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Michigan General Contractor License: Get Licensed to Work

September 12, 2023 7 min. read
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Getting licensed as a general contractor in Michigan is an excellent way to break into the lucrative construction industry—Michigan’s construction market size is a staggering $21 billion. And according to the Economic Research Institute, the average salary for a general contractor in Michigan is more than $128,000 per year, with top earners bringing in more than $157,000.

This licensing guide breaks down everything you’ll need to know to get licensed as a general contractor in Michigan:

Do you need a general contractor license in Michigan?

Yes, you need a general contractor license in Michigan. The only exception is if you work on a project with a value of less than $600, including material and labor, which doesn’t provide much opportunity for you to earn a living. 

Note that it is against the law to break a larger contract into increments of less than $600 in an attempt to avoid getting licensed.

In Michigan, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) oversees general contractor licensing.

Types of contractor licenses in Michigan

There are two types of contractor licenses that LARA issues:

License TypeDescription
Residential BuilderLicense holder is primarily involved in the construction of a residential or residential/commercial structure or in the repair, alteration, or improvement of a residential or residential/ commercial structure
Maintenance & Alterations ContractorLicense holder is involved in one or more specific trades or crafts, including:
• Basement waterproofing
• Carpentry
• Concrete
• Excavation
• Gutters
• House wrecking
• Insulation work
• Masonry
• Roofing
• Screens and storm sash
• Siding
• Swimming pools
• Tile & marble

Michigan general contractor license requirements

Before you apply for either of these types of licenses, you’ll be required to take an approved 60-hour prelicensure course, and you cannot apply for a license until you pass the course. At least six hours of instruction must come from each of these areas of competency:

  • Business management, estimating, and job costing
  • Design and building science
  • Contracts, liability, and risk management
  • Marketing and sales
  • Project management and scheduling
  • The Michigan Residential Code
  • Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) construction safety standards

After successful completion of the prelicensure course, an applicant will be ready to complete the license application and take the licensing exam.

Beyond these state requirements, most cities in Michigan don’t require additional licensure or exams to work within their city limits. However, some cities, like Grand Rapids, do have additional requirements you’ll need to meet, so make sure you check in with your regional authority before starting any projects.

How to get a general contractor license in Michigan

To get a contractor license in Michigan, applicants need to: 

  1. Complete 60 hours of prelicensure course material
  2. Fill out the Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor License or Relicense application
  3. Provide copies of your personal identification
  4. Provide proof of a Michigan business address
  5. Pay the initial license fee*
  6. Submit all documents to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Construction Codes/Licensing Division at: 

P.O. Box 30255
Lansing, MI 48909

Once LARA has received your application with all the necessary information and materials, the department will approve you to take your Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor exam.

 *If you’re a veteran and can show that your separation from the armed forces was “honorable” or “general under honorable conditions,” you’re exempt from paying the initial license fee. Just make sure you include a copy of your Form DD-214 or Form DD-215 in lieu of your application fee.

Michigan general contractor exam

Once LARA has approved you to take your exam, you can register online for either the Residential Builder exam or the Maintenance & Alteration Contractor exam by using PSI’s registration site. The exam must be scheduled within one year of the date your application is approved.

Residential Builder• 160 questions
• 110 practice/trade questions
• 50 business/law questions
• 240 minutes to write
• 73% to pass (116/160)
• $117 fee
Maintenance & Alterations Contractor• 75-105 questions, depending on the trade or craft being tested
• 25-55 trade-specific questions
• 50 business/law questions
• 135 minutes to write for each trade or craft being tested
• 72% to pass 
• $70-$114 fee, depending on the number of trades or crafts being tested

You can refer to the PSI Candidate Information Bulletin for more information about either exam. If you prefer to register by mail, fax, or email, there is a form on page 13 of the bulletin.

Does Michigan reciprocate general contractor licenses?

If you’re a contractor that holds a license in another state, you’ll want to know if Michigan will honor that license without having you do additional paperwork.

Unfortunately, Michigan does not have reciprocity agreements with other states, so you’ll have to meet all requirements for a Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor to apply for a new license.

How much does a general contractor license cost in Michigan?

The cost of getting a contractor license in Michigan varies depending on the type of license you want to hold. In general, you can expect to pay a little more than $300 for the initial application and exam process. 

Licensing StepFee
Original Application$195
Exams$117 for Residential Builder
$70-114 for Maintenance & Alterations Contractor

Renewing your general contractor license

In Michigan, all licensees must show proof of the following continuing competency requirements (CCRs) to renew and keep licenses current:

All licensees must complete the following 3 hours of CCRs during each three-year renewal period:

  • 1 hour on building codes and laws
  • 1 hour on safety
  • 1 hour on changes in construction and business management laws

In addition, if you’ve been licensed for fewer than six years, your requirements also include:

  • A total of 21 hours of CCRs during the first three-year period of licensing and an additional 21 hours during the second three-year period (the three 1-hour courses listed above plus 18 hours of ‘other’ topics)
  • At least 3 hours of these CCRs must be completed each year

Residential Builder and Maintenance & Alterations Contractor licenses must be renewed every three years by May 31st. The state will mail you a license renewal 90 days before your license expires, and you can complete your renewal online. You can visit Michigan’s license lookup tool to verify your license issuance date.

What happens if my general contractor license expires? 

If you think your license has expired, stop all general contracting work immediately. Otherwise, you open the door to fees, penalties, and even legal action. Depending on the offense, fines for operating without a valid license range from $5,000 to $25,000, and jail time is possible.

To avoid this scenario, you should renew your license as soon as you can. If you missed the 90-day renewal window, you can still pay your license fee and a late renewal fee up to 60 days past the expiration date of your license. Other conditions apply if it has been more than 60 days since your license expired. Consult the Michigan Occupational Code for more information.

How to start a contracting business in Michigan

Once you have received your Michigan Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alterations Contractor license, you can begin thinking about starting your own general contractor business.

You can register your business with the Department of Treasury, giving you the proper tax license and permits to conduct work in Michigan.

Special note: If you’re a DBA (doing business as) entity, you must also register with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

For further questions and resources, you’ll want to check out Michigan’s guide on starting your business.

There are also some practical considerations for general contractors who are thinking of starting their own company, including: 

Does a general contractor license in Michigan increase your earning potential?

Yes, obtaining a general contractor license in Michigan definitely allows you to increase your earning potential because, without a license, you can only contract for jobs worth $600 or less. 

A Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alterations Contractor license allows you to tap into the projected above-average 8% growth rate that is happening in the construction management industry between now and 2031. While the average salary for a general contractor in Michigan is $128,000, you stand to earn even more as you increase your level of experience.

If you were ever debating whether or not to jump into this thriving market—know that now is the time! To learn more, refer to our guide on How to make money in construction and remodeling.

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