There are a number of areas in Pennsylvania where general contractors can earn an above-average salary for their industry. In fact, two of the country’s top-paying non-metropolitan areas for construction managers are located in this state.
In the Western Pennsylvania and Northern Pennsylvania non-metropolitan areas, the average annual wage for general contractors is $119,030 and $116,990, respectively.1
The good news continues because Pennsylvania also has a low barrier to entry for this profession. There are no state-level licenses required to work as a general contractor in Pennsylvania. However, you may need to register with the Attorney General and check with your local jurisdiction for any additional registration or licensing requirements.
To help those interested in working as general contractors in Pennsylvania, we’ve put together this guide to assist you in navigating the requirements in the state. Learn more about how to get your general contractor license in Pennsylvania, including:
- Do you need a license to be a general contractor?
- How to get a general contractor license in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania general contractor license requirements
- How long does it take to get your general contractor license?
- Pennsylvania general contractor license renewal requirements
- General contractor license reciprocity
- What kind of insurance does a general contractor need in Pennsylvania?
- What is the certificate of insurance requirement?
Do you need a license to be a general contractor?
There are no statewide Pennsylvania general contractor license or certification requirements. However, any contractor who performs at least $5,000 worth of home improvements per year must register with the Attorney General’s office.2 Contractors earning less than $5,000 in a calendar year and retailers with a net worth of $50 million or more are exempt from the requirement.
This home improvement contractor registration is only required for contractors who complete projects related to an existing private residence, such as repairs, renovations, demolitions and installations. Exemptions apply when working on projects for new homes.
The requirement applies to all types of construction contractors, including plumbing and electrical contractors, architects and engineers. Therefore, it’s important for general contractors to make sure any subcontractors they work with, such as plumbers or electricians, are also registered with the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Failure to register is a violation of the law. Unregistered contractors may face legal action and civil penalties of $1,000 or more.
Local licensing requirements
While no requirement for a state-issued Pennsylvania general contractors license exists, it’s important to research any requirements that may apply to construction projects in your local jurisdiction. Cities or towns may impose their own licensing requirements for contractors, such as:
Philadelphia, PA contractor license
A license is required for any business doing work that involves construction, demolition or repair.3
Pittsburgh, PA contractor license
A license is required for all work performed under a commercial building permit as well as construction and renovations of family dwellings.4
Scranton, PA contractors licenses
A home improvement contractor license is required for residential work. A general contractors license is required for multi-family residential, commercial, industrial and demolition work.5
Contact your local government to find out whether you must obtain a Pennsylvania contractor license to work in your city or town. Each jurisdiction or municipality will have its own process for submitting a license application.
How to get a general contractor license in Pennsylvania
You may register your general contracting business with the Attorney General online or by mailing in the registration form. When submitting your application, you’ll need to complete the following steps.
Provide your business details
You must provide information about any home improvement businesses that you previously operated, if applicable, including the business name(s). Include details about any contractor licenses or registrations you hold.
Disclose background information
You must detail information about any prior bankruptcies, criminal pleas, civil judgments or convictions. You will also be asked whether you have ever had a professional license suspended or revoked.
Show proof of insurance
You must submit proof that you have obtained the type of general contractor insurance required by the state. You can find more details about insurance coverage requirements here.
Complete the certification
The final page of the registration application lists a number of certification statements. You must sign and date this page to indicate that you agree to these statements.
Pay the registration fee
To register, you must submit a non-refundable application fee of $50. If paying by check, make it payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania general contractor license requirements
Pennsylvania has no specific education or training requirements for registering as a home improvement contractor. Applicants must detail prior contracting businesses they’ve operated on their registration application, but they are not required to provide details about their work experience.
How long does it take to get your general contractor license?
General contractors who submit their applications online will receive a registration number and printable temporary registration certificate instantaneously, with an official registration certificate arriving later by mail.
If you submit your application as a hard copy by mail, the estimated processing time is approximately four weeks.
Pennsylvania general contractor license renewal requirements
Pennsylvania home improvement contractor registrations are valid for two years. You must renew your registration biennially by logging in to your online account on the Attorney General's website and filling out the “Renew or Update Information” section.
Alternatively, you may submit another application form to renew your registration. Be sure to check the box indicating that you are applying for a registration renewal and include your current registration number on the form.
General contractor license reciprocity
Pennsylvania does not maintain any general contractor reciprocity agreements with other states. Out-of-state contractors who perform home improvements in Pennsylvania must comply with the law and register their business using the same application system as in-state contractors.
What kind of insurance does a general contractor need in Pennsylvania?
You’ll need general contractor insurance to comply with Pennsylvania’s contractor registration requirements. Some of the types of Pennsylvania business insurance which can help provide important protections include:
General Liability insurance
General liability insurance can help provide coverage for potential work-related accidents, such as a client injury or damage to someone’s property.
Workers’ Compensation insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance can help provide wage protection and coverage for medical expenses if an injury occurs on the job. In Pennsylvania, all employers are legally required to carry workers’ comp coverage.6
Tools and Equipment insurance
Tools and equipment insurance can help cover repairs and replacements if any of your work gear is stolen or damaged.
Commercial Auto insurance
Because contractors often drive to different worksites, you may want commercial auto insurance, which can help cover costs related to accidents, such as towing, repairs and rental reimbursement.
Commercial Property insurance
If you own or rent property for your general contracting business, commercial property insurance can help cover any damage or vandalism that may occur.
What is the certificate of insurance requirement?
With your registration application, you must submit insurance policy information showing at least $50,000 of personal injury liability coverage and $50,000 of property damage coverage. Contractors who wish to self-insure instead must submit a separate Self-Insurance Certificate of Coverage and Attestation form with their application.
How NEXT Insurance supports Pennsylvania general contractors
At NEXT, we offer convenient, affordable options for general contractor insurance. When you need self-employed general contractor insurance or general contractor business insurance coverage to comply with state licensing requirements and protect your business, we’ve got your back.
Our online services make it easy to apply using any computer or mobile device. You can compare insurance options, purchase coverage and get a certificate of insurance in just minutes.
NEXT Insurance has helped thousands of contractors like you get affordable insurance designed to meet their unique needs.
Get an instant quote online today.
Are you interested in becoming a general contractor in another U.S. state? Learn what states require general contractor licenses in our summary of general contractor license requirements.
1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
2 Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania