How To Become A General Contractor

A general contractor in a safety vest and helmet shakes hands with a client.
| 10.07.22
Susan G.

The time to work toward becoming a construction general contractor is now! As the possibility of a recession rises, so does the certainty that we will move beyond it eventually. And that’s when work for a building contractor really spikes. You’ll want to have your business in place and ready! If you’ve already got meaningful construction experience under your tool belt, you might be prepared to dive right into these steps. 

Suppose you’re looking at construction as a brand-new field. In that case, you’ll need to spend some serious time getting construction experience before becoming a general contractor or starting a contractor business. In fact, you may even be wondering what a general contractor, also referred to as a prime contractor, does!

What Do General Construction Contractors Do?

General contractors are generally project managers for construction projects. This means a general contractor ensures construction projects are completed on time and safely. As a general contractor, you may be the point of contact for customers, oversee design and planning, be responsible for budgeting for materials and labor, and be the crew and project supervisor. Becoming a general contractor is a big responsibility, and the average base salary of over $124,000 reflects that!

Steps To Become A Construction General Contractor

1. Figure out if you are eligible to be a general contractor. The basic criteria are straightforward:

  • Have your high school diploma or a GED
  • Have proof that you can legally work in the US

2. Know what kind of general contracting you want to do. You have good choices to consider! Would you work on residential home projects like kitchen remodeling or historic restoration? Or would you rather work on big commercial projects? There is also home building to consider! Are you driven to become a team supervisor, or would you rather be hands-on? Take some time to think about the path you’d like this career to take.

3. Determine if you need a contractors license. Not all states require general contractors to have a general contractor license, but check before you proceed. You can see if your state requires an exam or licensing here. You may need extra licensing to specialize. If your state requires an exam, study thoroughly! You’ll likely be asked about state building regulations and codes and other state laws related to construction and contracting. You’ll also want to have a basic education in business management. Some states require a background check and financial documents to get a license, too!

4. Find out if your state requires construction experience. Some states have virtually no requirements to become a general contractor. Others, like California, have defined requirements like at least four years of at least journeymen level experience in the past ten years. Like licensing, you owe it to yourself to see if there is an experience requirement in your state before you pursue general construction contracting.

5. Get insured. Some states require proof of business insurance even before you become licensed. B2Z can help! We tell you all about general contractor insurance here. Or go ahead and give us a call or chat about business insurance for your GC business.

6. Decide if you’ll be your own boss or join a company. As a general contractor, you’ll have options. You can start your own business or join up with an existing one. You may want to pursue the latter in order to gain experience as a general contractor and then go out on your own later. Before starting a general contracting company, you’ll want to understand business structures, business taxes, and other business issues. 

If you’ll be joining an existing team, you’ll need to start applying and have a resume handy! Some businesses will want you to apprentice first. Shop around for the best salary!

7. Build your skills and reputation. We’re not just talking about construction skills! Build up all the skills that will help you succeed in being your own general contractor, like writing a general contractor business plan! Including:

  • Business management and finances
  • Project bidding and budgeting
  • Client management
  • Subcontractor management
  • Regulation compliance
  • Effective communication

Now that you have a basic understanding of what is needed to learn to be a general contractor, decide if you’ll go for it or take a different path. General contractors are a crucial part of construction success. If you’ve got the drive and skills, we wish you the best!

About the Author

B2Z Insurance is a small business insurance company that provides coverage for on-the-go business owners: simple explanations, easy application, digital quotes, and mobile claims. A product that is easy-to-use and helps you assess the unique coverage needs of your business with confidence—freeing you up to grow your business.