How to Become a General Contractor in California?


Are you struggling to take control of a construction project and want to express your expertise as a project manager? You first need to become a professional general contractor and get a California contractors license. If you are really passionate about it, you must make your career in this field. In this world, you will get unlimited chances to show your leadership abilities. However, it should be noted that you need a complete guide to becoming a general contractor before fulfilling your dreams. In this blog, we will present a detailed guide in front of you and enable you to understand things clearly and begin your journey with confidence. Let’s take the first step to meet your dreams! Also, discover 5 Tips To Get More Clients As Contractors!


Table of Content

Uncovering the Role of a General Contractor

Meeting the Eligibility Criteria for General Contractors

Passing Out the Contractor’s License Exam

Identifying the License Classification

Price Variation in Different Education Sectors

General Contractor Vs Local Contractor

Getting a Contractor’s License in California: A Detailed Guide

The Best California Contractor Licensing Schools to Begin Your Journey

Leading General Contractions Companies in California

Directions to Evolve as a Leading General Contractor

Final Thoughts



Uncovering the Role of a General Contractor

Nowadays, the demand for general contractors is elevating at a greater rate. And you are making the right decision to make your career as a professional construction contractor. But before starting your journey, you must know the responsibilities of them so you can make better decisions for your future. Contractors are responsible to transform blueprints into reality. They dive into the pool of diverse construction industries and convert your imagination into reality. Moreover, they are magicians who fulfill your architectural dreams by making beautiful structures while saving money and time. They schedule your construction plans and take the right decisions at the right time to get significant benefits from their arrangements. It would be not wrong to say that contractors are the backbone of any building and they give life to it by using their expertise and potential.

Meeting the Eligibility Criteria for General Contractors

Now you have made up your mind to become a general contractor and lead the industry as the expert one. It is time to check your eligibility to meet your dream profession.

  1. Age: You must be 18 or above to start your degree as a general contractor.
  2. Education: You must be a holder of an apprenticeship program certificate or equivalent degree.
  3. Licensing Exam: You must pass a contractor licensing exam.
  4. Criminal Record: You must have a transparent criminal background.
  5. Work Experience: After completing your degree, you can apply for a contractor license. Additionally, you must have 4 years of working experience in the construction industry when you apply for a license.
  6. Application & Fees: You must be able to submit the application and fee to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).

Passing Out the Contractor’s License Exam

According to a report, only 50% of students were able to pass the contractor license exam this year. The report of previous years is shown in the picture given below.

2023 50% (1,455) 50% (1,466)
2022 48% (9,911) 52% (10,795)
2021 50% (10,422) 50% (1,466)
2020 54% (6,873) 46% (5,922)
2019 53% (9,220) 47% (8,065)
2018 54% (6,628) 46% (4,644)

Well, passing the general contractor exam is not an easy task. It needs complete mastery in the field of construction. You must understand the coming challenges of the exam so you can ace it with 100% efficiency. Without studying, it is completely impossible to beat your criteria. Following are some tips to pass the contractor’s license exam and secure your seat in your dream profession;

  • Make a study plan and follow it to complete the exam content on time.
  • Start your exam preparation early and give valuable time to your course.
  • Use all resources such as textbooks, notes, video lectures, and online practice tests to make everything smooth from your side.
  • Understand the exam syllabus and pattern and do pre-practice to give the best performance during the exam.
  • Take the assistance of professional construction contractors and let them guide you according to the rules and regulations of California.

Identifying the License Classification

If you are on target to become a builder contractor and ready to apply for a license, you must first choose which license category is best for you. In California, there are 4 kinds of general contractor licenses available and you need to choose the one according to your preferences.

  1. Class A General Engineering Contractor License

    Class A general engineering contractor license is for those who are experts in engineering subjects. They mostly manage large-scale projects, such as power plants, highways, and bridges with respect to land leveling, excavating, paving, and concrete work.

  2. Class B General Building Contractor License

    If you are the one who is proficient in construction, shelter, support, and enclosure structures, a Class B Building Contractor License is the best option for you. These general contractors mostly bid and take charge of prime construction projects.

  3. Class B-2 Residential Remodelling Contractor License

    For residential structure improvements, people hire residential general contractors with Class B-2 Residential Remodelling Contractor License. It involves utilizing at least 3 completely different trades to manage a single contract. This type of contractor mostly deals with drywall, carpentry, flooring, electrical, plumbing, and more.

  4. Class C Specialty Contractor License

    If you are a specialist in a subfield of the construction industry, like HVAC, plumbing, or landscaping, you need a Class C Specialty Contractor License. When you enter this class, you encounter a further 40 types of trades in which you choose the one according to your expertise.



