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How to Become a Construction Contractor in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a construction contractor. Learn about job duties, along with education and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

What is a Construction Contractor?

Construction contractors are essentially the management-level employees in a construction project, overseeing the logistics of the project from start to finish. They are responsible for direct hiring of laborers, as well as budgeting and client relations. In addition to overseeing the hands-on work involved with construction, they also handle the business aspects of the job. They may study and employ engineering principles so that they have full knowledge and experience for dealing with clients' demands. They may also be certified in their field, depending on state regulations and requirements.

Education Required High school diploma minimum, bachelor's degree will provide for more opportunities
Education Field of Study Construction science; civil engineering
Key Responsibilities Create project budgets; hire sub-contractors; dispute mediation; ensure compliance with building and safety codes
Certification Professional certification available and increasingly important
Job Growth (2018-2028) 10% (for all construction managers)*
Median Salary (2018) $93,370 (for all construction managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Construction Contractor Do?

As a construction contractor, you are involved in planning, implementing and supervising residential, industrial and commercial construction projects. In addition to managing a budget and hiring workers, you're responsible for making sure the project adheres to building and safety codes. As work progresses, you may need to resolve any complaints, disputes or problems among construction personnel. You may also take a specialty contractor route and focus on a particular part of the building process, such as heating, plumbing or wiring.

Step 1: Know What to Expect

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for construction managers is expected to grow 10% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). While you may not do any actual construction labor in this role, you may make frequent visits to construction sites and be on call to deal with any building project delays or emergencies. You may work irregular hours as you try to ensure that construction deadlines are met. The same BLS report states that having work experience in conjunction with a bachelor's degree may give you the best job prospects.

Step 2: Get Your High School Diploma

Your first milestone along your construction contractor career path is obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent. You can begin your high school preparation by taking classes in algebra, geometry and drafting. You may seek immediate employment in the construction industry upon graduation, but earning a 4-year degree may make you more marketable to potential employers.

Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

You can enter a bachelor's degree program in construction science, civil engineering or a relevant field to prepare for your management role. As a student in one of these programs, you may take coursework in architecture, business management, communication, engineering principles, project planning and surveying. After graduating, you can seek an entry-level position or an internship to continue developing your contractor skills.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience in Construction Industry

Since many employers prefer job applicants with a combination of education and work experience, an internship can be a way to build your resume as well as see whether you'd be interested in pursuing residential, commercial or industrial construction. You may take advantage of internships offered through the career center at your undergraduate institution. As you learn from seasoned contractors, your internship can serve as a stepping-stone for acquiring contacts in the industry and for landing a full-time position.

Step 5: Meet Certification Requirements

While certification is voluntary, the BLS reported an increasing trend of workers in your construction management profession seeking certification as of 2018 (www.bls.gov). A relevant certification can demonstrate your knowledge and ability to handle a job. The American Institute of Constructors (www.professionalconstructor.org) offers the certified professional constructor credential, and the Construction Management Association of America (www.cmaanet.org) offers the certified construction manager credential. You need to meet a combination of formal education and experience requirements in addition to passing an exam to be considered certified.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Outside of construction contracting, many options exist in the world of commercial and industrial design, many of which require a bachelor's degree. Civil engineers plan and design projects for various concepts such as roads, water systems, airports and tunnels. Landscape architects focus on designing outdoor environments, including college campuses and recreational facilities. Architectural and engineering managers oversee the activities of their companies and work toward a common direction for their organization.