Career Opportunities in Home Improvement: How To Start

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The home improvement business is booming in the United States. One recent statistic found that 76% of homeowners in America did some form of home improvement project in 2020, and the industry had an impressive $1.1 billion in revenue during the same year. Today’s record-setting real estate market has made choosing a home improvement career more lucrative than ever.

With so many homeowners looking for renovation services, it’s not surprising that more people are considering a career in this field. This guide has the information and resources you need to get started with a trade school so you can start your own home improvement business.

What is a home renovation professional?

Renovation or home improvement professionals have experience and a background in a variety of different skills. To become a home renovation professional, you should have knowledge about things like carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, masonry and concrete, flooring (carpeting and tiling), drywall, windows and doors, and painting.

You don’t have to be a specialist in every single skill listed above. Feel free to pick a trade you enjoy and focus on becoming an expert in your field. For example, you can get your electrician certification to become a professional electrician or go to trade school to become an HVAC contractor. There are also plenty of opportunities to get your contractor’s license.                             

What is a trade school?

Going to a trade school is an excellent alternative to attending a four-year college. A trade school focuses on specific trades or skills that teach you what you need to know to transition and take those skills into a full-time career or start a business. You can get a variety of certifications at a trade school, including your electrician degree and others like paralegals, welders, plumbers, and more.

Trade schools are also an excellent place to get a contractor apprenticeship to help you experience some hands-on learning. Not only does attending trade school provide you with valuable skills and knowledge, but it’s much less expensive than a four-year college. Many students who graduate from trade school go on to build a successful home renovation business.

How do I become one?

If you want to know how to start a career as a home improvement professional, a contractor, or a renovation professional, there are a few important steps involved in the process. Each of these steps is crucial to help ensure your success. From obtaining your high school education and going through career training to licensing and certification, every step will push you forward as you learn new skills and gain the confidence you need to begin your own home improvement business.

Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent

Before you can start a career in building or home renovation/repair, you’ll need to graduate high school. If you don’t graduate from high school and get your diploma, you should at least get the equivalent of a high school degree. Take your GED before you begin trying to pursue attending a trade school or getting the required certifications and licensing. People looking for a home improvement career should have at least foundational mathematical skills and drawing fundamentals. You can also attend a vocational school to gain hands-on experience with things like plumbing, electrical work, and construction.

Pursue career training

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many people in the construction industry undergo on-the-job training either through apprenticeships or by completing a technical program. Some schools may provide specific semester-long courses designed to prepare students for the home improvement contractor license exam. This may depend on your state or city, so check with your school to find out more.

For those who don’t attend career training, a diploma in home renovation and repair that focuses on reading construction plans, remodeling rooms, and installing lighting and fixtures may also suffice. Many of these programs tend to include other facets, such as business marketing and accounting.

Obtain licensure or registration

The type of licensure you’ll need will depend on local regulations where you live. In most areas, home improvement contractors must register with the city or state in order to obtain a license. The actual requirements will vary; in many instances, you’ll need a separate business and construction license. If you’re starting a home renovation business as an independent contractor, you’ll need to register as a state business taxpayer.

Depending on the state, you must pass a licensing exam on business and labor laws and home improvement codes and regulations. You may need to get a home improvement contractor license and a home improvement salesperson license if you want to draft contracts with homeowners. Make sure you check with your specific state to find out what’s required.

Earn a college degree

You don’t have to get a college degree to become a professional contractor or start a home improvement business. However, BLS recommends that construction contractors get at least a bachelor’s degree, such as a BA in Construction Science. This degree can provide you with the training in business management and building techniques you’ll need to be successful. You’ll find a list of the different degree programs accredited by the American Council for Construction Education on their website.

Consider a certification

If you have a minimum of five years of experience in the home improvement industry, you can receive voluntary certification from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI. This certification exam covers crucial aspects of the industry, such as current codes, laws, safety standards, and any applicable industry-specific skills. By getting certified, you’ll show you have a level of knowledge and professional experience that homeowners will trust.

You can also get certified by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration’s (OSHA) 10 and 30 training, which can be done online. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also offers a variety of certifications, as does the National Kitchen + Bath Association (NKBA) and other organizations.

Quick guide to choosing a field

As you learn how to become a home improvement professional, you’ll want to decide which field to pursue. Choose between a wide variety of options, including pest control technician, electrician, landscaping contractor, and much more.

Below are some common home improvement industries to consider, including the average U.S. salary and whatever else is needed if you want to pursue one of these professions or start a business.

What is a home inspector?

A home inspector looks at the major components of a property before a buyer decides to purchase a home. The inspector typically needs to be licensed and certified, but this depends on your state and where you plan to do business.

Most home inspectors must have a good working knowledge of major systems such as plumbing, electrical, and structural components of a home. Some home inspectors also get special training in additional facets like mold or asbestos inspections and/or remediation.

The average U.S. salary for a home inspector is approximately $40,000 to $70,000, depending on your location and if you’re starting a home inspection business or working as an employee.

