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How to Get a Carpenter's License

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Obtaining a carpenter’s license is something that should be considered before starting any work in the field of carpentry or construction, even if you are an apprentice. While a handful of states do not require a license or certification to legally work, different counties and towns have different regulations, which may put you at a liability risk. Holding a carpenter’s license also gives you legal recourse in any state, if the customer does not fulfill his part of the contract by refusing to pay.

Check the laws in your state for carpentry licensing. Each state has different laws and regulations. For example, most states require separate licenses for each state, if you live in one state and plan to do work in another. Many states do not require licensing, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York , Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Prepare for the licensing test. The licensing exam is typically a written one covering construction laws, business organizations, and questions that assess your skill level. Many of the exams require letters of reference and proof of financial ability, if you are starting your own business.

Bring all required documentation and fees to the exam. Every state’s requirement is a little different, but for all states, there is usually an exam fee and a licensing fee, proof of a high school diploma or GED equivalent, proof of citizenship, two passport size photos, and documentation of any past violations or other certificates held. If you plan to bid on state jobs, these may require prequalification and/or separate licensing entirely.


A state license bond is required in most states. If you are in an accident or hurt on the job, this prevents you from suing. It is always important to be licensed, and have the proper insurance. You should purchase liability and worker's compensation insurance before beginning work. If you are starting your own business, you must register it with your secretary of state. Each state's conditions for work are set by the tax authority. Requirements may change at any time, so it is important to be aware of your state's current laws.


The penalty for working while unlicensed is usually a fine. However, violations may prevent you from further licensing, and you have no legal authority to sue for payment.