1. Houzz Pro Learn

How to Become a Home Builder: A Step-by-Step Guide for Aspiring Builders

Interested in becoming a home builder? This is the guide for you. Learn about the training, skills and certifications required.

Houzz Pro

Were you the kid always building things with Legos, seeking out scraps of wood to construct a backyard fort or preferring woodworking class to all others in high school?

If so, you may be wondering how to become a builder. Being a builder is a meaningful, well-paying job that lets you transfer your skills and passion for construction into a career. As a home builder, you will plan, supervise and carry out the building of residential houses. Builders are typically responsible for every aspect of a home construction project including laying out the plans, coordinating subcontractors, and doing some of the hands-on construction. They are usually self-employed, but may work for other home building companies. 

In this article, we explore everything you need to know about how to become a building contractor, and what requirements must be met to start a career in residential home construction.

Click a link below to jump to the section you're interested in:

Who Should Become a Builder?

Love of the construction process is, of course, a prerequisite for those wondering how to become a house builder. But a successful house builder also possesses a wide range of skills that are both construction and business-related. Successful builders know the basics of all the trades that contribute to building a home, but also possess management and business experience to help them navigate the administrative and financial side of the building business.

Residential home builders are well-organized, adept at problem solving, and they have the stamina and energy to see a building project through from start to finish.

Necessary Education to Become a Home Builder

Having the right knowledge is crucial to excelling in the home building industry and for getting the required license. Here are some of the topics those wondering how to become a qualified builder should be prepared to get familiar with: 

  • Construction Methods: Know how to carry out the basics of construction. This includes carpentry, brick and stone masonry, roofing, and other essentials of your trade.   
  • Materials: Learn the various types of construction materials, including the pros and cons of using each one to build a home.
  • Installation Processes: Beyond understanding the variety of materials, know how to install them properly to meet - and hopefully exceed - minimum quality standards.
  • Codes & Regulations: Make yourself familiar with the various codes and regulations your construction work will be required to meet. These will include city, county, state and even federal rules.

Formal education and work experience are two ways to gain the skills and knowledge that will help you become a licensed builder. While requirements vary by location and the type of work you decide to pursue, typically at least one of the following is needed to become a professional builder:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: While it is possible to know how to build without having finished high school, a diploma or GED is considered the minimum requirement by many employers.
  • Technical School or Community College Programs: With a wide variety of programs offered, these schools offer ways to supplement your education and skills through either a degree program or individual courses. The degree programs usually take less time (six months to two years) to complete as opposed to a four-year college. And, the programs are typically offered at a lower cost.
  • Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree: Some aspiring home builders pursue a home builder degree in  construction management, business, architecture or other related fields to prepare them and give them a step up in the field. These home builder degree programs typically take two to four years to complete depending on the type.
  • Apprenticeships & On-the-Job Training: Another way to gain the experience needed is to seek out training programs such as internships or apprenticeships. This route provides hands-on learning to help you develop the building skills that go beyond those taught in the classroom. 

Learn more about the Best Trade Schools & Construction Programs in 2023

Necessary Skills to Become a Home Builder

Regardless of whether you are wondering how to become a custom home builder, spec home builder, luxury home builder or a general residential builder, the skills required are varied. Here are a few key ones:

  • Strong Mathematical and Analytical Skills: Management software can help immensely with creating project estimates and budgets, but you still need to have strong mathematical skills as a home builder. 
  • Ability to Interpret Plans: Blueprints, schematics and 3-D renderings are the road maps of home construction projects and therefore, knowing how to read them is essential.
  • Attention to Detail and Precision: Every project has lots of moving parts, and as the builder you will be responsible for keeping track of them, connecting the dots and assuring each detail is carried out with quality and precision clients expect.
  • Strong Communication Skills: It takes a team to build a house. Being skilled at communicating with subcontractors, vendors and clients will ease the journey and help avoid missteps and project delays.
  • A Problem Solver: Things happen, and every home building project includes a surprise or two. As the builder, you will be the one expected to come up with the answers and solutions. 
  • Project Management Skills: If you are a self-employed builder it will be up to you to supervise and manage the multiple aspects that make up a project to assure that it is carried out with quality, on schedule, and within budget.  Therefore, home builders are skilled at juggling, managing and staying organized.   
  • Sales: Running a profitable building business means you will be responsible for attracting a steady stream of clients. Learning the skills and the art of sales helps assure that your sales pipeline is filled with leads. 

Necessary certifications to become a home builder

Certifications provide additional training and the credentials needed to help you become a successful home builder. They are typically obtained through government and professional organizations and focus on specific topics. Some may be required before you enter the industry. A wide range of certification programs are available. Here is a small sampling:

  • OSHA Certifications:  Providing workplace safety training and information on worker’s rights and how to file safety complaints, OSHA training is offered in either a 10- hour or 30-hour course. The 10-hour program is intended for entry-level workers and the other longer course is directed toward those working in a supervisory role. 
  • LEED Green Associate Certifications: Becoming a LEED associate signals that you are proficient in the best green building practices, helping you to build a career in the sustainable building sector. 
  • NCCER Certifications: The National Center for Construction Education and Research offers a wide range of certifications including site layout for builders interested in engineering and surveying.
  • Financial Management: Various certifications can help you learn the business side of the building business. The National Association of Credit Management offers Credit Business Associate and Certified Credit Executive certificates that help professionals obtain mastery in accounting, finance, business credit and more.