What is an electrician?

An electrician must be trained and certified due to the dangerous nature of the job. Electricians should have a working knowledge of electricity and electrical systems, including wiring, lighting, appliances, and control systems. Most electricians attend trade school and get either a journeyman’s license within four to five years or a master’s electrician’s license later in their career. Common courses include introduction to electricity, residential and commercial wiring, and electrical code.

The average U.S. salary for an electrician is $51,880, but it can be higher if you hold a master electrician card.

What is a plumber?

Plumbers deal with the diagnosing and repair of water supply lines, pipes, appliances, fixtures, and waste disposal systems such as garbage disposals and septic and sewer systems. This job is always in high demand, and the average U.S. salary for a plumber is $40,00o to $55,000 or more.

The demand for plumbers is growing, with pay growth expected to be in the 21% range over the next few years. Plumbers must receive training, complete an apprenticeship program, and get licensed before performing any work or starting a business. A small amount of electrical knowledge is also usually required.

What is a roofer?

A roofer inspects, installs, and repairs different kinds of residential and/or commercial roofs. This can include everything from asphalt shingles to metal roofs, flat roofs, and Spanish tile.

The average annual U.S. salary for roofers is approximately $37,000, but it may be higher in some states. Most roofers learn their skills based on carpentry, and the proper training and certification are required in order to become licensed. Roofers must have good balance and should not be afraid of heights. They should also diligently follow proper safety protocols to avoid injury while on the job.

What is a carpet and flooring contractor?

There is no specific degree required to become a carpet and flooring contractor. Most carpet and flooring contractors can remove and install a variety of flooring types, including carpet, tile, and hardwood. Many of these contractors are trained in customer service and mathematics and must have the ability to kneel for long periods. A good sense of measurement is required in order to install the correct amount of flooring in a home or business.

The average salary for a carpet and flooring contractor in the United States is $37,220.

What is a landscaping contractor?

A landscaping contractor can be either a landscaping architect, groundskeeper (landscaper), or designer. Landscape architects must get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture, while a landscape designer must typically have an associate degree, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in soil science and/or horticulture and botany.

Both of these professions must have the proper certification, and landscape architects must also undergo apprenticeship training. The average salary for this job is $64,570 for architects, $42,142 for landscape designers, and $24,290 for groundskeepers. The job duties of a landscaping contractor also vary based on training and title.

What is an HVAC contractor?

An HVAC contractor inspects, assesses, installs, and/or repairs home and business heating and cooling systems. Most HVAC contractors undergo formal training, take part in an apprenticeship, and may attend trade school. A Certification in Refrigerant Handling from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is required and mandatory.

The average salary of an HVAC contractor is $63,972 for a service manager or $41,643 for an HVAC technician, and the industry is expected to see a job growth of approximately 14% until 2024.

What is a pest control technician?

A pest control technician helps to eliminate a variety of pests from a customer’s home. Whether it’s rodents, raccoons, roaches, or spiders, these professionals have to be able to crawl into small areas and climb into attics. Most pest control technicians must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma in order to start this career. It also helps to have some knowledge about local species, including birds, rodents, mammals, and insects that are common in your specific region.

Some licensing may be required, depending on the state. This career has a projected job growth of approximately 20% and an average U.S. salary of $30,723.

Building a clientele base

Now that you know how to become a contractor, it’s time to focus on building your customer network. Remember these tips to help you build your base of local clientele to watch your business grow.

Social media

Start a social media account for your business on several platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Once you set up your accounts, establish an online presence by posting frequently about your pricing and services. Stay engaged with your customers by responding to questions and posting special offers. Create posts designed to reach and appeal to your specific target market. For example, if you’re a renovation company, post photos and videos that are pertinent to existing homeowners.

Build a photograph portfolio

To establish yourself as a professional contractor, you’ll want to showcase your work. One of the best ways to do this is by posting photos of the projects you’ve completed. A series of before and after photos is particularly effective, especially for jobs like renovations and flooring installations. Post your portfolio pictures on your website, so they’re easily accessible to customers. Having a complete portfolio shows people what you’re capable of and can help you earn new business.

Build a website

Every successful business today should have a well-designed website. Choose a hosting company and start designing your website, then be sure to include it on your business cards, in your email signature, and on all your social media posts. Ensure that your website includes your contact information, a short blurb about you and your business, and a list of your services. Consider including a form that allows customers to schedule an estimate or contact you to find out more about your offer.

Create business cards

While a nice website and a strong social media presence are important, it’s also a good idea to have some professional business cards printed. Make sure your business cards include your company name, logo, tagline, and all your contact information. You can also include your website URL and email address. Handing out business cards is a great way to network and remind others about your professional services. Keep the card design simple but make sure it has the key information people need in order to learn more about you.

Whether you’re looking to start a home improvement career or your own home improvement business, use these tips to help you begin. From getting the right training and certifications to creating your own business, these important skills and trades are always in high demand. Use the surge in demand for home improvement projects to your advantage, and get ready to start your home improvement career journey today.