Requirements to Becoming a General Contractor

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a general contractor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

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 (2012-2022) 16%*
Median Salary (2014) $59,431**

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

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.

Degree Programs

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 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 16% between 2012 and 2022 ( General contractors with 1-4 years experience earned a median salary of $51,670 in 2015, according to General contractors with 20 years or more of experience earned a median of $77,957 per year.

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