Price Variation in Different Education Sectors

You want to become a general contractor but do not know which institute is the best one for your targeted degree in terms of expenses. The cost of a construction degree varies from place to place based on different factors, such as type of institute, program duration, residency status, etc. Here, we give a general overview of the degree cost at different universities in California;

  • Private Universities

    If you are targeting a private university, you must have strong financial status. They are mostly located in areas with dense populations and luxury lifestyles and therefore always demand high prices for contractors’ degrees. For instance, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Stanford University in Silicon Valley charge high fees to give a course to become a general contractor.

  • Public Universities

    If you have a public university in your state, it is the best option to start your journey toward a general contractor. Also, the areas where the population rate is low offer degrees with lower fees compared to those enriched with people.

  • Community Colleges

    Besides public universities, another affordable option to become a general contractor is through Community colleges. They mostly offer associate degrees to their students. However, their rates remain lower than both private and public universities.

General Contractor Vs Local Contractor

People mostly confuse the roles of general contractors with local contractors. However, both are completely different regarding different aspects;

  1. Project Size and Scale

    General contractors mostly deal with large-scale projects such as infrastructure developments, commercial buildings, and multi-unit residential structures. However, local contractors always manage small-scale projects, including residential renovations or home additions.

  2. Project Management Responsibilities

    As a manager of large-scale projects, general contractors have more project management responsibilities. They make a connection between subcontractors through coordination, manage project budgets, obtain permits, and ensure overall project efficiency. However, local contractors have flexibility regarding their responsibilities. They manage things like project planning and client communication.

  3. Business Structure

    General contractors partner with large firms and entrepreneurs, including project managers, administrative staff, and structured organizational hierarchy. However, local contractors deal with small family-owned businesses with small operational teams.



Getting a Contractor’s License in California: A Detailed Guide

Construction is getting fast day by day in California. You can see the increasing score of construction in California in the graph given below.


It shows that there is more need for general contractors to manage that construction projects. Now, uncover a 5-step detailed guide to getting a contractor’s license in California;

Step 1: Determine the License Classification

First, determine which type of license category is best for you. Judge your education and expertise to make the right decisions. The categories are based on the diverse range of construction trades. You can choose one from a general engineering contractor, general building contractor, electrical contractor, plumbing contractor, etc.

Step 2: Meet the Basic Requirements

Check the eligibility criteria and determine if you are a suitable candidate or not. The criteria that are essential to consider include age, education, work experience, legal activities, financial status, etc.

Step 3: Obtain the Required Documents

Arrange essential documents to submit with your license application. The documents that are important to gather include a complete license application, educational certificates, work experience letter, scanned fingerprints, and proof of not involving in illegal activities.

Step 4: Pass the Examinations

In California, applicants need to pass two exams; Trade Examination and Law and Business Examination. The first exam scan if you have the knowledge and the skills of the construction trade you chose. However, the second one detects your proficiency in construction law, business practices, standards, rules, and regulations. Anyone who is ready to start preparation can arrange study material from CSLB.

Step 5: Submit the License Application and Fees

Once you have appeared in the exam and passed it with good performance, you can submit your license application to CSLB. Remember to submit all necessary documents and fees while considering the application submission deadline.



Receive Your License and Start Your Profession as a General Contractor!


The Best California Contractor Licensing Schools to Begin Your Journey

You might be confused about where to get the contractor certificate or degree to start a career as an expert general contractor. Be calm! Following are the top institutes in which you can choose to follow the profession of your dreams.

  1. Contractors State License Services (CSLS)
  2. Contractor’s License Resource Group (CLRG)
  3. Contractor Training Centre (CTC)
  4. Contractor State License Schools (CSLS)
  5. American Contractors Exam Services (ACES)

All these are the famous institutes that have made a record of preparing thousands of students for contractor licensing exams. They offer preparation courses for all types of construction trades to their students. If you cannot attend their on-site classes, they also offer online courses for your feasibility.

Leading General Contractions Companies in California

Now, you have become a general contractor and hopefully searching for the best general contracting company to get more experience and boost your expertise. For your convenience, we have mentioned here the top companies that you must consider while applying as a general contractor.

  • Turner Construction Company

    Turner Construction Company is one of the leading general contractor firms in California. Its owner introduced this company in 1902. It shows that the company has been working as an expert in the construction industry for many years. They have completed many projects, including Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Convention Centre Expansion, and the Cedars-Sinai Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion. The company is famous due to its commitment and sustainability. They provide a good working place to their employees and help them to enrich their capabilities while equipping them with the latest tools and expert knowledge.

