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How to Become a General Contractor in Alabama

Alabama is growing rapidly: its GDP increased by 4.4% in the last quarter of 2023, following a splendid trajectory from the past few years. All this economic growth translates into a growing population and a need for more commercial facilities, which means that construction is booming throughout the state. You can share in Alabama's economic success by becoming a general contractor, a construction professional who builds streets, highways, homes, and facilities worth more than $50,000.

It’s a little easier to get a contracting license in Alabama than in other states due to the fact that there are no formal education requirements, but this does not mean anyone can become a general contractor; it takes training, skill, and plenty of study before you can officially call yourself a member of this elite profession. Today, we’ll explore the requirements to become a general contractor in the Yellowhammer state.

Work in Construction for Two Years

While you do not need to undergo a formal construction education in order to become a general contractor, you do need to have experience in the trade. Your resume will become your greatest asset, especially as you need to provide references when you apply for the exam.

During this time, you’ll work under licensed contractors who can show you the ropes of this specialized profession. You’ll be exposed to different construction subspecialties, like masonry and roofing, so that you can identify your natural talents and focus your attention on better understanding these areas. Working under another contractor will also expose you to the different facets of running a contracting business, which will prove immensely useful when you set out on your own.

Meet the Licensing Legal Requirements

Before you sit for the exam, you’ll want to ensure that you have all your paperwork in order. You need to have a qualifying party, which is someone who has already passed the general contractor building exam in the state of Alabama and clears a background check. In addition to this, you will need to be registered with the Alabama Secretary of State and prove that you have general liability insurance.

Lastly, as general contracting requires working capital, you must show a current financial document proving that you will be able to afford a project that you take on.

Pass the Exam

Alabama does not have its own specialized exam; rather, it relies on the NASCLA Commercial General Building Contractor exam, which is also administered in many other states to provide a standardized education across the US. You will then take a separate section that focuses on Alabama business and law principles, including contract law, project management, personnel management, and recordkeeping.

The NASCLA exam has 115 questions with a time limit of 330 minute; you must have a 70% grade or more to pass. While it is open book, many of the questions require significant calculations, so you need to fully understand all of the principles before you submit your application to take the exam.

Many aspiring contractors find it helpful to take an Alabama general contractor building license exam prep course before they schedule their test date. These programs provide practice questions, study materials, and book highlights to help you prepare; you can also personalize your experience to select only the modules that you feel you need most help with. Steady practice, as well as your hands-on training, will ensure that you’re well-positioned to pass the exam on the first try.

The Next Steps: Opening a Contracting Business

Most general contractors decide to open their own contracting business, and for good reason: it allows you to choose your own projects, decide on your own hours, and enjoy the satisfaction of being a small business owner. You can operate as a sole proprietor if you choose, but having a registered business provides you with greater legal protections. If a project goes awry, it is your business that will be sued, not you individually; this protects your personal assets from seizure by the courts.

Just as with any business decision, opening a contracting business requires understanding the local market, gathering capital, and earning clients through networking and marketing. Most general contractors work with subcontractors for some of the work and instead take a project management position, so you’ll have to develop strong relationships with other trade professionals who you trust to do a good job. After all, it will be your name on the project documents, and their poor work will reflect badly on you.

Alabama’s hot market creates ample opportunities for those who love to work with their hands and be a part of creating the state’s future. It requires practice, diligence, and a strong understanding of the industry, not to mention business acumen, in order to become a general contractor, but with the right resources, a bright future in construction can await you. Work with a test prep company before applying for the exam to ensure the best possible chance of success after you have that all-important credential in hand.