General contractor training can happen in a number of ways. Some contractors gain years of experience as a construction worker, and others earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in building construction technology, construction management, architecture or engineering. Many employers now prefer to hire general contractors with at least a bachelor's degree, but work experience remains important. Knowledge of computer applications, such as Microsoft Office and Project are usually required for the job. Additionally, being able to speak both English and Spanish is helpful.
Bachelor's Degree in Construction Management
At the 4-year degree level, students gain a basis in construction concepts, materials and applications and also learn about business and leadership. They take classes in cost calculations. Additionally, construction management undergraduates often study economics, finance, advanced mathematics, statistics and communications. Some course topics might include:
- Electrical systems
- Structural foundations
- Building equipment
- Building codes
- Construction legalities
Master's Degree in Construction Management
Individuals who have unrelated bachelor's degrees or those who want to work for larger construction corporations typically pursue master's degrees in construction management. At the graduate level, students gain advanced knowledge of construction management principles and often take classes in:
- Field-specific computer applications
- Contract negotiation
- Risk management
- Sustainable construction
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
From 2014-2024, the BLS reports that the employment for construction managers is expected to grow 5%. As of May 2015, construction managers make a mean annual wage of $97,510.
Most states require general contractors to have a license. Voluntary certifications are often preferred by employers and are offered through various general contractor organizations. The Construction Management Association of America (www.cmaanet.org) offers a Certified Construction Manager credential, while the American Institute of Constructors (www.aicnet.org) certifies individuals as Associate Contractors or Certified Professional Contractors. In order to qualify for certification, applicants must generally meet education and work experience requirements and pass an exam.
Local colleges often offer 1-2 day seminars for construction professionals on various topics, such as material selection and cost analysis. Organizations, such as the Associated General Contractors of America (www.agc.org), often sponsor industry conferences, which can last 4-5 days. During this time, participants can attend seminars on topics like sustainable building. They can also listen to guest lecturers or learn about new construction products. General contractors can stay abreast of industry trends, news and regulations by visiting organizational websites and signing up for e-newsletters; construction magazines are also available. Contractors can also participate in online professional discussion forums.
Students interested in formal training to become a general contractor can choose between a bachelor's degree or master's degree program. Through coursework, students not only learn about building materials, codes, and blueprints, but also gain business and leadership skills.