  • Swinerton

    One of the eldest general contractor firms is Swinerton, established in 1888. The company has an extensive history of successful construction projects. They are limitless regarding the construction trades and please their clients with flawless project management services. The name of its notorious project includes Transbay Transit Centre in San Francisco, the UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Centre, and the LA Live entertainment complex in Los Angeles. The company has received awards for Green Building Practices and LEED-certified projects.

  • Webcor

    Another contractor company with multiple successful projects and a good reputation in California is Webcor. It is a certified company that was established in 1971. Whether you are a master in commercial, residential, or industrial project management, this place is perfect for you. Moreover, they deal with both new and already running projects. Its famous successful projects include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion, the University of California, Merced Campus Centre, and the Sutter Health CPMC Van Ness Campus Hospital. The company is notorious due to its latest and customized solutions. Also, they give chances to their employees to boost their expertise and grow their proficiency level.

Directions to Evolve as a Leading General Contractor

Everyone wants to become a professional and expert in his field. If we specifically talk about general contractors, they can become leading general contractors by following some directions. Here are some construction project management tips for contractors that will transform you into a leading general contractor in your area.

  • Expand Your Knowledge and Skills

    You must understand that the learning process should stay continuous. It is a key source to enhance your knowledge and skills. Keep yourself updated with the new technologies and innovations in the industry. Adopt new industry practices and make your operations more efficient. You can also participate in seminars and conferences to develop your knowledge and expertise level.

  • Enhance Project Management

    If you are on target to enhance your project management methods, make customized strategies and use the latest tools. Make perfect plans, schedule activities, and calculate an accurate budget. You can get the assistance of building estimators to enjoy construction estimating services in California. Likewise, you can manage your project more effectively by keeping continuous and transparent communication with your clients and other stakeholders.

  • Foster Strong Relationships

    To emerge as an expert general contractor, you must focus on developing good relations with your co-workers and clients. Always, provide your clients with extraordinary customer support. Solve their queries with 100% efficient solutions. Follow their timelines and budget boundaries. Moreover, furnish your clients with quality services to develop your reputation, show professionalism, and make strong connections with your clients.

  • Seek Diversification

    Always stay in search of new opportunities to develop your expertise. Also, diversify your services besides keeping yourself restricted in a boundary of limited services. Expand your market approach and make connections with more and more clients related to different construction trades. This approach will help you to develop new competencies and become prominent among your competitors.

  • Encourage Employee Development

    If you are leading a firm, then provide your employees with new opportunities to develop their expertise. Arrange training sessions and seminars at your workplace and encourage your workers to participate in these events. You can also give awards and certificates to your best employees to make your name in the construction contractors industry. These practices will encourage your team to give good performance and enhance their capabilities as a contractor.

  • Focus on Safety and Sustainability

    Whatever project you work on, always consider safety standards and regulations to keep everything flawless. Always try to work in a safe working environment while adopting sustainable practices in your operations. Provide your clients with safe and secure construction solutions.

  • Adopt Technology

    The world is changing due to innovations and technologies. You must adopt these changes to streamline your processes more efficiently. You can also use the best construction estimating software and tools to provide your clients with accurate estimates and manage their projects properly. Simply put, you can boost your working methods by using technology to become one of the leading general contractors.

Final Thoughts

Let’s conclude! A general contractor is a person who manages your construction projects while following tight timelines and budget boundaries. They are the professionals who efficiently give life to your imaginative construction plan. Now, you have read and understood who is general contractor, how you can become a general contractor, a method to apply for a license, tips to become a top general contractor, leading schools and companies, and many more. It is time to start your journey toward a leading contractor, develop your abilities, attain perfection in your industry, and fulfill your dreams. To read more informative blogs, check out our website, Nedes Estimating!


The timeline to get a contractor license in California depends on various factors. However, the average duration lies between 8 to 12 weeks. The process can elongate due to additional requirements or if you miss any essential documents.

A contractor license in California stays valid for 2 years. If you want to remain active as a general contractor, you need to reactive it after every two years. Also, you get notifications from CSLB when the license expiry date is near to come.

Constrictors’ charges in California may vary depending on the nature, size, layout, location, material, and other specifications of the construction projects. However, their hourly rate ranges from $50 to $150. For smaller and simple projects, contractors charge less cost while you need to invest a significant amount if you have a big construction plan.

Contractors with Class B licenses in California mostly work on the following types of construction projects;

  • Simple construction
  • Repair or remodeling
  • Improve project structures

It involves projects that need at least two unrelated construction trades. Simply put, they can take charge of prime projects and manage the whole construction project.

It is not an easy task to get a California contractor license since candidates have to pass an exam and meet various eligibility criteria. You must be devoted and willing to meet all the requirements to become a general contractor in California. Expertise, skills, knowledge, and devotion, all are essential factors to get success in this field.