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NSW Builders License : How do I get my builders licence in NSW?

NSW Builders License – Required qualifications, experience & more

Not sure if you are on the right path to get your builders licence in New South Wales, Australia? Here’s a full wrap of what you need to know. MUST READ.

We have a lot of enquirers checking in to see if they can apply for a builders licence. The truth is, you might not be eligible for a builders licence in NSW for a number of reasons.

It is a real shame because some enquirers have put in the effort at TAFE or similar, and done years of study only to find out that they were never told about the ‘experience’ component required by Fair Trading to attain their builders licence. Or others, have been charged large sums of money by RTOs only to find out they too are not eligible for a builders licence.

Here are some of the many issues that ‘Bob’ the builder to be gets caught up in:

  • a lack of experience
  • the wrong type of experience
  • the wrong type of employment arrangement when attaining the experience
  • wrong qualifications
  • unrecognised qualification or certification
  • Right qualification, but the wrong units (subject).

In this article, we aim to clear up the noise and help you ensure you meet the criteria for a builders licence BEFORE spending hard-earned money and time on a building course.

NSW Builders Licence Requirements:

When applying for your licence you will need to meet a number of criteria. These include:

  • Financial/Criminal checks
  • Experience
  • Qualifications

NSW Fair Trading requests personal information relating to previous businesses and criminal checks. If you have any prior bad financial history, name change, or criminal record, you will need to provide additional documents as outlined in the application form.

Experience

You need to show that you have at least 2 years of relevant industry experience from a wide range of building construction work and activities. The majority of the experience needs to have been obtained within 10 years of the date on which the application for your licence is being made.

  • What employment arrangements are considered?

In simple terms, Fair Trading expects that you were employed as an employee ‘on the books’ by a licensed builder (or building company). During this time you must have been supervised and paid.

Here’s the exact extract from Fair Trading’s website as of today’s date:

Applicants must show at least 2 years of relevant industry experience in a wide range of building construction work where the majority of the experience was obtained within 10 years of the date on which the application is made.

“Experience” means experience gained by the applicant as:

  • an employee of, or
  • a holder of a supervisor certificate and as a nominated supervisor for the contractor licence held by, or
  • a holder of an endorsed contractor licence contracted to, or
  • a holder of a supervisor certificate in the capacity of a nominated supervisor for a contractor licence held by an individual, partnership or corporation contracted to, the holder of a contractor licence authorising the holder to do the class of residential building work in which the experience was gained (“the Work”), where the applicant, during the relevant period, was:
    • supervised and directed in the doing of the Work by the holder of an endorsed contractor licence or supervisor certificate authorising its holder to supervise the Work, and
    • remunerated with money in accordance with law for the Work which the applicant carried out.
  • What does a wide range of residential building work mean?

In order for your experience to be recognised as relevant, you will need to show that you have experience in a wide range of residential building work. This may include but is not limited to: the experience that demonstrates the ability or capacity to competently project manage residential building work on-site in accordance with the Building Code of Australia, including dealing effectively with sub-contractors, consumers, and other parties.

Be wary that experience in singular trade work will not meet the experience requirements. You should demonstrate experience across all stages of construction in order to satisfy that you have the capacity to do, coordinate and supervise general building work in the construction of a residential dwelling.

  • What documents will I need to show to prove my experience?

Fair Trading requires a short employment history to be filled out on the application form for a Contractor or Qualified Supervisor General Builders Licence. In addition to this, they also require a ‘Referee Statement’ form and ‘Applicant’s Residential Building Experience’ forms (available from their website) to be completed. This details the residential building work that you completed whilst working with a licensed builder. You will need to show the building address, DA number, and licence number of the builder you were working with on that site. Owner builder sites are not accepted under any circumstances.

When filling out your ‘Applicant’s Residential Building Experience’ forms it is advised that you provide all the job sites and years of relevant industry experience in a wide range of building construction work; not just the minimum two (2) years.

Finally, when assessing your licence Fair Trading may request other forms of evidence including and not limited to superannuation papers, payslips, and other proof to show that you were ‘on the books’ (employed) with the relevant builder during the period of time you gained your experience.

  • Still not sure?

If you are in any doubt about meeting the relevant experience requirements then you should contact the NSW Department Fair Trading and discuss your situation with them. You must tackle this prior to enrolling in any builders course.

Qualifications

Qualify Me!’s building qualifications are designed to meet the NSW Department of Fair Trading licence application requirements. There are a few pathways that you can take to apply for your Builders Licence. Loosely speaking, carpenters with a building qualification, bricklayers with a building qualification, and project managers holding a Diploma or relevant degree meet qualification requirements for a builders licence in NSW.


