Pennsylvania General Contractor License: Get Licensed to Work
Getting your general contractor license in Pennsylvania is a great way to get your foot in the door of the lucrative construction industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for construction managers is $118,940 in the Keystone State. And the job outlook is excellent, too—3,100 new construction jobs were added in 2022 alone. With this in mind, there’s no better time to get started.
Do you need a general contractor license in Pennsylvania?
The state, or commonwealth, of Pennsylvania does not issue general contractor licenses. However, if you contract for home improvement jobs with a total value of $5,000 or more per year, the state does require that you register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office as a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC).
The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act defines a home improvement contractor as any person who operates a home improvement business or performs any home improvements, such as repairs, demolition, remodeling, or renovations, valued at $500 or more to existing residential buildings or adjacent structures.
Note that while the residential and commercial construction work that a general contractor does is not licensed at the state level, it is licensed at the municipal level. Before starting any projects, you need to check in with your local authority to make sure you’re aware of the rules. For example, two of the biggest cities in Pennsylvania—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—require you to get a license before taking on any projects. In this guide, we’ll look at the general contractor licensing process for these cities.
Types of contractor licenses in Pennsylvania
The type of general contractor license you need will vary depending on where in the state you want to work and the type of work you want to do. Here are the license options in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh:
If you only work on existing one- or two-family dwellings and do not perform work that requires a specialized license (complete demolition, electrical, plumbing, fire suppression), you need only register as an HIC with the state.
But if your work involves performing construction, demolition, repair, or specialized trades on other types of buildings, you are required to apply for a contractor license and/or a specialized license. In Philadelphia, the Department of Licenses and Inspections is responsible for licensing and permitting.
Again, if you only work on existing one- or two-family dwellings and do not perform work that requires a specialized permit, you need only register as an HIC with the state.
But if your work involves construction of new one- or two-family dwellings, renovations to one- or two-family dwellings used as rental or investment properties, or construction, demolition, or repair on other types of buildings, you are required to apply for a general contractor license. In Pittsburgh, the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (L&I) is responsible for licensing and permitting.
How do I get a general contractor license in Pennsylvania? (steps)
Just like different cities and regions have different types of contractor licenses, the process and requirements for getting your license change depending on where you are in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania home improvement contractor (HIC) registration
- Fill out the application
- Register your business with the Pennsylvania Department of State, if applicable
- Provide proof of personal injury liability insurance (at least $50,000) and property damage insurance (at least $50,000), if applicable, or an attestation of self-insurance
- Pay the relevant application fee
Submit a completed PDF application by mail to:
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Attn: Home Improvement Contractor Registration
15th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Or you can apply and pay online via the Office of the Attorney General’s online portal.
Philadelphia contractor license application
- Apply online using the eCLIPSE portal
- Agree to abide by the Contractor Code of Conduct
- Complete a basic safety training course (or an approved alternative training)
- All registered HIC contractors must complete an OSHA 10-hour course
- All supervisory employees of construction businesses must complete an OSHA 30-hour course within five years of the application date
- Provide certificates of insurance with coverage in these minimum amounts:
- General liability: $500,000 per occurrence
- Automobile liability: $300,000 combined single limit
- Workers’ compensation:
- $100,000 per accident
- $100,000 per employee
- $500,000 policy limit
- Ensure you are current with all City of Philadelphia taxes
- Pay the relevant application fee
Alternatively, you can apply in person by scheduling an appointment with the Permit and License Center, located at:
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
MSB, Public Service Concourse
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Additionally, all contractors in Philadelphia must abide by the Contractor Code of Conduct. Keep in mind that there are other business requirements in Philadelphia, too, such as paying the Business Income & Receipts Tax (BIRT) and getting a Commercial Activity License to be able to do business in the city.
Pittsburgh general contractor license application
- Fill out the application
- Provide a government-issued photo ID
- Provide evidence of general liability insurance coverage
- Provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance or a notarized workers’ compensation exemption affidavit
- Provide a business tax compliance letter to verify compliance with all relevant city taxes
- Obtain an EPA Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) certification (visit the EPA website for more information)
- Pay the relevant application fee
Mail application, fees, and required documents to the City of Pittsburgh Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections at:
200 Ross Street, Suite 320
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Alternatively, you can apply online using the OneStopPGH portal.
