How to Become a Construction Contractor: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to become a construction contractor. Research the job description and the education requirements, and find out how to start a career in construction contracting.

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Should I Become a Construction Contractor?

Construction contractors, often known as construction managers, plan and supervise a variety of construction projects, such as residential building, commercial construction or public works projects. Along with various other tasks, they may also be responsible for obtaining the proper building permits and licenses for the projects they oversee. Many contractors own their own businesses and are self-employed. Travel between several work sites might be involved, and this occupation can be fairly stressful due to delays, deadlines and required overtime.

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  • Construction Site Management
  • Drywall Installation
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  • Electrical Systems Lineworker
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Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies with experience; employers may require or prefer a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Construction management, construction technology or a related field
Certification and Licensure Voluntary certification may increase job opportunities*, licensure as a contractor required in some states
Experience At least three years of experience typically required; some employers may offer on-the-job training programs for new workers
Key Skills Strong communication, analytical, decision-making, supervisory and time-management skills; thorough knowledge of various construction practices and construction equipment
Salary (2015) $57,522 per year (Median salary for construction contractors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Various state licensing agencies, Job postings by employers (January 2013), Payscale.com (July 2015)

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

Aspiring construction contractors who have completed high school or the equivalent can enroll in an associate's degree program in a field such as construction management or construction technology. Many institutions offer these types of programs, which provide a strong foundation for future contractors and commonly take around two years to complete. Students can expect to study related topics, such as algebra, composition, safety practices and surveying.

Step 2: Obtain a Position in Construction

In order to begin gaining experience in the field, prospective construction contractors should look for employment in a construction-type setting. Many individuals choose to begin working under the supervision of a general contractor or construction contractor while working towards their degree, which can make their studies more relevant to real-world situations. Regardless of when individuals begin working in construction, experience is a necessary requirement for contractors.

Success Tip

  • Consider earning a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree may not be required by all employers, but can greatly increase a contractor's job opportunities. Many 4-year schools offer construction management degree programs for interested students. Classes focus on plumbing, electrical systems and carpentry, as well as other construction fields. Students may also study basic management and small business practices, such as managing payrolls and finances, tax regulations and local zoning ordinances.

Step 3: Obtain a License

Construction contractors may be required to obtain a professional license, depending on state and local municipal regulations. Requirements can vary, but many call for an educational background and professional experience in the construction industry.

Step 4: Become a Construction Contractor

Once individuals have completed the necessary education requirements and have achieved the adequate level of experience, they may begin looking for construction contractor positions. Many choose to operate their own businesses and work for themselves, while others may go on to work for established construction companies.

Step 5: Obtain Voluntary Certification

The Construction Management Association of American (CMAA) and the American Institute of Constructors (AMC) are two of the national organizations that offer certification programs for construction contractors and managers. Industry certification is not mandatory for contractors, but can be useful in assuring customers that the contractor follows industry guidelines and standards. Certification programs strictly require certain levels of education and experience, as well as the passing of skills assessment exams.

Success Tip

  • Keep certification current. In order to remain certified, individuals must complete continuing education credits and submit recertification fees. The CMAA requires this every three years, while the AMC's recertification period is every two years.
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