|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree can be valuable|
|Degree Field(s)||Construction management, civil engineering, or building or construction science|
|License/Certification||Licensure required in all states; some states require tax number, insurance, and proof of address|
|Experience||Practical craft experience as an electrician, carpenter, or plumber; supervisory experience in construction helpful|
|Key Skills||Must be at least 18; clean work record; legal to work in US; good oral and written communication skills|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||5% growth|
|Median Annual Salary||$61,068 (for general contractors in 2016)
$87,400 (for construction managers in 2015)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com
General contractors organize the work that goes into the construction or renovation of various types of buildings and infrastructures. They are often the intermediary between the developer or builder and the subcontractors who perform the various jobs needed, including plumbing, electrical, carpentry and flooring work. All states require general contractors to have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass a licensing exam. Practical experience in the industry is also important.
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Educational Requirements for a Contractor's License
General contractors are hired by developers or property owners to organize construction work on various types of structures and projects, including residential homes, roads, office buildings, retail stores, government buildings, treatment plants and bridges. They hire and oversee subcontractors, buy materials, review architectural plans and ensure deadlines are met.
Every state has the same basic requirements for individuals who want to earn a contractor's license. These requirements include:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Possessing a high school diploma or equivalent
- Being able to work legally in the U.S.
- Having a clean work record in construction or an adequate explanation of any job-related incidents
States may have additional requirements for contractors, but all require individuals to pass an exam. Some states may also require that contractors provide proof of liability insurance, a federal Tax Identification Number and proof of a business address by showing a utility bill or a lease.
Practical experience in construction is very important in becoming a licensed contractor. This could be obtained by working in the various crafts as an electrician, carpenter, or plumber. Supervisory experience in construction also helps. Contractors must have good oral and written communication skills because they hire and evaluate subcontractors, and discuss projects with property owners and developers.
Continuing Education for Advancement
Individuals seeking advancement opportunities may want to consider a bachelor's degree in construction management. According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree in majors such as construction management, civil engineering, building or construction science is increasingly preferred by employers. An associate's degree and years of work experience may be substituted for a bachelor's degree, the BLS noted.
There are more than 100 schools that offer bachelor's degree programs in construction management. Master's degree programs are also available. These programs offer courses such as:
- Project control and development
- Site planning
- Construction methods
- Construction materials
- Cost estimating
- Contract administration
- Business and financial management
- State specific building codes and standards
- Inspection procedures
- Engineering and architectural sciences
According to the BLS, job growth for all types of construction managers, a group that includes general contractors, is expected to increase 5% between 2014 and 2024, which is as fast as other occupations (www.bls.gov). The demand for more energy-efficient buildings and the general increase in population are reasons for the job growth. Construction managers earned a median annual salary of $87,400 in May 2015, also according to the BLS. According to PayScale.com, general contractors earned a median annual salary of $61,068 in January 2016.
To become a general contractor, you need at least a high school diploma, but there is an increase in a need for a bachelor's degree or at least an associate degree, plus years of construction industry experience. Regardless of education though, experience in the industry is the most important requirement.