A general contractor usually has prior construction experience and has met his or her state's licensure requirements. Degree programs are available for entry into this career field, though they're not necessarily required. General contractors can also start out as apprentices, earning a certificate upon completion.
General contractors work with an individual or company to renovate, construct or demolish a building. They provide manpower, equipment and materials for a construction project. All employers don't require a degree from those seeking to become a general contractor, but formal education may be necessary for some positions.
|Required Education||Apprenticeship, on-the-job training and/or degree|
|Other Requirements||State licensure required; voluntary certification available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||5%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$87,400*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Requirements for General Contractors
All states require a contractor to be licensed, but each state has different requirements. General contractors may learn trades by working in specialized areas, like plumbing or electricity. They also may begin as general construction workers who hang drywall, frame buildings or perform finishing work. Some general contractors complete formal training programs.
Apprenticeship programs are available for aspiring general contractors who want on-the-job and formal classroom training. An apprenticeship takes 2-4 years to complete. Apprentice general contractors eventually become full-time employees of a construction company and perform regular job duties to learn the trade. Upon successful completion of an apprenticeship program, graduates receive a certificate.
Although there aren't any general education requirements for a general contractor, an aspiring contractor may wish to earn a bachelor's degree to enhance marketability and for certification examinations. Earning a degree in either construction science, construction management or civil engineering will mostly likely serve a general constructor best. A bachelor's degree program may include coursework in mathematics, estimation practices, construction practices and construction site safety. Since many general contractors are small business owners, a bachelor's degree program in construction management may also include coursework in business management and accounting.
Earning a master's degree in construction management may aid contractors in obtaining higher positions. Another option is pursuing a master's degree in either business administration or finance.
Certification for a General Contractor
Although a general contractor doesn't need certification, one might pursue a credential in order to specialize or qualify for certain jobs. A general contractor, for example, may wish to become certified in asbestos removal if he or she plans on working in restoration. Considering certification in a sub-discipline may make the chances for landing a contract better. Those who do wish to become certified may take tests regarding cost management, professionalism and administration. The Certified Contractor Manager designation is available through the CMAA Foundation.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment in construction depends on a variety of factors, including new home construction and renovations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment growth for construction managers would be 5% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported a median salary of $87,400 as of May 2015 for construction managers.
Although general contractor positions do not always require formal training, prospective contractors can complete apprenticeships or earn a bachelor's or master's degree, which may aid in future career development. Professional certification is also available for specialties like asbestos removal.