There’s no argument that you must take a certain number of continuing education courses in order to have your general contractor’s license renewed on an annual basis. Though the number of courses varies from state to state—and some states don’t even require licensing—it’s a given that at some point in the year, you’re going to have to take these courses. And that’s a good thing. Not just because education is a critical part of what we do as contractors, but because the courses can help you increase your revenue. Let me show you how.
Where is the money being made in contracting?
First, let’s take a look at the numbers. Are you working in one of the states that need contractors? According to 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the following states employ the most construction workers:
1. California – 658,360
2. Texas – 629,030
3. Florida – 393,030
4. New York – 346,320
5. Pennsylvania – 221,610
6. Ohio – 187,630
7. Illinois – 183,960
8. North Carolina – 167,930
9. Washington – 161,140
10.Virginia – 158,230
You can look at this data in two ways. My company is based in North Carolina, number eight on this list. I generate over seven figures annually with my business, so North Carolina has plenty of jobs available, and it’s where I’ll stay.
On the other hand, you can look at this data this way: as a general contractor in New Mexico, for example, there is less competition from other GC’s. Therefore, establishing a business in New Mexico could potentially make you a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
But according to Ken Simonsen, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), contractors should also look at what’s driving sustained construction activity in a state, such as economic and population growth. This is a lot different from the kind of temporary construction activity that a state can see from things like heavy storm damage repairs.
If you look exclusively at real construction GDP growth for the same year, AGC’s data shows that the top ten states are:
7. West Virginia
8. New Mexico
Our New Mexico example takes on an entirely different meaning now. New Mexico would appear to be a growth state that isn’t inundated with general contractors. On the other hand, a state like Florida has both growth and a Top Three employment rate for contractors.
Conventional wisdom states that you go where the jobs are. As the data above shows, those jobs are in some of the most populous states in the country—California, Texas, and New York. Just remember that without a valid contractor’s license, you’re not going anywhere.
How much money can a contractor make?
Next, let’s take a look at earning potential. Since the cost of living varies from state to state, so does the average amount paid to a skilled worker. According to 2018 BLS data comparing mean state wages to mean national wages, these are the states that pay the best:
1. Hawaii – $33.04 (+34% compared to the U.S. average)
2. Illinois – $32.23 (+31%)
3. Alaska – $31.61 (+28%)
4. New York – $31.14 (+26%)
5. Massachusetts – $30.62 (+24%)
6. New Jersey – $29.92 (+22%)
7. Washington – $29.23 (+19%)
8. California – $28.67(+16%)
9. Minnesota – $28.63 (+16%)
10.Connecticut – $28.34 (+15%)
It’s important to note that this data is all pre-COVID. As the pandemic lifts and more people go back to work, this data will likely change. The takeaway here is to see if demand is matching wages: more demand should create higher wages. Furthermore, those wages need to match the cost of living in the area in which you’re working. Hawaii, California, and New York are the three states with the highest cost of living in the country. But notice that California’s wages rank #8. This may make it difficult to make ends meet in that market.
In California, all general contractors holding a building, residential or unclassified contractor license classification will now be required to have one of their qualifiers—that’s right, only one—complete eight hours of continuing education on an annual basis in order to renew their license.
What are my continuing education requirements for my general contractor’s license if I move to another state?
The licensing requirements for general contractors are different for every state in the country, but one thing is true no matter which state you work in: you cannot use your general contractor’s license from one state to work in another state. In other words, if you pack your bags in Wyoming to seek contracting work in California, your Wyoming license will not allow you to work legally in California.
Here’s a great resource to check for individual licensing requirements on a state-by-state basis: License Requirement Check. When looking up the requirements, make sure you take note of what, if any, continuing education courses are required to renew your license annually. Because no matter where you decide to seek your contracting fortune, none of it makes a difference without an up-to-date and valid contracting license.