How to Become a General Contractor: The Complete Guide

Updated on January 13, 2024

Are you interested in managing major construction projects while running your own business? General contractors are pivotal in overseeing and coordinating entire building efforts from start to finish. This guide covers all key steps to launch a thriving construction company as a licensed contractor.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor (GC) serves as the central professional over complex builds, bridging plans to timely, on-budget reality through:

Top GCs thrive on leadership, project planning, and financial management skills, directing an orchestra of moving parts toward completion.

Educational Background

Typical education pathways toward becoming a GC include:

Both formal collegiate and hands-on apprenticeship training build expertise for managing complex builds, reading site plans, estimating budgets, and gaining early career experience around builds.

Getting Licensed

All 50 states require general contractors to hold valid licenses granting legal permission to operate as construction business owners. Typical GC licensing steps include:

Launching Your Construction Business

With education plus licensure, newly minted GCs can join established construction firms, gain further experience, or start their own. Critical startup considerations (as per small business website) when founding new contractor businesses include:

Gaining Hands-On Experience

Before independently running massive new build or renovation efforts alone, it helps to spend 1-3 years in apprentice-like roles to hone skills further:

These positions provide invaluable direct field experience translating academic learning into tangible ability before risking solo large-scale leadership.

Additional Certifications

The top general contractors pursue supplemental credentials demonstrating focused expertise in niche construction realms:

Staying atop evolving technologies, methods, codes and legal considerations ensures polished marketability.

Job Market and Income Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over 5% employment growth for GCs owing rising infrastructure demands through 2031. Average salaries span $70,000 at entry level to $200,000+ for the most reputable principal contractors steering complex commercial builds.

Networking and Associations

Well-connected general contractors maintaining both peer and mentee relationships make faster career inroads. Major trade groups offer further camaraderie, best practice insights, plus marketing exposure like:

In summary, despite intensive education plus experience investments, few fields reward talent and entrepreneurial vision as generously as construction leadership. Get laid career foundations early through apprenticeships and formal education to claim your share of over $1 trillion in projected annual US contract value.


What education do you need to become a general contractor?

Most states require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED to become a licensed contractor. However, apprenticeships, trade school courses, or college degrees related to construction management can be very helpful in preparing for the field.

How long does it take to become a general contractor?

It typically takes 4-7 years from starting initial education to obtaining your state general contractor license, which includes 1-2 years of trade school or college courses plus 1-4 years of paid onsite construction experience.

What is the average general contractor salary?

The average general contractor salary ranges from approximately $70,000 for assistant project managers or estimators starting out to over $200,000 per year for highly experienced construction business owners steering complex commercial projects.

What does a general contractor do on a daily basis?

Daily GC duties include things like reviewing project plans, coordinating subcontractors, inspecting job site progress/safety, planning work schedules, resolving construction issues, submitting progress reports to clients, and managing budgets/payments.

How much does a contractor license cost?

A general contractor license typically costs a few hundred dollars initially for exam fees and first license approval. Renewal fees then apply every 1-2 years for a few hundred additional dollars to keep the license current.