How to Become a General Contractor

Posted: June 26, 2019

Although “general contractor” is a term commonly used by the public nationwide, the official term used in the laws and regulations of some states is something else—for example, major contractor, prime contractor, or main contractor. “General,” “major,” and “prime” all indicate that the contractor in question is the manager of a construction project, from project launch to completion. In this post, we’ll provide a basic overview on how to become a general contractor.

What Do General Contractors Do?

Whether managing the construction work on a single-family home, a shopping center, or a bridge, the general contractor is the one in charge. Key responsibilities and tasks of a general contractor include:

  • Translating a client’s vision into an executable plan
  • Coordinating with architects or engineers
  • Establishing and managing the project budget
  • Laying out a project timeline and ensuring adherence to it
  • Obtaining required business permits
  • Purchasing materials
  • Purchasing or renting tools
  • Hiring subcontractors and monitoring their progress
  • Interacting with building inspectors

What Skills & Knowledge Do You Need?

General contractors need to have a wide range of project management and “people” skills as well as knowledge of construction trades, methods, and materials. Key skills and knowledge essential to success include:

  • Construction knowledge
  • Project management
  • Blueprint reading
  • Spreadsheet use
  • Knowledge of applicable building codes
  • Knowledge of contracts
  • Cost estimation
  • Project scheduling
  • Project accounting
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Leadership ability

While these can be acquired and honed through practical experience gained by working in construction, many general contractors take advantage of formal training and educational opportunities.

What Training & Education Are Required?

There are no specific educational requirements for becoming a general contractor, though in some states an applicant for licensing must pass an exam. Many people start out as construction workers and gain the experience and knowledge needed to become a general contractor. At some point they may decide to acquire the formal education in construction management or construction technology that will give them additional credibility and open up new opportunities for them as general contractors. Other people may go straight from high school into an associate’s degree program in construction management.

What Certifications Are Required?

There is no requirement in any state for mandatory certification of general contractors. However, many general contractors choose to become nationally certified through the Construction Management Association of America, which involves completing a self-instructional course and passing an exam. The Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation can give you a competitive advantage in bidding on projects.

The American Institute of Contractors offers other certifications as well, including: Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Contractor (CPC).

Do Contractors Need a State License?

Not all states require general contractors to be licensed, including: Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Some states do require general contractors to be licensed in order to bid on projects valued in excess of $50,000. Still others require specialty contractors, like electricians and plumbers, to be licensed but not general contractors. In some states, the only licensing requirements are at the municipal level.

However, every state requires all businesses to be registered, typically with the state’s Department of Revenue or Secretary of State. This is meant to ensure that sales taxes are reported and paid.

Do You Need A Bond?

When a contractor’s license is required, a contractor’s license bond is required as well. This surety bond guarantees that the contractor will abide by all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. Unlawful or unethical actions violate the terms of the bond, and the contractor is financially liable for claims filed against the bond for any resulting losses.

Get Bonded Today

If you’ve made the decision to become a general contractor, the experts at Contractor Surety Group are here to help you obtain any surety bond that may be required. Contact us today to discuss your bonding needs and request a quote.