How to Become a Licensed Contractor

The following provides a resource of information for applying for a Tennessee contractor's license.  A good start is by reviewing and printing the application package, as listed below:

Contractor's License Application Package

General Information
  • License Name and Mode of Operation - A contractor's license is obtained as a Sole Proprietor, Corporation, Partnership or LLC, and issued in the exact name listed on the financial statement, which is provided by the owner of the entity (FYI - designated Qualifying Agents are not  considered the owner of the license).  Contractors must bid in the exact name listed on the license.  
  • Exams – The “Tennessee Business and Law” exam is required by ALL new license applicants, (except for BC-A/r), in addition to any applicable “Trade” Exam which may be needed to obtain many classifications such as: Building (Residential, Commercial and Industrial); Electrical; Mechanical (Plumbing, HVAC, Fire Sprinkler); and Masonry.  Each exam cost is $55.00 and PSI is the exam vendor.  See "Classification Outline" for all classifications without a trade exam.
  • Reciprocal – The Board has a trade exam reciprocal agreement with several states (see overview below). This waives the trade, only;  Business and Law is NOT waived.
  • Qualifying Agent (QA) - Person who passed the exam(s) and may be taken by an owner, officer or full time employee.  (FYI - The license does not belong to the QA, unless they also the owner of the business entity providing the financial statement.)
  • Classifications – All licenses are assigned a classification, such as:  BC (Building); CE (Electrical); CMC (Mechanical); HC (Heavy Construction); HRA (Highway, Railroad & Airport); LMC (Masonry); MU (Municipal Utility); Environmental; and Specialties (landscaping, excavation, roofing, cell towers, solar panels, audio visual, etc.,).  Classifications are derived from Rule 0680-1-.16 and see a compilation in the "Classification Outline"  Classification must cover 60% of the total project in order to bid, unless they have a commercial classification, and then they may bid, but would be required to subcontract to a properly licensed contractor for the portions over $25,000. See TCA 62-6-111
  • Monetary Limit - All licenses are issued with a monetary limit, an amount approved for contracting/bidding, and this is based upon your financial statement prepared by a CPA.
  • Financial Statement – Review or Audit is required and must be prepared by a CPA.  
  • Proof of Insurance – General Liability and Workers’ Compensation
  • Secretary of State – For those operating as a corporation, general partnership or LLC, you must be sure to register with the Tennessee Secretary of State at:
  • License Application - Provide list of owners, officers, and qualifying agent (QA) information; experience, history and disclosures (prior licenses; convictions; judgments; law violations; disciplinary actions; complaints, including ones closed, etc.,).  Those with a complaint history, such as complaints on file (open or closed); judgments; revocations; or felony convictions; or discrepancy such as lack of experience, the contractor applicant must interview with a Board member at a regularly scheduled meeting.
  • Deadline Date to Submit Application - The application must be submitted by the 20th of the month prior to the Board meeting. If the 20th is not on a business day, it would be the next business day after the 20th. See the meeting dates from the Board website's Public Meeting Information
  • Application Fee - $250.00 and issued for two (2) years. 
  • License Approval - It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks to be granted a license (do NOT contract, bid or offer prior to obtaining a license). Board review and approval is required.
  • A license may be issued prior to the next Board meeting if approved by the Board. If a license application is approved prior to a Board meeting, the license number will be issued. At the next regularly scheduled meeting, the license will be placed on a list of applications approved prior to the scheduled meeting to be ratified at the scheduled meeting. If you have been issued a license number, you are allowed to start work in Tennessee; however, if your license is not ratified by the Board, you will be promptly notified to suspend your work in Tennessee and provided with an explanation as to why your license was not ratified.
  • An appearance or interview with the Board may be waived as long as there is not a complaint history, conviction, or judgment by any of the individuals or qualifying agents applying for a license; or for ones who did not take the exams, such as the BC-A/r (restricted limited residential license); and if there is not any experience provided. If an interview is required, the qualifying agent and the owner (if different) must both appear.
    • Interview Not Waived - You will be notified in writing of date, time and location to appear. Adequate notice of meeting dates, times, and locations shall be posted. These meetings are generally held during the months of January, March, May, July, September and in November. Interview Waived - Please note, those applicants qualifying to have the interview waived will be notified if their license has been approved and the license number issued. If the license is not ratified, the applicant will be promptly notified.
    • Interview Waived - Please note, those applicants qualifying to have the interview waived will be notified, however, the license is not issued or granted until after the Board meeting (they must vote for approval) at the same meeting months listed above.
  • Denied License - If a contractor has violated the law by contracting prior to obtaining a license, see T.C.A. 62-6-120 for penalties.  The license may be denied and may not participate on any project that was bid prior to obtaining a license.

Limited Restricted Residential ("BC-A/r" Contractor License Classification)
Contractors may apply for a Limited License with a BC-A/r classification, which restricts residential contractors to building in the amount of *$125,000 or less. In lieu of the exams, they may attend a course at a community college . All other application requirements must be fulfilled, including a personal board interview.  The BC-A/r licensee cannot exceed their monetary limit; there is not a 10% tolerance.  In addition, they cannot joint venture with another licensed contractor to combine monetary limits.  The contractor's monetary limit must cover the total project, which includes:  land, labor, materials and equipment, as well as profit.  More information is also available at "BC-A/r" on the Forms and Applications section of the web.

*Rules effective 2/20/2014, allows a BC-A/r to request a limit from $70,000 to up to $125,000 by providing a reviewed financial statement and completing an increase request form.

BC-A/r Class Providers

Nashville State Community College
Contact: (615) 353-3333

Chattanooga State Community College
Contact:  (423) 697-3100

Pellissippi State Community College
Contact:  (865) 694-6400

Memphis State Community College/@Homeprep
Contact:  800-952-0910

McMinnville TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology
Contact:  931-473-5587


Hardship (Emergency) License - Request for Early Review
The Hardship criteria allows a license to be reviewed and approved prior to the Board meeting. However, the hardship must apply to the "owner" or customer of the project; not to the contractor applying for the license. The application must be complete; none of the requirements may be waived.  See special delivery instructions to expedite request which is to scan and email a copy of the application and then mail the originals with fee.  This will help to expedite hardship requests needing immediate attention.  All instructions are outlined in the Hardship application request form.  Hardships approved prior to the Board meeting are posted on our website. The Hardship request form is available online.

Note: If there is a law violation, history of complaints,convictions, or an interview is required (BC-A/r), the hardship is denied and the applicant will be scheduled for an interview with the Board.  

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