How to Become a General Contractor

Published: Aug 25, 2022
How to Become a General Contractor


General contractors are an integral part of the construction industry. Planning, managing, and completing a huge range of commercial and residential projects, general contractors help to create our towns, cities and urban landscapes.

Becoming a general contractor will allow you to bid on a wide range of construction projects and start a new, profitable job in the building industry. If you’re considering a career move, take a look at our guide to becoming a legal, qualified and experienced general contractor.

What Does a General Contractor Do?

General contractors organize and execute construction projects for both private and commercial clients. From building a new home to completing a new mall, these contractors manage every step of the process so everything runs smoothly.

The general contractor is the person, team or company that enters into the primary contract with the property owner. It’s the general contractor who bears the responsibility of overseeing the project and ensuring it’s completed on time and on budget.

Eligibility Criteria for Being a General Contractor

If you want to become a general contractor, there are certain eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet. These criteria help to ensure that general contractors are working legally, that they’re able to offer the services they advertise, and that the customer is protected if something goes wrong.

In order to be eligible to become a general contractor, you’ll need:

  • A GED or a high school diploma
  • Eligibility to work legally in the US
  • A clean background check
  • Past work experience in the building trade
  • To pass a contractor license exam

GED or a High School Diploma

If you want to become a general contractor, you’ll need to prove that you’ve achieved a basic level of education. General contractors don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or further education qualification, however, they do need to show that they’ve got a GED or high school diploma.

Eligible to Legally Work in US

All general contractors operating in the US need to have the right to work legally in the country. If you aren’t legally allowed to work in the US, you’ll need to secure this right before starting your business.

A Clean Background Check

You’ll need a clean background check in order to start working as a general contractor. If you have a criminal record, you may not be able to get your general contractor license. Talk to your state licensing authority for more information.

Past Work Experience

Building is a highly skilled profession and it’s essential to get extensive work experience in the area. Most general contractors will need a minimum of 4 years of experience in the construction industry. However, the more professional experience you have, the better. So, try to get work on a variety of projects, and in a range of roles, before you start out on your own.

As a general contractor, you’ll be responsible for managing all aspects of the build. Gaining experience in project management, roofing, carpentry and other specialties, will give you the expertise you need to succeed.

Contractor License Exam

Most states and municipalities require you to pass a contractor license exam before you can start trading. The exact topics you’ll need to master for the exam vary state by state, but in most cases, you’ll need a good understanding of building codes, business management, and local construction law.

Contact your state licensing board to find out the exact licensing requirements in your area.

While not all states require you to hold a general contractor license, getting one will be good for business. A lot of clients won’t even consider working with an unlicensed contracting business, so it’s well worth taking the time to pass your exams and secure your business license.

Steps to Become a General Contractor

If you’re confident you meet all qualifying criteria to become a general contractor, it’s time to turn your dreams into reality and get started on your business plan. Although becoming a commercial or residential constructor isn’t necessarily difficult, you’ll need to ensure you tick all the right boxes before you start trading.

Get a High School Education or a bachelor’s degree

Getting a good education is the first step in any successful career path. So, if you haven’t completed your high school education, now’s the time to get back in the classroom and pass those exams. There are lots of local schools and colleges that offer short courses for adults who want to get their high school diploma, so why not sign up for local lessons and get started?

Learn From Your Initial Training

Working for a choice of general contractors, subcontractors and specialty contractors will give you the skills you need to start a business of your own. As well as practical knowledge, these jobs can provide you with essential admin expertise in areas like workers’ compensation insurance and general liability insurance.

As a general building contractor, you’ll be responsible for arranging your own workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance. Getting a good understanding of the subjects while you’re still training will help you to hit the ground running when it’s time to strike out on your own.

Carrying out work experience gives you the chance to make sure this is the professional path you want to follow. During your training, you may find you prefer working as an employee for a contractor business rather than being the boss. Alternatively, you might find construction management is your calling.

Pass the Contractor License Exam Successfully

Passing the license exam is one of the final steps in becoming a general contractor. In most cases, you’ll need to pay the application fee and prove that you meet all necessary classifications before sitting the contractor exam. If some of your specialist knowledge is a little rusty, you may also need to do some revision in order to pass the test.

Once you’ve passed the test, you’ll need to post a surety bond to complete your contractor license application. The contractor license bond ensures that you’ll follow all rules and regulations set out by the Secretary of State or the licensing body in your area. It’s an essential part of the licensure process.

General contractors are integral to the construction industry and are responsible for building some of our most impressive, iconic and important structures. If you want to create works that will last a lifetime, why not start the process of getting your general contractor license now and get your new business started?

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About Lance Surety Bonds

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