I am an experienced Carpenter

You will need to show a licence or qualification in carpentry PLUS a Certificate IV in Building & Construction. If you don’t have any of these qualifications, but have ample experience in both, check out our recognition programs:

I am an experienced Bricklayer

You will need to show a licence or qualification in bricklaying PLUS a Certificate IV in Building & Construction

I am not really on the tools – Construction Project Managers

If you do not have a Carpentry or Bricklaying Licence, qualifications, or experience but do have significant experience in the building and construction industry then you can obtain the necessary qualifications by completing a Certificate IV in Building PLUS Construction and a Diploma of Building and Construction.

Here are the recognition programs that we at Qualify Me offer:

  • Diploma of Building & Construction Recognition Program (covers commercial and medium-rise buildings)
  • Certificate IV in Building & Construction Recognition Program (covers residential low rise buildings)

I hold a degree from the university

If you hold a degree in Building, Construction, Construction Management, Construction Economics, Applied Science (Building), or Quantity Surveying from an Australian University and have completed the mandatory work-placement then you can apply for the licence directly. If you have a degree from any University outside Australia it is NOT accepted.

Alternatively, if you have a Bachelor of Housing from an Australian University or a Degree in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, Architecture, Housing, Construction, Construction Management, Construction Economics, Applied Science (Building), Quantity Surveying from an Australian University PLUS a Certificate IV in Building & Construction with the units (subjects) shown above.

Need more information?

By now, I’m sure you have a few questions you need to be answered. Call Qualify Me on 1800 765 295 and we’d be happy to help you get sorted.

38 thoughts on “NSW Builders License : How do I get my builders licence in NSW?”

    1. Hi Yuri,
      Please feel free to call at 1800765295 and we can walk you through the process. We have some information on QLD licensing available from our builders page covering qualification and licence requirements for QBCC.

  1. Marten,
    Sorry to hear about your refusal to a licence. As far as attaining an unrestricted builders licence you will need to show that you have been a bona fide employee, with a range of building experience attained while working on mostly residential sites over a minimum of the equivalence of 24 months full time. We actually advise all our clients to make sure they meet this employment/experience requirement before signing up for RPL programs with the intention of achieving an unrestricted builders licence. If you have a certificate III in Carpentry and Joinery OR a Certificate III in carpentry AND a Certificate IV in Building and Construction, then you may find yourself eligible for a Restricted Builders licence commonly known as Kitchen Bathroom and Laundry Renovation. You can apply for this, without having to meet the employee/experience requirement set out for unrestricted builder licences in NSW.

  2. Is it two Years after you have finished your trade or is 4 years under a licensed builder during your apprenticeship enough?
    DFT website states:
    Applicants must show at least 2 years relevant industry experience in a wide range of building construction work where the majority of the experience was obtained within 10 years of the date on which the application is made.

  3. I have worked with 3 different types of builders during my apprenticeship. Commercial, Residential and then Bathrooms and Maintenance work as well as running jobs for this particular builder. I have my cert 4 and Cert 3 in carpentry and building but would that experience i have had be enough? or do I need the experience out of trade?
    I’ll split up my response to cover apprenticeship then the type of building/building class you worked on.

    Experience gained during your apprenticeship
    There is no indication on the DFT website that they will not accept experience attained during your apprenticeship, therefore I am inclined to believe this experience is acceptable. I would highly recommend giving DFT a call and checking this, maybe you can report back 🙂

    Type of experience (residential/commercial/renovations)
    The Referee Statement form you are required to have filled out by your referee requires you to enter a DA for each of the sites that you have gained experience on. IMHO It is a fair assumption then to say that the residential and maintenance work you have done will be taken into consideration granted there is a DA attached. During your commercial work

    Hope this helps, and best of luck with attaining your licence. Let us know if you need a hand with the paperwork etc

  4. That’s a load of crap. I’ve been working as a builder for years now and Fair Trading want me to go back and work for someone else as an employee!

    1. Josh, I understand it’s very frustrating, and we hear about this situation all the time. Food for thought: Instead of going out and working for someone else, you might consider hiring a nominated supervisor to work for you as a full time employee, and therefore allowing you to apply for a company contractor licence. As long as you too are a bona fide employee under your company, and carrying out a role that gives you a wide range of building experience, then you will be on track to meet the experience requirement once you have 2 years worth of work on DA approved residential work.

  5. If I hold a degree of Construction Practice at university, what steps do I need to take to get a Builder license in either NSW or VIC? What does the ‘mandatory work-placement’ refer to?

    1. I believe you are referring to Option 2 from the DFT website which states:
      “2. Degree in Building, Construction, Construction Management, Construction Economics, Applied Science (Building), or Quantity Surveying from an Australian University which requires the applicant to undertake the equivalent of 4 years’ full time study and a mandatory work placement.”

