How To Become A General Contractor After High School In California

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor in California is responsible for overseeing construction projects, managing subcontractors, and ensuring that a project complies with legal and quality standards.

There are different types of contractor licenses in California, including Class B (General Building Contractor), Class B-2 (Residential Remodeling Contractor), and Class C (Specialty Contractor), each catering to specific aspects of construction work​​.

For this article, we’ll focus on the Class B General Contractors license.

Why Become a General Contractor?

A better question would be – why not? General contractors make good money in California, easily clearing $100k a year in most markets, and becoming a general contractor doesn’t require a 4-year degree or any of the other nonsense that comes along with other high-paying jobs.

For anyone who detests school – but likes building things – being a general contractor is a career that is full of fulfillment and financial rewards. By stepping onto the path to being a Class B licensed general contractor, any high school kid can find themselves in a full-fledged career in just 4 years, making 3-4x what their college-attending peers would.

There’s really so many upsides to being a general contractor – and considering it’s a job that will always be in demand, it’s a great way to futureproof yourself from the rapid change we are all experiencing every day.

What Do You Need To Become a Class B General Contractor?

To become a licensed Class B general contractor in California, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have four years of experience at the journey level or equivalent.
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Pass a licensing exam with a law and business section and a trade-specific section.
  • Possess a $25,000 contractor’s bond.

Straight out of high school, the hardest part of this is gaining the necessary work experience. As you can see, you need at least 4 years of work experience before you can even apply for a CSLB license.

This is going to be the first thing you want to do after you graduate high school – or even if you are still in high school! Four years is the bare minimum here, so getting cracking on your work experience ASAP is critical to becoming a general contractor after high school.

How Long Does It Take To Become A General Contractor After High School

The process of becoming a licensed contractor depends on individual circumstances, such as the amount of relevant experience and the time taken to prepare for the licensing exam, but straight out of high school, with no experience – expect to take at least 5 years until you can become a licensed general contractor.

Generally, four years of industry experience or a combination of work experience and a college degree is required. That means, at the very least, expect to spend at least 4 years working under an experienced GC as you learn the trade to a level where you can set off on your own and become a Class B gen con.

Is College Necessary To Become A General Contractor?

As we’ve covered before – the answer is no.

The beauty of construction work is that you can do the work if you know how to do it and have the correct licensing – there’s no educational requirements or degree requirements to become a general contractor. You only need the proven experience and to prove you know your stuff via the CSLB exam.

That said – while a college degree is wholly unnecessary for recent high school graduates looking to become general contractors, going to school for construction-related education can be hugely beneficial and give you a massive leg-up over your competition. Not only do you learn more hard skills, but university degrees also help you build your network and win more clients through trust.

Degrees like construction management, engineering, or other broad construction degrees can arm you with far more information than you could ever need as a general contractor – fully preparing you for a long and successful career.

Finally, there are even situations where your 4-year degree can stand in for your work experience requirement – contact the CSLB for more information there.

The Quickest Way to Become a General Contractor

The quickest way to become a general contractor after high school is to simply get to work.

Every contractor needs 4 years of experience, so starting work right after you graduate – or even starting work while you’re in school (say, on summer vacation) is the best thing you can do for yourself if you know you want to be a general contractor.

Once you have your 4 years of experience as a journeyman general contractor, the rest is easy. You only have to apply for your license and pass the CSLB exam (which is difficult, to be fair), and before you know it, you’ll be out there as a Class B general contractor!

Additional Documentation For Class B Licensing

You may need to submit additional documentation based on your application’s details, such as statements for any criminal records, unsatisfied judgments, or tax liabilities.

If you have anything that you think the CSLB will flag, either in their background checks or application reviews – anything at all – it’s worth your time to have that paperwork ready to go just in case they request it.

Owner-Builder Certification

If your experience includes “owner-builder” work, you must use a special certification form from the CSLB. If you’re just out of high school, chances are this won’t apply to you – but maybe you did some work with your Dad on your home or something like that, which you can then use towards your work experience.

It’s crucial to be thorough and complete when detailing your work experience, as any inaccuracies or omissions can lead to application rejection, which can add a ton of time.

Educational and Military Experience Credits

As we noted above, educational or apprenticeship programs may grant you credit toward your experience requirement. These are taken on a case-by-case basis by the CSLB and require you to provide substantial paperwork and evidence that this education is actually enough to satisfy the requirements set out by the CSLB.

Similarly, military experience is recognized and can expedite the application process, but unless it’s related to construction work, chances are it won’t be applicable. However, if you were in the military and did some sort of construction work – for example, if you were an engineer in the Seabees – there’s a good chance that can satisfy the experience requirements.


Becoming a general contractor out of high school is one of the safest, smartest career paths an 18-year-old can undertake. Given the perpetual need for general contractors – and the relatively straightforward path to becoming one – there’s no question that a career as a general contractor is a secure one that can reap big rewards for you in the long term.

The key is to get started right away. Work experience is going to take the most amount of time and energy to accrue, so the quicker you can get to working underneath a general contractor, the quicker you can get to becoming a Class B General Contractor. By the time your classmates are graduating college and looking for entry-level jobs, you’ll already be making bank!

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About CSLS

Contractors State License Service (CSLS) is the largest school in California devoted to the Construction professional. For over 23 years, CSLS has helped its students pass the exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California, licensing more students than any other school. From our main offices in Southern California, CSLS operates over 25 locations with full-service support and classrooms. We have grown to this extent by providing quality, professional services. In comparison, this provides 7 times the number of convenient locations than the second largest contractor school. Contractors State License Services is one of the only contractor schools in the state that is run by educators, not lawyers or people mostly interested in the bonding and insurance business. Contractors State License Services formerly operated under the oversight of the State of California's Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education. As of January 1 2010, the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) came into existence replacing the BPPVE. CSLS now operates under the provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (CPPEA), Article 4 Section 94874(f). Our Mission is simple; We can help you pass your California Contractors License Exam. Celebrating our 25th year, CSLS has helped over 120,000 students pass the California contractor licensing exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California. Additionally, we offer complete home study and online contractor’s license programs to help you pass your California contractors license exam. CSLS offers licensing classes for all types of contractor licenses, including General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractor, Insulation and Acoustical Contractor, Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor, Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor, Concrete Contractor, Drywall Contractor, Electrical Contractor, Elevator Contractor, Landscaping Contractor, Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor, and many others. For a complete list of contractor licenses, visit and tuned for more informative posts.