How to Become a Home Improvement Contractor

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a home improvement contractor. Research the training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in home improvement contracting.

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Home Improvement Contractors

Home improvement contractors restore, update, and expand pre-existing residential buildings. Often trained as carpenters, these professionals may eventually become self-employed business owners, overseeing crews to complete renovation projects. The work involved in home improvement contracting is physically demanding and often performed outdoors in a variety of weather conditions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary training is available
Degree Field Construction
Experience At least five years of on-the-job training, generally in the carpentry field, often in the form of an apprenticeship
Licensure or Certification Licensing is often required; voluntary certification is available
Key Skills Manual dexterity; good problem-solving skills; stamina to lift, climb, and stand for long periods of time; ability to operate common hand and power tools and accurately measure and record information; ability to read plans; physical strength
Median Salary (2020)* $71,343 per year (for general contractors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *, State licensing boards, National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Let's take a closer look at the steps to becoming a home improvement contractor:

Be a Home Improvement Contractor

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

In order to become licensed or pursue further education making one more competitive in this field, it is necessary to complete a high school diploma or equivalent. Individuals interested in pursuing this career often take classes in math and drawing, or attend vocational schools for shop construction experience.

Step 2: Pursue Career Training

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS) reports that many individuals in the construction industry are trained on the job through apprenticeships or through completion of a technical program. Some schools offer semester-long courses specifically designed to prepare students for the home improvement contractor license exam in a particular state.

Alternatively, a career diploma program in home remodeling and repair may allow for independent study in reading construction plans, installing fixtures, and remodeling rooms. Programs might also cover business topics such as accounting and marketing.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure or Registration

Depending on local regulations, home improvement contractors may be required to register with their city or state and/or obtain licenses. Requirements vary, and both construction and business licenses may be necessary. Independent contractors must also register as state business taxpayers.

In some states, a candidate must pass a licensing exam on home improvement, business, and labor laws. In other jurisdictions, individuals might have to acquire a Home Improvement Contractor License plus a Home Improvement Salesperson License or registration in order to negotiate contracts with homeowners. Some states require construction licenses in home improvement.

Step 4: Earn a College Degree

According to the BLS, a college degree and basic business skills are recommended for construction contractors. A BA in Construction Science can provide training in business management and building techniques. A list of associate, baccalaureate, and master's programs accredited by the American Council for Construction Education can be found on the organization's website,

Step 5: Consider Certification

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers voluntary certification to those with a minimum of five years of experience in the home improvement industry. The NARI certification exam covers codes, laws, safety standards, and industry-specific skills. Certification demonstrates a level of professional knowledge and experience to homeowners. Other certifications include OSHA (Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration) 10 and 30 training, which can now be completed online.

Success Tip:

  • Keep certification current. After obtaining a builder's license from a state or local licensing board, it is required that you renew this credential periodically, depending on state regulations.

Hopeful home improvement contractors should earn a high school diploma or equivalent, pursue training through apprenticeships or technical programs, obtain licensure and/or registration, and consider earning a college degree and certification.

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