      When completing one of these courses, there is generally a work placement requirement that you should have completed either as part and parcel with these degrees or as a pre-requisite, such as is the case with say Masters of Construction Practice at Deakin Univerity. If you haven’t got that work-placement sorted for whatever reason it may be that you need to apply for work under a licensed building company as a bona-fide employee and undertake residential building work that meets the definition on the DFT website for at least 24 months. In addition to this, you may also require a certificate IV in building and construction which we can help you gain RPL in. Above all, speak to DFT or before taking any decision.

      For licensing in Victoria, it’s another ball game altogether. You should be sweet from a qualification perspective, they may simply call in you for an interview. I’d recommend you chat to VBA regarding their experience requirement to ensure your current situation will suffice.

  6. Thanks; Makes some sense. I called up n The lady at service rep at fair trading had no clue what she was on abot. dunno why they hire poeple liek that

  7. Firstly, thanks for posting such a clear article. I’ve been working as an estimator in a contract plastering company since 2008 for residential and small commercial works. I deal with builders and subcontractors. Although I suspect my experience won’t be enough, I thought I’d ask as I also didn’t get very far with advice from Fair Trading.

    1. Thanks Tanya. There’s three questions you should focus on:
      1. Was the plastering company by any odd chance have a builders contractors licence and carrying out building works? That is a builder was working as a full time employee and in the capacity of a nominated supervisor during at least 2 years of your bona fide employment tenure.
      2. Have you gained a wide range of building experience that the above nominated supervisor will be happy to vouch and endorse in a referee statement in respect of residential sites that you worked on.
      3. Do you currently hold the relevant qualifications? e.g. Certificate IV in Building & Construction PLUS say Diploma of Building & Construction
      If you answer YES to all questions then I would believe you are on track to getting your builders licence.
      If you answer YES to 1 & 2, then call us to organise your qualifications and discuss your situation further.
      Hope this helps

  8. Hi,

    I have got overall 8 years of Experience in construction industry. (India, Singapore & Australia)

    I’m currently working as a strucutral engineer designing small residential houses for a year in sydney and hold a Master degree in Structural Engineering from University of Sydney.

    Is there any hope for me to get a builders license ?
    Please advice !

    Thanks!

    1. Please validate the following information with Fair Trading before making any decisions of any kind. This is not advice in any way.
      There’s two major criteria that it seems you need to attain here:
      Experience: 24months worth of experience working full time as a bona fide employee for a licensed building company on residential buildings (with a DA/CDC for each site).
      Qualification: you will need a Certificate IV in Building and construction as well as the degree you hold. Give us a buzz and we can do a free skills assessment and check your eligibility for our builders RPL program.

      Of course, you will also need to ensure you are a ‘fit and proper’ person for licensing purposes. See DFT page for full details.

  9. In NSW? What restriction do you currently have on your licence? Is it a Kitchen Bathroom Laundry or are you restricted to certain building classes/ stories?

  10. Mate, unfortunately being qualified as an electrician has no weight in terms of becoming a licensed builder.

  11. Hi,
    i have civil engineering degree and 3 years of experience working with a builder as a structural designer, estimator and site coordinator, working with a medium size residnetial buildings and small commercial projects, outside of Australia.
    Additionally I have my Master of construction management (UNSW – Sydney) with a 1 year experience, working with an steel fabricator/builder (Project: Train stations in Sydney), as an estimator/project engineer.
    Moreover, I have more than 5 years of experience in Mining and Oil and Gas industry as a planner, cost engineer, estimator.

    I would be appreciated if you clarify my below guestions.

    1- Do i still need to get Certificate 4 degree to be able to be qualified for a Contractor/builder license?
    2- Will my non-Ausralian experience, with a builder, be considered as a relevant experience?
    3- I need to know wheather my experience in Mining and Oil & Gas industry in project management will be considered as a relevant experience?

    Thank you for your help.

    1. 1. If you have a “Degree in […] Construction Management […] from an Australian University which requires the applicant to undertake the equivalent of 4 years’ full time study and a mandatory work placement” then you will not require a certificate IV in building and construction. If your degree did not entail 4 years full time study and a mandatory work placement I am inclined to believe you will require a Certificate IV Building and Construction. Note this will help you meet the qualification requirement, however from my understanding of your description of experience I don’t think you meet the definition of “residential building experience”. Please cross check with Fair Trading.
      2. No
      3. It may be in part, and only in conjunction with residential building experience.

  12. Hi. I work for a top tier company that builds telecommunication towers that need DA. I am the supervisor and manager and have a cert iv and diploma in building construction.

    The company i work for does not have a building contractor license as we dont build class 1 basically class 10 only.

    Can this be classed as relevant 2 years experience or does it have to be purely residential class 1 building.

    1. I would suspect that your experience with class 10 on it’s own will not meet the definition for experience required for a builders licence with NSW Fair Trading. It may possibly be accepted in conjunction with residential building experience as there are obvious synergies.

