A career as a general contractor can be quite lucrative. According to PayScale, Inc., average pay for general contractors can range as high as $86,080, as of December 2010. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that job growth in the construction field through 2018 is expected to increase at a rate faster than the average rate of growth for all other professions. Licensing of general contractors in the state of Tennessee is governed by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance through its Board for Licensing Contractors.
Obtain a license application from the Tennessee Department of Insurance and Commerce through the Board for Licensing Contractors. This form can be downloaded from the board's website. Determine which kind of contractor's license you will need to obtain. General contractors who work or bid on projects greater than $25,000, as of 2010, need to apply for a contractor's license. Work ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 requires a home improvement license.
Register to take the qualifying examination. The type of license you are issued depends upon your level of experience and your financial status. Exams are administered through PSI Services, LLC. The exam is a computer-based examination and requires a $45 fee (as of 2010). If you are a new applicant who has never obtained a contractor's license in the state of Tennessee, you are required to take an examination over Tennessee law and business. The Board for Licensing Contractors notes that some individuals may be required to take a trade exam, testing over a specific trade like plumbing, depending upon what area they plan to work in.
Hire a Certified Public Accountant to prepare a financial statement. You must be in good financial standing to be licensed as a contractor in the state of Tennessee. Your working capital will ultimately determine what limits you will have in bidding on projects.
Request a letter of reference from a previous employer or from a code enforcement official who is familiar with the scope and quality of your work. You can attach the letter to the application and send them in together, if you wish.
Complete all remaining questions in the application. Sign the application and have it notarized. The application must be submitted with a $250 application fee (as of 2010). The application should be submitted to the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors.
Wait for a response from the board. This can take up to three weeks. You may be required to go before the board for an interview, if there are any questions regarding your application. Once all questions have been answered, you application can be approved and your license can be issued.