How To Become a General Contractor in 5 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 17, 2021 | Published September 25, 2020

Updated November 17, 2021

Published September 25, 2020

General contractors manage and organize construction projects for residential and commercial properties. If you're interested in the construction industry, it’s important to first learn the steps necessary to become a general contractor to determine whether it's the right career path for you.

In this article, we explore what a general contractor does, what their average salaries are and how to become one step by step.

What does a general contractor do?

General contractors are responsible for the timely and efficient completion of their projects and also the safety of the construction team. General contractors can work independently or with a construction or development company.

Related: Q&A: Should I Be an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Duties for a general contractor might include:

  • Overseeing the designing and planning of a construction project

  • Supervising the construction project and its crew

  • Budgeting for materials and labor

  • Acting as a contact for the clients and customers during the construction process

Average salary for a general contractor

The average national salary for a general contractor is $92,774 per year.

General contractor salaries may vary depending on a candidate's level of education and experience, as well as their specialization and any relevant certifications. Employment type, industry and geographical location may also impact potential earnings, as do potential overtime hours. For the most up-to-date information from Indeed, please click on the salary link above.

How do you become a general contractor?

Here are the steps to become a general contractor:

1. Determine your career goals

A general contractor can work with a variety of projects, including new residential homes or commercial buildings. You can choose to work in a physical construction role or a supervisory one, and opt to remodel or renovate.

2. Pursue an education

A high school education is the basic education needed to become a general contractor. Some general contractors may also complete a two-year associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree.

A college degree usually takes four years to complete and studies will include—but not be limited to—structural science, building, economics, statistics and other financial aspects. A few schools offer different degrees in development and management. Some general contractors may decide to pursue an advanced master's degree to be a more competitive job candidate or to move into more senior level roles.

Related: How To Become a Construction Manager

3. Earn a license

All general contractors should become licensed contractors. The first step in this process is to contact your state's contractor licensing board. To find the contractor licensing board in your state, check with your state department online. There you’ll find the requirements needed for licensing. Most states will require you to pass an exam in order to obtain licensing. Make sure to familiarize yourself with current building codes, state laws relating to construction and contracting and business management education.

4. Get experience

Having relevant work experience will help if you lack formal education. Each state has a minimum requirement for expertise to obtain licensure. It's also important to work with licensed contractors to help meet your state's requirements. Depending on the state, there is a three-year requirement for a construction-related job or apprenticeship.

5. Apply for jobs

After completing the necessary education to pursue your career as a general contractor, search and apply for jobs in the field. Consider the geographical area you want to live and work in, the salary you'd like to earn and whether you'd like to be a residential or commercial general contractor.

It's essential to develop a well-written resume that highlights your training, knowledge and experience as a general contractor.

Once you secure an interview, it's important to prepare and practice interview questions.

Related: How To Get a Construction Job

Important skills for general contractors

To succeed as a general contractor, you'll need these skills and traits:

Communication skills

General contractors work closely with residential and commercial clients. They also communicate with designers and construction workers, so it's important to have good listening skills and be able to give clear directions. This will ensure the project is completed correctly and safely. Having good customer service skills will help resolve any issues with clients and keep them happy during the construction process.

Math skills

Math skills are essential for construction projects. Math skills are used to help develop blueprints, as well as create budgets. Math skills are also important to track expenses and revenues.

Problem solving skills

Challenges often arise on construction projects and you'll need to have strong judgment to address issues and develop solutions to problems. For example, if a vendor ends up being short on supplies the general contractor is going to have to solve the problem by either obtaining materials from another supplier or rearranging the workload until the main supplier gets an order that can fulfill the needs of the project.

Attention to detail skills

General contractors need to have an understanding of construction practices and pay close attention to building regulations. They must make sure that all of the workers they are responsible for are following established guidelines and procedures. Having a strong attention to detail will help ensure projects are done right and performed safely.

For example, if a general contractor is responsible for managing a team of tradesmen, they must be able to closely supervise job performance, timeliness, adherence to safety policies and overall quality output at each stage in the project’s development.

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