  13. Hi, what’s the difference between a restricted builder and unrestricted?

    I have my builders licence but not sure which one I hold.

  14. Hi Qualify me,

    Thank you for all your information. I’m trying to work out if I qualify in Vic for a limited builders licence. I have graduated a degree in Architecture, had 14 years experience and have done my Cert 4 in Building Construction. I’ve just come across needing experience as a builder or carpenter etc? Do I need the experience to get registered if I have the architecture degree? And is it right that you need to nominate the trades you’d like to do and show experience doing them, ie painting and installing insulation? Seems crazy you can’t do these tasks without prior experience.

  15. hi
    I have bachelor degree in civil engineering and masters in construction management (both degree oversees), but was recognized as equivalent to Australian degree by engineer’s Australia during my skill recognition for migration process. I have almost 8 years working as project engineer(oversees) in building and bridges.. After arriving here in Australia, i too have completed Certificate IV in building and construction (building). But, i do not have any experience in construction site at australia. But, at present i am working as power pole inspector in sydney.
    In my these situation, is there any way of getting builder license? Hoping to get reply soon of mine these curiosity.
    Thanks

  16. Hey,

    Amazing Information!! The question I have here in terms of experience is when they ask for a wide range of experience throughout the project do they mean you have to be hands-on, on the job site as in hammer and nails or can it be experience behind the desk managing the project?

  17. Hi ,
    does licensed Plumbing or apprentice plumbing work experience will be accepted by fair trade as 2 years industry experience .for builder license .

  18. Hi ,
    A Plumber with 2 years Plumbing experience in NSW is eligible to apply for a Builder licence or not ?
    Thank u
    Russell

  19. Hi,

    I have a 4 year full time bachelor degree of construction project management degree at university of technology, Sydney.

    and i have been working as a site engineer (full-time employee) for a tie 2 builder in sydney for almost 1 year. the project i am working on is a 30M apartment project.

    my question is
    1, if i continue my current job for another year, do i qualify to apply for the Builder licence in NSW?
    2, I dont think my company will help me to apply the builder licence, as they might think me as an opponent, might leave once i had the builder licence. so when i apply the builder licence, if i show fair trading my payslip, and DA number of the project i worked. would this be enough? what else document i should provide?

  20. HI
    The information on this page is great.
    I completed my cert 4 in building and construction and was knocked back for a builders license.I have been a carpenter /supervisor for 13 years started in domestic work, now im a project manger estimator for a builder in light commercial i suppose you would call it,
    The client we work for are government clients such as department of education ,councils and and age care and disability housing and a few others.
    I was knocked back on the grounds of not having enough experience in domestic and no D/A numbers, however the clients we work for the buildings are certified by the crown im lead to believe. Its still construction and still the same building principle, more in depth paper work and safety because most of the building is in a public place.
    How am i meant to gain a builder license ?These client require you to hold a current builders license before you are able to tender these work, it does not make any sense to me ?

    1. Thanks Jaye; Glad we would help. It is a very, very grey area and most only find out the details after they’ve spent time, effort and a lot of $$$$$ applying.

      I totally agree with you – there is definitely a gap in the NSW builders licence structure for Commercial builders licences -other States do have this. The unfortunate truth is the only way to attain your Residential Builders Licence in NSW is to be able to show your residential site experience as an employee of a licensed building company.

      If experience is an issue, you may consider the restricted builders licence: Kitchen Bathroom Renovation Licence – but obviously this won’t suit all.

    1. Quick answer is no. Why? I’m not in a position to answer nor will I attempt to say I know :/- there is the logic that DFT only issue residential building licences and therefore require residential experience.

      If you look at the following referee statement that you will need your referee to complete you will notice residential experience must make up a majority of your work. https://ablis.business.gov.au/NSW/resource/AP4747H.pdf

  21. Hi, i have a bricklayer contractor licence and cert iv and diploma in building and construction. I would like to know if that’s qualify enough to get a builders licence or do i still need a referee statement. Cheers

    1. Hi Celso,
      An up-to-date Certificate IV in Building & Construction along with your current bricklayer licence will fulfill the education requirements for a builders licence. However, you will need your supervisor who in turn is the builder/nominated supervisor for the licensed building company you work for to complete the following referee statement: https://ablis.business.gov.au/NSW/resource/AP4747H.pdf
      Hope this clears things up.

  22. Hi I am a registered builder in Victoria and thinking of moving to bilambil in North NSW i was a registered builder in Queensland for 10 years but shifted back to Victoria for family reasons, I am still builder in Victoria and fully insured with the HIA what do I need to get NSW licence thanks ,I am the director of my company and I do carpenter and floor and wall tiling and a buildering supervisor, can you please let me know what I need to do thanks Terry Galea of Galeon homes pay ltd

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