How To Become Contractor in the State of California

Updated September 30, 2022

A contractor is one of the most important people involved in creating professional buildings for future businesses. In the state of California, there are special requirements to fulfill before you can work as a manager of a construction site. Understanding these requirements can help you to take the right steps to become a professional.

In this article, we discuss how to become an officially licensed contractor in California.

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What are the duties of a contractor?

Contractors are the managers that oversee every aspect of the creation of a professional building, including the initial planning and construction. Besides coordinating a crew, a contractor's list of duties can include:

  • Hiring specialized subcontractors like electricians and plumbers

  • Ensuring safety regulations are followed

  • Advising the clients to create buildings to their specifications

  • Managing entire work teams through the transportation and use of materials and equipment

  • Performing quality inspections on all work to ensure building codes are met

  • Keeping accurate financial records

  • Filing the paperwork for required permits and licenses

  • Monitor the building schedule to ensure an efficient timeline

Related: What Are Contractors and What Do They Do?

What is a contractor's license?

Depending on the state, contractors performing any professional work that involves the repairing, building, or alteration of any building may need a license to perform their work. These credentials verify that the accredited individual understands local safety regulations and will continue to follow them during the construction process. This extends to bigger construction projects such as railroads, roads, and highways.

This license also assures whoever decides to work with you that you are not only capable of doing professional work, but that you are insured in case of possible future emergencies.

Related: A Guide To How To Get a Contractors License With No Experience

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How to become a contractor in California

Here are the steps you can take to officially become a contractor in California:

1. Understand the basic requirements

There are basic requirements in the state of California that must be met before you can even start the process of obtaining the proper license. The state requires that you be at least 18 years of age and have a valid social security number. You can also obtain a license if you have an individual taxpayer identification number by filling out a W-9 form.

Related: FAQ: What Are the Components of a W-9 Form? (Plus Definition)

2. Obtain industry experience

California also requires at least four years of experience as a journeyman in order to obtain your license. Journeyman experience involves completing an apprenticeship program under the guidance of an already licensed contractor. At least one year needs to be practical experience, which means you have directly worked on an official construction site under the guidance of this expert.

3. Decide on your license type

In the state of California, there are three different classes of contracting licenses. There are specific requirements for each. It can be important to understand your preferred career path as a contractor so you can study and work towards the correct class. The different types of licenses you can obtain are as follows:

  • Class A: This is a general engineering contractor license. These are for engineers that specialize in repairs.

  • Class B: This is a license for a general building contractor. This license is for those who deal with the building and the planning of new structures.

  • Class C: This is a specialty contracting license. These are for contractors who require special skills in fields like plumbing and electricity.

4. Apply for the exam

After meeting the requirements, you can officially obtain the paperwork for the application for an original contractor's license. You can obtain this application through the official website for the Contractor's State Board for the state of California. Ensure that your application is filled out correctly and proofread before sending it out in the mail. After the board accepts your application you can begin preparing for the test.

5. Sign up for a test

There are specific testing centers in the State of California that you can sign up at to schedule the examination. You'll receive the information on the requirements in the mail which will tell you the location of the testing center and the date and time of the exam. This will also give you the other information required needed for the exam, including valid forms of identification.

6. Study for the exam

The exam is comprised of a two-part test that includes a general law and business test for those aspiring to work in a business setting. The secondary test is then a specific test for trade work in the state of California. You can look up places online that offer study guides and reference books for both tests.

Related: 11 Test-Taking Strategies To Help You Score Well an on Exam

7. Register for liability insurance

Liability insurance is a requirement for licensing in the state of California, but it can also just be a generally good idea if you plan to start a professional business as a contractor. Liability insurance can protect you and your potential business in the case of dangerous situations such as bodily injury to yourself or your employees or accidental property damage. Search online for liability insurance in California and locate a vendor that perfectly suits your future business needs.

Related: What Is the Definition of Liability?

8. Obtain your license

After you pass your exam, the official contractor's board will contact you with the next steps to obtain proof of licensing. This is where you complete a few other requirements, like registry fees, submitting fingerprints and providing proof of liability insurance. Once you finalize the registration of your license, it will be sent to you in the mail.

Related: How To Become a Contractor

9. Register with the government

All new contractors in California must register themselves and their business with the Secretary of State's office. Depending on where you live in the state, there may be local zoning, planning and construction permits you may have to obtain before starting your business. You can check with your local government for the specific requirements in your county.

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