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Minnesota General Contractor License: How to Become a Working Contractor

December 7, 2023 9 min. read
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If you are thinking about getting a general contractor license in Minnesota, now is a great time. The number of construction jobs available in the state is on the rise—in early 2023, it was 3% higher than in 2022 and 6% higher than in 2020. 

According to the Economic Research Institute, over 22,000 of those construction jobs belong to general contractors, and their average annual salary is nearly $129,000. Plus, the salary potential is expected to rise 12% in the next five years to more than $144,000.

In this licensing guide, we’ll break down everything you’ll need to know to get licensed as a general contractor in Minnesota.

Do you need a general contractor license in Minnesota?

Whether you need a general contractor license in Minnesota depends on the type of properties you plan to work on. 

If you perform commercial or residential building construction or improvement services  on commercial properties or residential properties with more than four units, a license is not required. However, you must register with the state’s Contractor Registration Program. Check the Minnesota Legislature’s list of registration exemptions if you are unsure whether you need to register for this program.If you perform contracting work on residential properties with one to four units, you must obtain a Residential Building Contractor’s license or a Residential Remodeler’s license from the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) unless contracting activity totals $15,000 or less per year and a Certificate of Exemption is filed.

Types of contractor licenses in Minnesota

The DLI issues two types of licenses for residential contractors in Minnesota: residential remodeler and residential building contractor. Additionally, if a contractor wants to work with manufactured homes, a third license type is available for manufactured home installers. 

For all three, a business is required to obtain the license, though an individual can get licensed through a sole proprietorship.

License TypeDescription 
Residential Remodeler (CR)License holder:
• Can work on existing one- to four-unit residential structures but cannot erect detached garages or build new homes
• Provides services in two or more special skill areas during construction
Residential Building Contractor (BC)License holder:
• Can work on existing one- to four-unit residential structures
• Can build new structures
• Provides services in two or more special skill areas during construction
Manufactured Home Installer (MH)License holder:
• Can install or repair a manufactured home

Note: A prefabricated dwelling can differ from a manufactured home—installing or repairing a prefabricated dwelling may also require a CR or BC license.

How do I get a general contractor license in Minnesota? (steps)

Here are the processes to get the residential contractor licenses listed above—you just need to choose the appropriate application for the type of license you want. 

Residential Remodeler or Residential Building Contractor license

The following steps are the same to get your CR or BC license:

  1. Choose a structure for your business (e.g., individual proprietorship, partnership, corporation)
  2. Register your business with the Minnesota Secretary of State
  3. Designate a qualifying person for your business who will take and pass the written DLI pre-licensing exam
  4. Complete the application
  5. Complete the background disclosure form
  6. Provide a certificate of liability insurance with minimum coverage of $100,000 per occurrence, $300,000 aggregate, and $25,000 in property damage
  7. Provide evidence of workers’ compensation insurance or a reason for exemption
  8. Pay the required license fee and the fee for the Contractor Recovery Fund (amount based on gross annual receipts)

Manufactured Home Installer license

MH licenses have similar requirements as the CR and BC licenses. A manufactured home installer will not have to pay a Contractor Recovery Fund fee but must provide a surety bond.

  1. Choose a structure for your business (e.g., individual proprietorship, partnership, corporation)
  2. Register your business with the Minnesota Secretary of State
  3. Designate a qualifying person for your business who will take and pass the written DLI pre-licensing exam
  4. Complete the application
  5. Complete the background disclosure form
  6. Provide a certificate of liability insurance with minimum coverage of $100,000 per occurrence, $300,000 aggregate, and $25,000 in property damage
  7. Provide evidence of workers’ compensation insurance or a reason for exemption
  8. Provide notarized evidence of an MH installer surety bond for $2,500
  9. Pay the required license fee

For any of these licenses, you may pay the fees by credit card and upload your application online via the DLI’s Intuitive Municipal Solutions (iMS) portal or pay the fees by check or money order and mail your application to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at: 

Construction Codes and Licensing Division 
Licensing and Certification Services 
P.O. Box 64217
St. Paul, MN 55164-0217

Minnesota general contractor exam

A qualifying person for each business must pass a pre-licensing exam before a license is issued. When deciding what type of license you want, it’s important that you match it with the proper exam. For example, those applying for a CR license would take the qualifying remodeler (QC) exam, and those applying for a BC license would take the qualifying builder (QB) exam.

There are no prerequisite education or work experience requirements for any of the exams. You can apply online for an exam or submit an application to the DLI. Once your application has been approved, you will receive scheduling instructions.

