For many contractors (most contractors), the most difficult part of getting your Contractors State License Board (CSLB) contractor license, so you can start working as a licensed contractor in California. .
The 200+ question, 3+ hour CSLB exam is a notoriously difficult examination designed to test the skills of even the most prepared and experienced construction professionals. That’s why we always recommend leaning on the expert guidance of a trusted contractor license exam school – through proven courses, these classes can make taking the test much, much easier.
But let’s say you don’t have the time nor the money to take a contractor’s license course from a trustworthy school. Is there a way to get your license without taking the CSLB exam? Let’s find out.
First Off, What Is The CSLB Exam Like?
To California contractors, taking the CSLB exam is like taking the SAT or the LSAT or MCAT exam for prospective college students, lawyers or doctors – this long, arduous trial decides whether or not you’ll be able to work as a contractor in California.
Clocking in at around 200 questions and taking up to 4 hours, the CSLB exam is, by design, not a joke. It’s meant to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to contractors and will test even the most seasoned construction expert if they’re not prepared.
The CSLB requires most applicants to pass two examinations:
- Trade Examination: Tests your knowledge of your chosen license classification.
- This can be either a Class A, Class B, Class B-2, or specific Class C speciality license – like plumbing or electrical.
- Law and Business Examination. This part of the exam covers California’s contracting laws and business management principles.
Is It Possible to Skip the CSLB Exam?
The short answer is no!
The majority of applicants must score a 72% passing grade on both the CSLB Trade and Law and Business exams to obtain a contractor’s license in California.
However, there are a few exceptions and alternative paths to explore:
1. License Reciprocity Agreements
California has reciprocity agreements with Arizona, Nevada, and Utah for certain classifications, allowing licensed contractors who currently hold a valid license from those states to bypass the Trade exam and only pass the Business and Law exam to get their California contractor license.
Contractors who qualify for the reciprocity agreement still have to take the Business and Law exam, which covers – you guessed it – California-specific business and law. You know, stuff like construction codes and financial obligations for contractors in the State.
To qualify, applicants must:
- Hold an active license in good standing for at least five years
- Submit a Verification of License form from the reciprocal state
- Pass the California Law and Business exam
Keep in mind that not all classifications are eligible, and applicants are still required to meet the basic experience and financial requirements put forth by the CSLB and the state of California.
2. Waivers for the Trade Examination
The CSLB may grant a waiver for the Trade exam in specific circumstances, such as:
- Adding a new classification to an existing license (if the qualifying individual has the required experience)
- Replacing a qualifier in an existing license (if the new qualifier meets the experience requirements)
- Applying for a license within five years of the expiration date of a previous California contractor’s license in the same classification
Note that like those who are able to take advantage of California’s reciprocity agreement with other states, applicants still have to score a 72% passing grade on the Business and Law exam.
You Can Never Skip the CSLB Law and Business Exam
You’ll notice that in both of the scenarios where you can skip the CSLB trade exam – via reciprocity agreement or waivers – you are never allowed to skip the Law and Business portion of the CSLB exam.
We repeat: there are no ways – we’ve checked – to skip the CSLB Law and Business exam. It is not worth your time to even pursue a way of skipping it. Just study and pass it – you need to know the information anyway!
Alternative Paths to Working in the Construction Industry
If skipping the CSLB exam isn’t an option for you, consider alternative paths to work in California’s construction industry:
- Become a construction laborer. Gain hands-on experience in the field without obtaining a contractor’s license. If you work on jobs less than $500, you can gain experience toward your CSLB exam. It can also help you build valuable skills and industry knowledge, so you’ll be more prepared when it comes time to take the CSLB exam.
- Find a Sponsor: Find a mentor or senior person to help you gain the necessary work experience in your classification. These experienced, CSLB-licensed professionals can not only help you acquire he skills and experience needed to get your CSLB license, they can help you learn all the other soft and hard skills associated with construction.
- Get A Degree or Certification: Obtain a degree or certification in a field related to your specialty, like construction management. This education can sometimes qualify you to be waived for the exam or to waive other CSLB requirements.
While facing the CSLB exam can seem like little David facing up a 50’ tall Goliath, it is well within any dedicated contractor’s reach to pass the exam and get their contractor license.
Unless you’re an out-of-state contractor that can take advantage of the reciprocity agreement, or you can find another exemption, you have to just bite the bullet. With a good plan and dedication, anyone can pass the CSLB exam