How to Get a Carpenter License

Published: Feb 14, 2023
How to Get a Carpenter License


Carpenters take on a wide variety of roles across the construction industry, from removing walls and remodeling homes to making cabinets, fitting floors and building kitchens. Because carpentry is such an important job, a lot of states have opted to regulate the industry by issuing carpentry licenses. Requirements vary significantly between states, so it’s important to find out the rules and regulations in your area.

So, for aspiring carpenters across the US, we explain exactly what a carpenter license is, including a rundown of the most common licensing requirements in various states, plus we’ve detailed six steps to help you along the way to becoming fully licensed. Read on to learn more with Lance Surety.

What Is a Carpenter License?

A carpenter license is a type of professional license issued to qualified tradespeople. Carpenters that work in a state that requires a license will need to meet set licensing requirements before they can be issued with the document, and it is these requirements that prove that the carpenter can demonstrate proficiency in their field.

A carpenter’s license is different to a carpentry business license, as a business license is a more general type of license issued to business owners. This type of license will be dependent on your business setup rather than your carpentry skills.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to get a license, then most states that issue licenses require carpenters to have at least four years of experience before they can apply. Additionally the pricing of licenser applications varies between states. The main costs involved in getting licensed are:

  • Training
  • Professional exams
  • Surety bond
  • Licensing fee

You can keep costs to a minimum by training on the job and using a trusted surety bond service to find the best deal for your bond.

Types of Carpenter License

There are various types of licenses available for carpenters, and the type you require will depend on the specific requirements of the state where you live. Some states have a single type of carpentry license that is issued to all qualified professionals. Other states offer licenses based on the kind of services a carpenter performs, such as a license for roofing specialists or contractors. Some states don’t require a carpenter license at all.

Why Is a Carpentry License Required?

Carpentry licenses help to regulate the construction industry by ensuring that tradespeople have the expertise they need to complete a job to a good standard. In most cases, states that require carpentry licenses ask professionals to do a set number of years of work experience and to pass a specialist trade exam.

Carpenters applying for a license will also need to purchase a surety bond. The surety bond provides financial protection for future clients by guaranteeing that any customers who lose money as the result of poor business practices on the part of the carpenter are reimbursed.

Carpenter License Requirements

License requirements vary from state to state, so it’s important to check local rules and regulations before applying for your license. However, In general, professionals applying for a carpenter’s license will need to show that they have four years of experience that can be verified within the last 10 years. If you have four years of experience, you can qualify as a journeyman carpenter in most states with licensing requirements.

Passing a trade test or licensing exam is another common part of the licensure

process. Most states ask applicants to sit an exam to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities in the field. The exact contents of these tests vary from state to state, so it’s important to contact your local licensing body to find out what’s required in your area.

Topics that commonly feature in professional licensing exams include:

  • Woodworking
  • Roofing systems and structural work
  • Project management
  • Architectural drawing and blueprint reading
  • Building code requirements
  • Principles and procedures in residential construction

Getting a contractor license bond is another standard licensing requirement in most states. Surety bonds protect the public from financial losses that may occur as the result of poor business practices and help to ensure bonded parties abide by the rules and regulations governing their industry.

If you’re considered a home improvement contractor or specialty contractor, or are applying for a general contractor license, you’ll need to fulfill a different set of requirements. Contact your contractors state license board to find out how to become a contractor in your area.


If you’re only doing minor repairs, such as door finishing or tile installation, you’re not required to hold a carpentry license in Florida. However, if you’re taking on larger projects like wall removal, cabinet construction and window installation, you will need to get licensed.

In order to secure a carpentry license in Florida you’ll need to pass a licensing exam and a business and finance exam. This will help to ensure you’re able to run your small business as well as provide a high level of service to your customers.


If you work on jobs that exceed $500 per project, the state of California requires you to get licensed. To secure your license, you’ll need to show proof of four years of experience in the industry. You’ll also need to secure a $15,000 surety bond and pass a licensing exam.

If you take on specialist work, you may need to apply for one of the following license types:

  • A specialty C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor license
  • A C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor license

Take a look at the CSLB website to find out more.

New York

There are no state-wide licensing requirements for carpenters working in New York. However, some municipalities do require subcontractors to apply for a license, so check with your regional authority before taking on work.


Texas, like New York, has no state-level licensing or experience requirements. If you’re taking on handyman work in the state, or are subcontracted by a local construction company, check with your municipality to see if there are any local licensing requirements you need to meet.


Massachusetts has different requirements depending on the level of work you’re taking on.

If you only work on minor projects like home repairs, you’ll need to apply for Home Improvement Contractor Registration. No exam is required for this type of license.

Customers can check to see if their chosen construction contractor is on the register. Being listed will show that your business is legal and should give clients more confidence in your abilities.

If you’re taking on structural work like large renovations, you’ll need a Construction Supervisor License. As a licensed construction supervisor, you’ll be able to oversee large projects. A trade exam is required for this type of license.

You’ll need two years of professional experience before applying for any type of Massachusetts carpentry license.

6 Step Process to Get a Carpentry License

Step 1. Get Some Experience

Whether your state has licensing requirements in place or not, experience is important. Getting a few years of professional experience under your belt will help give you the skills you need to succeed.

You can get an apprenticeship with a local construction company or carpentry business, or you can train in a trade school or vocational college. While formal training isn’t always a licensing requirement, completing a structured course will help to ensure you learn everything you need to know.

Whichever route you choose, you’ll need to prove that you have the required experience before applying for your license.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

In states that issue carpentry licenses, exams are often a key part of the requirements. In most cases, exams will be set by the licensing body, however some states employ third party companies to administer tests.

The questions you’ll be asked will vary, but you’re likely to be tested on construction law and basic building codes and construction methods. Contact your state’s licensing body to find out more.

Step 3. Get Bonded

Surety bonds are a common licensing requirement in states across the country. States ask carpenters to get bonded because it protects future customers from financial losses. Bonds guarantee that customers will be reimbursed if they lose money because the carpenter (known as the ‘principal’ in surety bond terms) breaks the rules or regulations governing their industry.

The bond amount you’ll require will depend on where you live and the type of license you’re applying for. You’ll pay a percentage of your total bond amount to get bonded. This is known as the bond cost and is normally around 1%-3% of the bond amount.

You can find out how to get a surety bond, and get your application started, by getting in touch with a member of our expert team today.

Step 4. Check Licensing Requirements in Your State

Because licensing requirements vary from state to state, it’s essential to check the rules and regulations in your area. Contact your local licensing body to find out more.

Step 5. Apply for Your License

When you’re sure you’ve met all local licensing requirements, you can fill in your license application forms, pay your application fee and submit your paperwork.

Step 6. Register Your Business

Once you’ve secured your carpentry license, you can start working as a subcontractor, handyman or carpenter. If you want to start a business and begin employing other people, you’ll need to register your company and get a business license.

You’ll need to make sure your business is properly registered before you apply for your license. In most states, you’re required to register with both the IRS and the Secretary of State. It’s at this point that you’ll need to decide on the structure of your business. For example, you could trade as a sole proprietorship or an LLC.

For more information on how to gain a carpenters license, your surety bond, and any other advice you might need to complete the process, contact Lance Surety today to discuss your specific requirements. Alternatively, explore the blog for more insights directly related to your industry here.

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