Exam TypeExam Information
Residential Remodeler (QC)110 questions
4 hours to write
70% to pass

Topics include:
• Plans and Specifications
• Energy Code
• Building Planning/Life Safety
• Sitework
• Concrete & Masonry Footings and Foundations
• Carpentry
• Roofing
• Exterior Finishes
• Foam Plastic Insulation
• Interior Finishes
Residential Building Contractor (QB)110 questions
4 hours to write
70% to pass

Topics include:
• Plans and Specifications
• Energy Code
• Building Planning/Life Safety
• Sitework
• Concrete & Masonry Footings and Foundations
• Carpentry
• Roofing
• Exterior Finishes
• Foam Plastic Insulation
• Interior Finishes
• Associated Trade Issues
• Job Site Safety
Manufactured Home Installer (QM)90 questions
4 hours to write
70% to pass

Topics include:
• Federal and State Standards, Rules, and Regulations
• Placement and Site Preparation
• Stabilizing System
• Multi-Section Connections and Alternate Construction 
• Site—Utilities Installation and Testing 
• Skirting and Perimeter Enclosure/Ventilation

Applicants are allowed two books to use as references during the exams: the 2020 Minnesota State Residential Code and the DLI Reference Manual for Residential Building Contractor and Residential Remodeler License Exam. See the DLI license examination guide for more details.

Results will be mailed within two weeks of the exam with a letter on the next steps to become certified. If you don’t pass, you must wait 30 days before reapplying for another exam.

Does Minnesota reciprocate general contractor licenses?

Reciprocal license agreements let general contractors from other states apply directly for an equivalent license in Minnesota.

However, currently, Minnesota only has reciprocity agreements for electricians and plumbers.

How much does a general contractor license cost in Minnesota?

The cost of getting a contractor license in Minnesota varies depending on the type of license you want to hold. In general, you can expect to pay about $490-$690 for the examination and initial application process. 

Licensing StepFees
CR and BC License Application$120
Contractor Recovery Fund
(for CR and BC licenses)
• Annual receipts under $1 million: $320 
• Annual receipts between $1 million and $5 million: $420
• Annual receipts over $5 million: $520
CR and BC License Renewal• Annual receipts under $1 million: $445
• Annual receipts between $1 million and $5 million: $545
• Annual receipts over $5 million: $645
CR and BC License Renewal (Late)+$60
MH License Application$180
MH License Renewal $185
MH License Renewal (Late)$275
Exam Application$50

Remember that there will also be fees related to a surety bond for manufactured home installers.

Renewing your general contractor license

When a qualifying person (QP) passes an exam for a residential remodeler, residential building contractor, or manufactured home installer license, they are issued a “Q” registration. This registration must be current and valid to renew the business’s license.

A Q registration may have expiration dates that differ from the license expiration date—it is important to remain compliant so that license renewal isn’t delayed. 

In addition, license renewal will require:

  • An active business filing with the Secretary of State
  • Current general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies

Residential Remodeler or Residential Building Contractor license renewals

Residential remodeler and residential building contractor licenses expire on a two-year cycle ending March 31—licenses can expire in odd years or even years, depending on when they were first issued. Renewal is available 60 days prior to the license expiration date and can be processed online via the iMS portal.

QPs’ registrations will renew once the required 14 hours of DLI-approved continuing education have been completed. See how to check QP education status. CEUs must include at least one hour related to the Energy Code and at least one hour related to business management strategies.

Manufactured Home Installer license renewal

Manufactured home installer licenses expire on a three-year cycle. Renewals can be processed online via the iMS portal.

QPs’ registrations will renew once 12 hours of DLI-approved education have been completed. Of the 12 hours required, a minimum of four hours must be filled with specific education requirements.

What happens if my general contractor license expires? 

If you think your general contractor license may have expired, you need to stop all work immediately. Otherwise, you open yourself up to fees, penalties, and even legal action.

Operating without a residential remodeler or residential building contractor license is considered a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota, and you could be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for each violation. Also, municipalities will only be able to issue permits to licensed contractors.

How to start a contracting business in Minnesota

Registering as a business is actually part of the overall process for becoming a general contractor in Minnesota. For resources on starting a business, including help to get to the point of registering with the Secretary of State, you can visit the website of the Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Department. Once there, you can learn about:

  • Organizing a business
  • Business plans
  • Accounting
  • Business finance basics
  • Business taxes
  • Small business assistance

Once you’re registered, there are few more things you’ll need to think about to truly set your business up for success:

See our library of free contracting business resources for expert advice and templates you get you started.

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

Yes, getting your general contractor license in Minnesota dramatically increases your earning potential and allows you to bid on projects that will grow both your business and your skill set.

The average annual salary for general contractors in Minnesota is $128,600. But that salary can substantially increase alongside your expertise—the top earners in the state bring in $157,149 annually. And you also stand to earn even more than that if you open up your own general contracting business. 

Refer to our guide on “How to make money in construction and remodeling” for more general contractor information, tips, and success stories.

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