Pennsylvania general contractor exam
Registering as a home improvement contractor with the state does not require an examination. Also, you’ll find that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh do not require licensure exams either.
However, some cities in Pennsylvania, like Scranton, do require you to provide evidence of a passing score on a Uniform Construction Code (UCC) exam or International Code Council (ICC) exam before issuing a contractor license. Make sure you check in with your regional authority before starting any projects.
Does Pennsylvania reciprocate general contractor licenses?
Reciprocal license agreements let professionals from out of state apply directly for a general contractor license. Unfortunately, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh do not currently have any reciprocity agreements.
Because licensing is not conducted at the state level, you will need to check with your regional authority to determine if reciprocity is possible.
How much does a general contractor license cost in Pennsylvania?
You can expect to pay less than $200 initially for permission to work as a general contractor in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, depending on the type of work you want to perform:
|Type of Certification||Fee|
|Home Improvement Contractor Registration||• Registration: $50|
• Renewal: $50
|Philadelphia Contractor License||• License: $116 (includes a $20 non-refundable application fee)|
• Renewal: $116
• Late renewal: $116 + fees
|Pittsburgh General Contractor License||• License: $90|
• Renewal: $90
• Late renewal: $90 + fees
Renewing your general contractor license
Here’s some key information about renewing your general contractor license or registration in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania home improvement contractor (HIC) renewal
HIC registrations are renewed every two years and can be completed online. The cost is the same as the initial registration.
Philadelphia contractor license renewal
Contractor licenses are renewed annually, and the cost is the same as the initial licensing. License holders are given a 60-day grace period to pay renewal fees before late fees are assessed. If your renewal is not processed within 60 days of the license expiration, you will be charged an additional 1.5% of the license fee for each month the renewal is past the expiration date.
You can renew online through the eCLIPSE portal or in person at the Permit and License Center. To successfully renew your license, you must:
- Have paid all Philadelphia city taxes
- Have proof of an active insurance policy
- Provide the Department of L&I with eligible supervisor information
- Supervisor must maintain a current OSHA 30 safety training certificate—if a supervisor has already submitted a certificate, they may take 30 hours of continuing education credits in construction or demolition safety in lieu of retaking the OSHA 30 course
Pittsburgh general contractor license renewal
General contractor licenses are renewed annually, and the cost is the same as initial licensing. License holders are given a 60-day grace period to pay renewal fees before late fees are assessed. If your renewal is not processed within 60 days of the license expiration, your license will lapse, and you will be required to follow the application process again.
What happens if my general contractor license expires?
No matter where you are in Pennsylvania, 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.
For instance, if you operate without a home improvement contractor registration, legal action can be brought against you, and there is a minimum fine of $1,000.
To avoid any issues, make sure you check with your regional authority and renew all necessary licenses and registrations and pay any applicable fees in a timely manner.
How to start a contracting business in Pennsylvania
Once you have secured your HIC registration or contractor license and built up some experience in the industry, you are ready to take the next step: starting your own general contracting business.
The PA Business One-Stop Shop can help you to get started. It’s a valuable resource that provides information for planning, registering, and permitting a business, hiring employees, receiving funding, obtaining technical assistance, and more. It also offers a customized business checklist tailored for your business needs based on a 5-7-minute questionnaire—saving you time and duplicated efforts.
Some of the steps to get you started include:
- Writing a business plan
- Naming your business
- Choosing a business structure
- Getting business advice
To make sure your business is successful, you’ll also want to think about:
- Pricing your services appropriately
- Securing financing and setting up an accounting system
- Finding the necessary equipment and product suppliers
- Setting up general contracting business software
- Creating a sales strategy
- Generating leads for your general contractor business
See our library of free contracting business resources to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
Does a general contractor license in Pennsylvania increase your earning potential?
Yes, getting a contracting registration or license in Pennsylvania allows you to boost your earning potential—without one, you could be limited to jobs valued at less than $500.
The average salary for construction managers in the state is close to $119,000, but top earners can bring in as much as $171,000. As with most jobs, salaries increase over time based on experience. Plus, you can increase your earning potential even more by starting your own contracting business.
To learn more, refer to our guide on “How to make money in construction and remodeling.”