A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in August revealed an intriguing finding: among Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, 57% of them believed that a college degree isn’t worth the huge price tag. That compares with just 39% of respondents who said that the degree was worth the cost. Perhaps the most startling aspect of the poll was that just four years ago when young adults were asked the same question, the percentages mentioned above were almost exactly reversed (56% said yes, 38% said no).
Opinions vary widely as to why the majority of 18- to 34-year olds don’t feel that a college degree is cost effective these days. But there’s one takeaway that’s easy to see: Americans are now more closely scrutinizing their educational investments than ever before.
If you’re thinking about contractor school in order to become a licensed construction supervisor in the state of Massachusetts, you may be wondering if it’s worth the costs that you will incur along the way. With that question in mind, let’s take a closer look at some important facts related to obtaining a construction supervisor license, or CSL.
1. You aren’t required to go to contractor school to get a CSL.
Although instructional hours are mandated by law in some states for individuals seeking a construction supervisor license, Massachusetts has no such prerequisite. All you are obliged to do is complete the necessary three years of employment experience (up to two of which can be substituted with education), pass the CSL exam, and pay the application fee.
Exam fee: $100
License application fee: $150
So in theory, you could receive your license without shelling out more than $250 (plus postage to mail in your application fee). But in practice, very few people are able to pass the CSL exam without undergoing some preparation.
2. You’ll probably need to purchase reference materials.
Depending on which type of construction supervisor license you want to acquire, there are several publications which contain the material on which the CSL exam questions are based. So it’s safe to say that if you want to pass the CSL exam, you’ll need to know what’s in these publications.
If you are planning on taking the exam for a restricted CSL, here are the relevant reference materials and their approximate cost:
- Code of Federal Regulations (Title 29, Part 1426 (OSHA)) – up to $50*
- 2015 International Energy Conservation Code – $48.75 to $68.25
- 2015 International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings – $66 to $102.28
- Massachusetts State Building Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings – $7*
If you are wanting to get an unrestricted CSL, here are the additional reference materials needed along with their approximate cost:
- 2015 International Building Code – $57.99 to $112.89
- Massachusetts State Building Code Base Volume (Commercial)- $20*
- Massachusetts Architectural Access Board Rules and Regulations – $13.15*
The asterisked items mean that the publications are available for free on the Internet. But here’s the reason why you may wish to buy them: when you take the licensing exam, you will be permitted to bring these reference materials into the exam room with you. While it may be possible to print off all of the necessary pages from the Internet, they may be difficult to organize and access while taking the exam.
3. You may want to consider purchasing a CSL exam “test prep” product or service.
This may be the element of the licensing process that most closely resembles what you might think of as “contractor school.” Numerous private entities can provide you with an exam preparation “package” that is designed to teach you the necessary concepts and information found on your CSL exam – and to do it more efficiently than if you were to study on your own. Test prep products are offered in a variety of formats from structured weekly classroom sessions to self-paced online tutorials.
Here is a partial list of the test prep packages available along with their costs:
- HomePrep (from Stautzenberger College): $499 (unrestricted), $399 (restricted), $149 (exam review only)
- Massachusetts Construction School: $97 (videos/test only), $395 (books only), $475 (videos/books/test)
- Builders License Training Institute: $89 (restricted, exam prep only), $293 (restricted, exam prep and reference materials), $99 (unrestricted, exam prep only), $495 (unrestricted, exam prep and reference materials)
- Mass Nail It LLC: $179 (restricted), $219 (unrestricted)
- ContractorSuccess.com: $350 (unrestricted – 7 weekly in-person classes)
These test prep packages provide different products and services, so be sure to study the websites and course information before making your purchase.
4. Once you are licensed, you’ll have to periodically go “back to school” to maintain your CSL.
This is referred to as “continuing education,” and Massachusetts law requires CSL holders to complete a certain number of instructional hours in order for their licenses to be renewed. All CSLs must be renewed every two years, and before that can happen:
- Unrestricted CSL holders must complete 12 hours of continuing education at a total cost of $99.
- Restricted CSL holders must complete 10 hours of continuing education at a total cost of $79.
- Field-specific CSL holders must complete 6 hours of field-specific continuing education at a total cost of $69.
The renewal fee is $100, and license holders have a one-year grace period after their CSLs expire to complete their continuing education and renew their licenses.
5. You should weigh the benefits of contractor school and getting your CSL against the costs before making the decision to pursue your license.
Keep in mind that even if the costs of contractor school and obtaining your CSL seem high, they may pale in comparison to the bump in income that you would likely experience working as a construction supervisor. That’s why it’s wise to think of these monetary outlays as investments rather than expenses.
For example, let’s say you have been employed as a carpenter for three years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that median hourly wage for a carpenter in Massachusetts in $26.81. If you were to spend $1,050 on licensing and test prep activities, your median wage as a construction supervisor would jump to $37.42. The extra increase in hourly pay ($10.61) would allow you to make enough additional earnings to pay you back for your investment in just 2 ½ weeks’ worth of work (at 40 hours a week).
On the other hand, if you are currently employed as a pile-driver operator in Massachusetts, your hourly rate might be closer to the BLS median wage of $42.34. In this case, it may not be worth your while to spend hundreds of dollars or more on getting your CSL if you’re likely to see a drop in pay.
In short, there’s no right or wrong answer to whether you should pursue your construction supervisor license and/or pay for contractor school. You must take into account a variety of factors including budget, occupational goals, preferred learning format, and free time for coursework and studying to determine if a CSL would further your career and help you attain the lifestyle that you want for yourself. It’s a big decision, so we hope that you do your research and figure out if it’s the right choice for you.
Want to see what contractor school is like? Take our Construction Supervisor License classes for free.