General Contractor License Requirements

What does it take to become a general contractor? Read on to learn about licensing requirements, tests and renewals, as well as educational suggestions, potential salaries and job growth stats for the career. Schools offering Construction Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

General contractors, sometimes called construction managers or project managers, oversee the planning and construction of structures, typically residential and commercial buildings. Some states require general contractors to get a license, and some may require several licenses for different activities. See below for more info on the career in general.

Recommended Degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Building science, construction science, construction engineering
Key Skills Leadership, decision-making, technical skills
Licensure Varies by state
Job Growth (2016-2026) 11%*
Median Salary (2017) $91,370*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do General Contractors Do?

General contractors draw up plans for a construction project, usually based on the stated needs of a client or the construction company for which they work. They make calculations to determine a ballpark figure for how much the project will cost and then they oversee the process of construction from the pouring of the foundation to the final touches. Throughout the process, they work with subcontractors, architects, electricians, plumbers and other professionals to keep the project on track both financially and time-wise.

Do You Need a Degree?

Some general contractors have gotten into the business by working their way up through the construction ranks until they run their own business, and some have an associate's degree. Most general contractors, however, are earning a bachelor's degree, especially if they intend to work for a construction company. There are over 100 accredited universities and colleges around the country that offer degrees in things like construction science, building science and construction engineering, and some even offer a master's degree in construction management.

What Are the Licensure Requirements for General Contractors?

License requirements for general contractors are incredibly complex and vary from state to state (and even from city to city). There are differences in licensure based on the type of work you hope to do -- some licenses cover only residential construction or only commercial construction, and some cover both. In addition, specific classes of licenses might be required depending on the specifics of the project. California, for instance, has 44 different types.

How Do You Get A License?

Individual states will have an exam to pass for your license. This will allow you to perform work in the state, but you will have to make sure you adhere to other requirements as well (things like having workers' comp insurance, a business license and specific tax requirements). The best course of action is to check with your state's licensing board to make sure you cover all your bases.

Do You Have to Renew Your Contractor's License?

Once again, renewals for licenses are governed by each state and can vary wildly. In some states, it's quite simple and may only require a little paperwork. In others, you may need to attend continuing education in order to keep your license current and, more importantly, legal. One thing you don't want to do is neglect your renewal because states may inflict a penalty for doing work without a current license.

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