA suggests that the best way to ensure meeting course requirements via those entities in its Approved Provider Network, since these classes deem automatic MCAA endorsement. Better yet, the provider automatically notifies the Association of the candidate's attendance.
Aspiring masons may register for the certification-related courses via the MCAA website, which outlines all approved class offerings and includes scheduling. The mason will receive a registered username, as well as an account that tracks progress and likewise specifies the credits/education needed for certain designations.
Courses focus on everything from the mason industry to running a contractor business. Candidates must collect 100 continuing education credits in six disciplines:
- Masonry Quality Institute
- Codes and Standards
- Ethics and Business Practice
- Bidding Practices
- Masonry Products
Once the MCAA approves course completion, candidates may pay
a fee and take the certification exam. Certification must be
renewed every three years
Earning Electrician License/Certification
The State Licensing Board sometimes offers Code Electrical preparation courses and provides information about exam sites. Study questions generally relate to theory, on-the-job knowledge and the National Electrical Code. Some states now include queries about business and law.
A variety of construction-focused software companies and publishers offer computer programs as well as books designed to help electricians prepare for the exam. No matter the course, industry pundits recommend at least six months studying prior to taking the exam.
Many states require renewal within one to three years of the issued date. This could include a designate hours of continuing education, as well as field time
Getting a Journeyman Electrician License/Certification
Again, requirements for the Journeyman Electrician License vary from state to state. However, the applicant usually must have four years of electrical work experience to earn approval from the State Licensing Board. In many cases, the electrical work must take place under the supervision of an engineer, licensed master electrician or licensed journeyman electrician, with detailed documentation and verification.
Most states allow exam participants two attempts to pass. Portions of the tests - which tend to consist of anywhere from 60 to 100 questions depending on the state - allow open book.
Getting a Master Electrician License/Certification
Most states first require the applicant to pass the Journeyman License exam in order to qualify for the Master Electrician License test. In some cases, the government will forgo this rule - particularly if the individual submits records that demonstrate much time in the field.
While exam questions vary from one state to the next, these requirements are fairly standard:
- Applicant must be over 21 years of age
- Applicant must possess a high school diploma or GED
- Applicant has a minimum of five years hands-on experience in the field
- Applicant completed a four-year apprenticeship program (approved by the federal government and a federally-certified state agency)
- Applicant earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and fulfilled two years of practical hands-on experience.
How to Pursue Trade-Specific Training and Continuing Education
Masonry (Brick, Block and Stone)
For many entering the masonry field, the path does not involve formal schooling, but rather, on-the-job training. Still, vocational schools and courses provided by industry organizations, as well as apprenticeships, can help workers climb the professional ladder.
This construction trade generally falls into several professional advancement categories based on experience and education. These include:
- Apprenticeship: This usually is divided into first-, second- and third-year rankings. Consisting of on-the-job training coupled with classroom education (trade school), the employer generally covers costs. In many cases, when an apprentice fulfills training requirements over a set time period, he or she receives journeyman mason status.
- Mason foreman: Persons at this career level often take on supervisory and management roles, including accounting, marketing and personnel work. In addition, they also might perform construction work alongside their employees.
- Estimator: This job involves preparing cost estimates to help employers in the process of bidding for a project or in determining the price of a product or service.
- Project supervisor: In this position, workers oversee planning, coordinating and budgeting. They usually engage in conceptual development so that they can direct the organization, scheduling and implementation of the project.
- Mason contractor: This professional has advanced to owning a company, generally coordinating a team and employing the people in the mason fields listed above.
Continuing Education is useful for professional advancement, and required for certification renewal. For additional training and education, the following entities offer the latest in mason technology and standards:
- Mason Contractors Association of American (MCAA): The Association offers online courses, webinars, conventions and intensive seminars all designed to bring quality education at a reasonable cost to mason contractors. Additionally, the Association hosts the MCAA Virtual University where individuals can access online courses any time of the day or night, and complete them at their own pace.
- International Masonry Institute (IMI): In an alliance with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), the two organizations provide training, technical assistance, and continuing education. Offerings include pre-job and advanced training programs, curriculum and standards development, Masonry Camp, certification programs, instructor certification program, supervisor certification program and Contractor College.
Those entering the electrician field after vocational school generally start with a four-year apprenticeship period. During this time, a worker receives on-the-job training and additional education. Industry organizations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association all sponsor these programs. The aspiring electrician usually learns electrical code requirements, safety, blueprint reading, electrical theory and more.
While there are many different avenues for one seeking an electrician apprenticeship, most require the person to be at least 18 years old, a high school graduate, or the holder of a General Equivalency Diploma. Once workers wrap up their apprenticeships, they may go on to become an Electrician Journeyman and ultimately, a Master Electrician.
More information about apprenticeship opportunities and continuing education can be found at:
- The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
- The Independent Electrical Contractors
Carpentry / Framing
This trade, like most in the industry, starts with an apprenticeship and advances to Journeyman and Master Craftsman after so many years. Usually, experience leads the way to qualification for certification. Still, as the industry changes rapidly - moving toward more efficient and environmentally friendly practices - a number of institutes and trade groups provide continuing education on the matters of the day.
- Carpenty/Construction Management and Supervisor
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 60 colleges and universities around the country offer a master's degree programs in construction management or construction science.
Since carpenters and framers help with the actual development of a project, this advancement option is ideal for many in these fields. On average, professionals who receive a master's degree - particularly individuals with extensive experience on the jobsite - become construction managers in very large firms or in construction management companies. Individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in unrelated fields often seek a master's in construction management or construction science simply to work in the industry.
- Modern Green Building Techniques
Organizations such as Build It Green provide professionals in carpentry and other development fields with ongoing courses related to the latest trends in environmentally-friendly construction. This particular group offers a re-certification program (Certified Green Building Professional) that includes class work based on the most modern advances in green building. CGBP holders must renew every two years, taking continuing education in Energy/Building Science, Material/Indoor Air Quality and Site/ Landscaping/ Water.
Materials cover topics such as renewable energy, weatherproofing, insulation, building technology, energy efficiency, structural systems, recycling materials, waste diversion, storm water control, rainwater collection, conservation and more.
Other organizations include:
Plumbers who've finished a four-year apprenticeship and want to jumpstart their careers can take advantage of numerous continuing education resources for this particular trade.
- Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors
This industry organization offers a variety of course work and training materials for plumbers seeking apprenticeship and journeyman status.
The ASSE provides a good number of continuing education resources for plumbers. This organization represents a cross-section of the plumbing industry, using the expertise of plumbers, engineers, journeymen, surveyors, inspectors, manufacturers and code officials for information and course subjects. Specifically, ASSE helps enlighten plumbers on the industry's annually changing standards and code.