Learn more about how you can benefit from The Top Construction Certification Programs.

How to become a residential home builder step-by-step

If you think you are ready to join the building industry, here is a guide of what to do next. Basically, becoming a residential home builder involves applying for a license and starting a building company. Most states require that you apply for a license before becoming a builder. You can get credentials through the Home Builders Institute. The rules vary by states so check with the state where you will be working. If you are starting your own company, most states require that you have general liability insurance in order to get a license. And, if you have employees, you will likely need worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

 Step 1: Obtain the necessary education and training

Here are some options for gaining both the education and experience to become a successful home builder: 

  • Complete a Degree Program - If you are considering attending college, research which ones offer the type of programs you are seeking. This may include a degree in management, construction management, engineering, or another related field. The courses cover a wide range of relevant topics such as materials testing, building codes, construction estimating, and project scheduling. 
  • Find Apprenticeships: Check with employers, trade unions and other industry associations to learn about the apprenticeship programs available. This hands-on experience will help you gain skills and work your way up the ladder.
  • Learn at Home:  Another way to gain at least some of the skills needed to become a home builder is to work on your own home projects. Doing so will help you realize whether you have the aptitude and physical stamina to do construction work. And, the before and after photographs of the renovation can be the start of your portfolio to show future employers and clients. 
  • Take Business Courses: Supplementing your construction education with classes about finance, marketing and other aspects of running a business provides a step up as you progress in building industry. 

Step 2: Develop the required skills

Here are some ways to gain the skills you will need to become a professional home builder:

  • Complete formal and on-the-job training: Seek employment at companies that build and renovate homes so that you can learn from experienced professionals. The more varied your experience, the more it will help you down the road. 
  • Find a Mentor: The journey is always easier when you have a guide who can advise you. Seek out a mentor who is experienced in the residential construction industry. This person can help connect you to other builders, industry groups and offer suggestions of how to gain the skills you need. 
  • Try Multiple Trades: Try your hand at various trades so you have working knowledge of many of them. This will help when you are the one in charge of a building project and hiring the sub contractors needed to build a home. Or, perhaps the experience may prompt you to decide to pursue one of the trades.

Step 3: Obtain relevant certifications

Building up a cache of certifications will help gain the knowledge you need to become a licensed home builder. Consider these ways to work on your certifications:

  • Find a job at a company that will financially support you while you are earning your certifications. 
  • Set aside a portion of your paycheck to pay for certification programs. If you are short on finances, choose the certifications that will be most relevant to getting your license such as OSHA training. The investment now will pay off with greater earnings over the long run. 

Step 4: Find employment in the construction industry

As mentioned, getting a job in the construction industry is a great way to chip away at the requirements to become a qualified builder. Here are some tips for finding a job:

  • Present a resume filled with the education, experience and certifications you have gained. This will demonstrate the skills and knowledge you will bring to the work.
  • Show that you want to learn and grow on the job. 
  • Network with other builders, industry organizations, and those in your community. This will help you build the connections you need to find employment. 
  • Check job sites for available positions. Professional organizations often post jobs on their sites that are specific to the building industry. 
  • Learn more ways to network in construction with The Complete Guide to Networking for Construction Professionals.

How long does it take to become a builder?

Becoming a successful home builder does not happen overnight. The combination of attending college or trade school combined with gaining on the job experience can take two to four years or more.

Once you have become a licensed builder and start your own business, you may decide to specialize in a specific style of home or market. Perhaps there is a market for farmhouse style homes in your region, or modern houses. Some builders grow their businesses to focus on green building or the profitable luxury market, for example. Build a strong portfolio of completed projects, and pursue your niche by researching the market potential, making connections in the type of market you are seeking, and marketing your brand to your target clientele.  

Conclusion

Becoming a licensed home builder is a terrific way to channel your passion for building things and launching a rewarding career. There are many and varied options for pursuing the education, training and experience that will help you become a successful residential house builder for years to come. 

When you're ready to make the plunge, explore our next guide on How to Start a Homebuilding Business.

Houzz Pro

Get the all-in-one tool that helps you save time, stay organized, and move your business forward. 

Houzz Pro is the all-in-one tool for marketing, project and client management built specifically for remodeling, build, and design professionals.

Comments (0)

Join the conversation by commenting or asking a question below. The Houzz team reads every single comment, and we’ll get back to you by email if you need us!

Want advice delivered to your inbox?

Unlock industry insights and updates for contractors and design pros

By signing up, I agree to the Houzz Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and that Houzz may use my information to contact me about relevant content, products, and services.