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The construction trade in Massachusetts is a growing industry in high demand. With an industry growth rate of 19% and a job creation expectation of over 43,000 jobs in 2020, there are many opportunities for successful careers. General contracting can be a particularly rewarding job both financially and personally for a detail-oriented, highly motivated person.
Construction work is always in demand, and a general contractor has their pick of jobs and projects to work on. If you have experience in construction and want to advance your career, the path to a general contractor’s license is fairly straightforward.
Once you have decided upon this career path and establish that you have the necessary experience, a licensing exam is all that stands between you and your new career.
Virtually all construction projects in Massachusetts require a licensed supervisor. While Massachusetts does not have a specific general contractors’ license, there are two types of equivalent licenses.
One is specifically for home improvement, and the other covers all types of construction. Regardless of which type you choose, your process will be virtually the same.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of applying for your license, and point you in the direction of important resources you’ll need for the process.
Job Description: General Contractor
General contractors have many responsibilities and oversee an enormous amount of work and planning throughout the construction process. If you are a detail-oriented individual who enjoys watching numerous parts of a project come together, you might enjoy becoming a general contractor.
General contractors manage an entire project and work with both clients and crew to communicate everything from design details and timelines to legal requirements and planning procedures, to name just a few of the responsibilities.
General contractors are responsible for everything from the very start of a project to the final details, and as such they must be highly knowledgeable and organized.
A successful general contractor takes control of their work experience from beginning to end. They are responsible for creating the bids for the projects they want to take on.
This means that they must create a detailed list of all anticipated potential expenses to present to the client based on the provided plans and blueprints.
These lists include details on material costs, labor, equipment, and other potential costs to create a general estimate of the overall cost of the project. To do this successfully, contractors must be intimately familiar with the various elements of construction and work with a construction estimator to accurately anticipate the final cost of the project.
If the bid is accepted, the general contractor must begin organizing the start of the project. This means contracting the labor and acquiring the resources and equipment, as well as choosing to either find an on-site manager to supervise the construction or opting to work on-site with the team and supervise themselves.
In referencing a bid, let’s say a bid was created and accepted for a food testing lab design. We would design and manufacture various kinds of lab casework for storage and organization purposes made of either stainless steel, metal, custom, or even a combination of all three.
For lab worksurfaces, chemical epoxy resin and phenolic resin countertops are ideal choices along with stainless steel countertops as well, since they are chemical resistant, durable, and don’t promote bacteria growth. We can even create high-quality and custom workbenches, lab tables, and microscope tables for testing and daily task assignments.
Many general contractors choose to manage their projects in person so that they can have an active hand in controlling the safety and efficiency of the process.
Additionally, general contractors must anticipate and prepare for the timeline of the project. This means not just determining how long it will take in optimal conditions, but also building in contingencies based on weather conditions and crew safety.
To summarize, general contractors are in charge of the following:
- Crew safety
- Equipment and site safety
- Permits and street closures
- Anticipating weather conditions and scheduling accordingly
- Enforcing quality and safety standards
Special Skills & Qualifications
General contracting is more than just good construction work: it requires managerial skills and organizing ability. Developing your interpersonal and planning skills are just as important as developing your construction techniques and project management abilities.
You also will need to be very familiar with Massachusetts’s building codes and their enforcement.
No matter where you work as a general contractor, having the following skills will help you in your career:
- Ability to read building plans and blueprints
- Building/construction skills
- Excellent time management and organizational skills
- Attention to detail
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills
- Budget and purchasing experience
- Comfortable working with new people
- Able to learn quickly and in stressful situations
- Concern for the wellbeing of others and a touch of perfectionism
Qualifications to Become a General Contractor In Massachusetts
If you think working as a general contractor could be a good fit for you, professionally, you will need to meet the requirements of the state in which you plan to practice. In Massachusetts, both general contractor license types have the same initial requirements for education and experience but have different exams.
Massachusetts does not require a degree to get a general contractor’s license. However, you must be able to pass a general knowledge exam.
You must be at least 18 years old to begin working in construction, and many employers show a preference for applicants who have completed their basic education. Additionally, education experience can count towards the three years of verifiable hands-on experience needed to become a general contractor in Massachusetts.
You will need at least three years of construction experience in the past ten years to become a general contractor in Massachusetts. Up to two years of required experience may be fulfilled by academic experience. Up to one year may be fulfilled by a vocational program, while a formal degree in a related field fulfills up to two years.
To earn a general contractor license, applicants will need to pass an exam covering general construction knowledge and Massachusetts State Billing Code. Exams are open book and multiple-choice, and applicants must score at least 70% to pass. More information and registration can be found online.
Per the Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations and Standards, construction on any building or structure needs a licensed supervisor. There are two types of general licenses: the Unrestricted Construction Supervisor License (CSL) and the Home Improvement Contractor License (HICL), and which one you apply for depends on the type of projects you plan on overseeing.
The two license types are not interchangeable, and a HIC registration is different from a CSL registration. Most general contractors in Massachusetts eventually need both types of licenses depending on the work they do.
To demonstrate your experience, you can use a letter of attestation, which must be notarized by the person giving the references. Transcripts, as well as copies of financial forms such as W2s, 1099s, 1120s and Schedule C’s have also been accepted.
Additionally, you must mail your exam score report to the Board at 1000 Washington St, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118. You will also have to provide proof of liability insurance regardless of the type of license you are applying for.
General Contractor Licensing Fee Overview
The exact amount of fees you must pay to get a general contractor license in Massachusetts varies depending on factors such as whether or not you have a business with employees. If so, you are required to contribute to the Secretary of State’s Guaranty Fund according to the size of your company.
All contractors are also required to have bond insurance before beginning any work, which can be purchased through bonding companies or your preferred liability insurance carrier.
- Exam administration fee – $100 per exam
- CSL Licensing fee – $150 per license
- HIC Registration – $150
- Guaranty Fund contribution – $100-500
- 0 to 3 employees – $100
- 4 to 10 employees – $200
- 11 to 30 employee – $300
- More than 30 employees – $500
Generally, most general contractors can expect to spend between $250 and $900 getting started in Massachusetts, but this is highly dependent on the size of your business.
Average Massachusetts General Contractor Salary & Benefits
The average Massachusetts general contractor makes $65,682 a year, significantly higher than the national average of $57,309. The top 10% of earners make $108,649 annually in Massachusetts, based on skill and opportunity.
The Path To Become A General Contractor In Massachusetts
So, does being a general contractor sound like an ideal career path for you? You can get started by following these basic steps.
1. Gain Experience
Since Massachusetts requires general contractor license applicants to have a minimum of three years of formal experience, working or gaining an education in construction should be the first step on your path to becoming a general contractor.
2. Select A License
Once you have the necessary experience, you need to choose which license or licenses you want to apply for. Most contractors will want to get both the Unrestricted Construction Supervisor License and the Home Improvement Contractor License, but if you want to specialize in home repair and construction you only need the HIC license.
3. Register for Exam
Once you are ready to begin the formal licensing process, you can register for your exam. Registration is available online but, remember that your scores must be submitted via mail during the final step of the licensing process.
4. Complete License Application
Complete all required sections of your chosen license. License applications can be found online, but your completed application will need to be submitted via mail along with all related documents and fees.
5. Submit Documents & Pay Fees
Submit your completed license application and relevant documents (i.e. school transcripts, notarized references, your formal exam scores) by mail to the State Board of Building Regulation and Standards. Applications must be submitted within a year of passing your exam. Documents should be mailed to:
Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulation and Standards
1000 Washington St, Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118
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