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Contractor Exam Licensing Program

A lot of confusion and misinformation surrounds NASCLA and the NASCLA Exam, as well as the NC Building Contractor Exam versus the NASCLA exam.  Hopefully this post will answer some questions and be helpful in determining which exam is right for you!

There are two ways to obtain a NC Building Contractor license: Directly, by applying to take the NC Building Contractor exam with the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors, or by taking the NASCLA Exam and then applying for a NC Building Contractor license and submitting your NASCLA exam results. It is important to know that in both scenarios, you receive the same license.

We are going to delve into why the NC Building Contractor Exam is the best route for most candidates in most cases.

When you apply to take the NC Building Contractor Exam, you will need to take and pass only one exam to obtain your license. There is no separate law exam required. This means you have one application fee and one exam fee. Obtaining your license via the NASCLA route will require you to take and pass the NASCLA exam, as well as a separate NC Business Law exam.  This adds additional fees and layers of approval. In addition to the NC Building Contractor application fee, you will have a NASCLA application fee and, in addition to your exam fee, you will have additional exam fees for the Business Law exam required with this method.

Many contractors are tempted by the number of states that recognize NASCLA and being licensed in all these states with one exam sounds ideal.  Unfortunately, this is where that old saying “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t” comes into play.

The most important thing to know is that NASCLA is not a license and you are not automatically licensed in any state that accepts NASCLA exam results.  You must apply to each state individually that accepts NASCLA exam results and meet each states’ individual requirement for licensure. This means financial, experience, background check, etc., and most if not all require a separate business law exam. This said, the NASCLA exam is accepted by a lot of states and the list is constantly growing, but it is important to know the North Carolina Building Contractor License is currently reciprocal with 6 states (Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana). So, if you only plan on working in North Carolina or any states currently sharing reciprocity rights, then the NC Building Contractor may be a better exam for you.  Keep reading to learn more differences.

Let’s discuss the difficulty of the exams and partial open book versus fully open book.  NASCLA is a fully open book exam.  It is currently based on 23 books, and, yes, you do need all of them. It is a 115 question exam.  You have 5 and 1/2 hours to take this exam and the majority of people run out of time or walk out in frustration before it is over. It is NOT an easy exam. It is accepted by over 16 states, making it one of, if not the most, difficult trade exam for general contractors (on par with Florida and California). There are some who believe it is easy because it is open book, but this is not the case.  Some candidates lean toward this exam, over the NC exam, because it is fully open book. The NC Building Contractor exam is a partial open book exam. This means the exam is based on 17 books but you can only take 8 of them in the exam center. This exam is 90 questions and you have 3 hours and 20 minutes.  You do not need all of the books for this exam, making it much less expensive.  It is also an easier exam.  It is still a difficult one, but less difficult than the NASCLA exam.  It is important to know that you are currently limited to 3 attempts on the NASCLA exam in a 12 month period, while currently you are not limited in exam attempts for NC.

In summary, the NC Building Contractor exam is going to be the easier and less expensive option for those looking to work in North Carolina and any of the states reciprocal with it.  Who is NASCLA good for?  It is good for anyone wanting to work in North Carolina as well as states that are not reciprocal, but that do accept NASCLA exam results – such as Virginia, West Virginia, Arizona, Utah, etc.

Ultimately, we recommend you look at your goals and where you want to be licensed and do your work. Do your research and consider the source of the information you find on the internet.  As they say, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.  Do they offer ALL the options available to you, as outlined here, or are the promoting the only option they offer.


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