How To Work On Government Contracting Projects: A Deep Dive On The Government Contractor License

If you’re a contractor, you might often find yourself asking: “How do I get my hands on one of those lucrative, long-term, often-over-budget government contracts?”

You may see contracts for bridges or tunnels or a number of other federal or local public works projects out there on jobs boards or you may hear about them through your local trade union. But how exactly do you get these jobs? And what kind of work do you need to do to even get your foot in the door?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about locking down those lucrative government contracts – so you can start bringing in those dollary-doos from Uncle Sam!


The End-All, Be-All: The Government Contractor License

To begin, you first have to establish yourself as a verified contractor who can take on jobs for the federal, state or local government by obtaining a government contractor license. Just like the CSLB, this is a process that requires verification and certification by a regulatory body.

The way to do that is through the United States Small Business Association (SBA) – this is the federal organization responsible for providing resources and regulation for small businesses across the nation – including issuing federal government licenses.

If you want to work on government contracts, you’ll need a federal government license, just like you’d need a CSLB contractor’s license to do any construction work over $500 in California.

Keep the SBA’s website in your back pocket. As you continue down the path of getting your government license as a contractor, you’ll be constantly in contact with the SBA, and constantly visiting their website over and over again as you jump through the endless hoops of paperwork and bureaucracy.


The Steps To Getting Your Government Contractor License

To be completely honest, the process of obtaining a government contractor license is long and arduous. This is the tradeoff of working with the government – everything takes much longer and requires a lot more work than it should.

Step 1: Establish Your Business

The first step on this journey is to establish your business legally. In most cases, you’ve already gotten this taken care of – these are all the basic elements of forming your business in the state of California.

This involves several sub-steps, including registering your business with the appropriate state agency (in this case, the California Secretary of State and the CSLB), obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and setting up a DUNS number through Dun & Bradstreet. 

As we’ve said, most of these are basic steps of owning a business, and in many cases, you will already have done these.


Step 2: NAICS and PSC Codes

Once your business is legally established, the next step is to identify your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and Product Service Codes (PSC). 

These codes are part of a database that the government uses to categorize the types of products or services that businesses offer. In our case, we’ll be submitting construction-related services, including sourcing, engineering, and general contracting. 


Step 3: Register Your Company With SAM

You’ve done it – you’re now ready to start winning some business! With your NAICS and PSC codes in hand, you’re ready to register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM). 

SAM is the sole system where companies can bid for contracts – and the sole way that the government awards contracts. Once you’re in the system, you’ll be able to start bidding on and winning contracts with the government. 


OPTIONAL STEP: Get Certified 

While not strictly necessary, obtaining certain certifications can significantly increase your chances of winning government contracts, especially in the realm of construction. 

If you’re a minority-owned business or a woman-owned business, for example, you can get certified as a disadvantaged business, which means you’ll have a better chance of winning contracts over more established competitors!


Step 4: Start Winning Government Contracts!

With your business established, your codes identified, your SAM registration complete, and your certifications (if any) in hand, you’re finally ready to start searching for contract opportunities.

The king of all websites when it comes to finding and bidding on government contracts is, as you probably guessed, the SAM website. Visit to find federal contracts that fit your area of expertise – then start bidding on them!


Why Bother With A Government Contractor License?

There are so many incredible benefits of being a contractor who has worked and continues to work on, government jobs.

Here are just a few benefits of working on government contracts as a construction contractor:

  • Dependable – government contracts will always pay out according to the terms
  • Lots of work – there’s always work to be done for the federal government. 
  • Good pay – the government is notorious for paying way over the odds for routine work
  • Reputation boost – working for the government automatically stamps a seal of approval on your work. If the government trusts you, people will trust you, too.
  • Networking – working on government contracts opens you up to a whole new world of work opportunities. 


Is It Worth It?

Getting your government contractor’s license is no walk in the park – it can take months of paperwork wrangling and bureaucratic navigation to get your license for federal work.

But the objective reality is that getting your government contractor’s license is absolutely worth it to any contractor. Not only do you get access to more, better-paying jobs, you significantly increase your chances of booking other work with an increase in your network and in the trust your current network will have in you.

If you’re on the fence about whether it’s worth it to take the plunge into government contract land, stop sitting up there and jump on in! It’s worth it on the other side!

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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.