How To Become A General Contractor: What You Need To Know

It doesn’t matter if the project is a small-scale house remodel or a massive office building—there is always someone in charge. You are in charge of overseeing the entire project and ensuring that everyone stays on schedule and within their allocated budget as the general contractor.

If this describes you, a general contractor career may be in your future.

The 6 Steps To Becoming A General Contractor

Having trouble getting started? Take a look at our step-by-step guide to becoming a general contractor.

Step 1: Develop Your Skills As A Contractor

There is just no way around the fact that becoming a general contractor requires time-consuming training. Construction project management requires knowledge and expertise, and it doesn’t come quickly.

Higher education and practical experience are the two main routes to this experience.

The majority of GCs have a mix of these two. Along with numerous years of experience in the construction sector, successful general contractors frequently hold degrees in construction management or civil engineering. Regardless of your strategy, you should begin preparing to become a general contractor three to five years in advance.

  • You need to be 18 years or older
  • being able to lawfully work in the U.S.
  • Get your GED or high school diploma
  • have a spotless work history

Once you have checked the appropriate boxes for those requirements, consider your experience in the following contractor fields:

  • Making project bids
  • Creating a budget and keeping track of spending
  • Getting through the permit process
  • Creating a schedule and overseeing contractors
  • observing building and safety regulations
  • managing expectations while working with clients
  • good general construction knowledge

Of course, the best approach to achieve this is to gain as much experience as you can while working for a respectable construction firm, especially on mid- to large-scale projects where you may observe every facet of a project. In addition, the majority of states demand experience in the industry before granting a general contractor’s license.

Step 2: Take The Contractor Exam

Most jurisdictions have laws requiring general contractors to hold licenses, but in order to do so, you first have to demonstrate your suitability by passing an exam. State to state will have different test requirements. For instance, general contractors in Georgia are required to pass two exams, one on business and law and the other on building. In other states, the entire exam is combined.

You will typically be tested on:

  • Financial management
  • Contracts
  • Business structure and organization
  • Estimates and bids
  • Safety and risk control
  • Labor law, tax law, and construction-related law

Your general contractor experience will provide you with a great deal of information about these subjects – but you can also prepare by buying test prep materials or taking an online course. When you pass the exam, you prove you’re capable of becoming a general contractor.

Step 3: Develop A Business Plan

A “construction industry” could encompass everything from nailing up a backyard deck to working on electrical contracts to building skyscrapers. It might seem like busywork, but a business plan is the single most effective way to see how your company can succeed.

The business plan is a map that shows you how to reach long-term success from a startup. You can make your ideas profitable by implementing them.

Step 4: License Bond

Contractor license bonds are required by law in most states, and you’ll likely have to show proof of yours when you submit your application for a license. As with just about everything GC-related, the cost and requirements to get a license bond to depend on your location. 

You will also need the right business insurance. A business’s reputation, clients, and employees are protected by the right insurance coverage.

Step 5: Getting The Paperwork Ready

Depending on where you live, licensing might be handled by your state, county or city. References may be requested by some companies. In some cases, a background check is required. In addition, everyone is interested in your construction experience – but how much experience will vary.

Step 6: Establish Your Reputation As A General Contractor

Once you have acquired your contractor license, developed your business plan, obtained your bonding and insurance, and passed your exam, you are almost there! Building a strong professional reputation is the final step to becoming a general contractor.  This means;

  • Develop a community by meeting new people and maintaining relationships with contractors. 
  • Show your clients your reliability and hard work by developing a rock-solid work ethic.
  • Develop your leadership skills by motivating your workers. 
  • Keep up with the latest codes and regulations: Don’t stop learning. Stay on top of your industry’s emerging technologies. 


Are there courses that can prepare me to become a general contractor?

GCs can take training courses offered by several construction industry associations. There are a variety of training programs to choose from, such as those offered by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) or the Building Trades Academy.

You will learn about construction materials, inspection procedures, cost estimation, safety codes, and more to help you manage a construction project. A construction management degree is another option. The construction management degree combines business management and structural engineering training.

What kind of work experience do I need to become a general contractor?

A formal training program isn’t necessary to earn professional experience in construction. First, you should find a company willing to let you do simple jobs before taking on more complex ones.

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