What Does It Take to Get a General Contractor License in California?

In these uncertain times, when the job market is constantly changing, we do what we can to take control of our lives. Maybe you’re looking for a career change. Maybe you’re finishing up school and making decisions about what to do next.

No matter what season of life you find yourself in currently, you can look around and be certain that the construction business is strong and consistent in California.

If your career ambitions have begun to steer you toward becoming a contractor, you’re probably thinking, what does it take to get a Class B General Building Contractor License? This article can serve as an easy jumping-off point so that you can decide for yourself if taking this next big step is right for you.

Basic Requirements

Before getting too deep in the weeds about general contractor life, let’s make sure all the basics are covered. Here’s the absolute essential requirements put forth by the CSLB.

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must be legally allowed to work in the United States.
  • You must have a minimum of 4 years of journey-level experience.
  • Conversely, you may supply the CSLB with proof of three years of college or trade-specific classroom education. You must, however, have at least one year’s on-the-job experience doing general contractor work.

How Much Education Does It Take to Get a General Contractor License?

One thing that sets the general contractor career apart from so many others is the fact that you can build a lucrative future for yourself without having to worry about securing a pricey, seemingly out-of-reach higher ed degree first – and potentially saddling yourself with lifelong debt.

The reality is that the amount of education that you want to take on as you move toward your goals as a general contractor is mostly up to you – but education is always a method to empower oneself.

Basic math and reading comprehension are the main prerequisites that you’ll need in your day-to-day life as a general contractor – think about all the square footage you need to measure and the dozens of emails you have to write – so a high school diploma or an equivalent (like the GED) is enough to get you going.

Of course, you know that knowledge is power, so if you’re so inclined you can enroll in construction management programs, courses focusing on blueprint reading, or business administration classes to build your skill set anytime. Even a university degree can hugely benefit general contractors in this area of work.

General Contractors and Financial Commitments

For a lot of people who are just getting started with becoming a general contractor, the heaviest lift is the financial commitment involved. Take some time and reflect on whether now is the right time to go for your general contractor license. To make this pursuit worthwhile you’ll need:

When it comes to understanding the full schedule of fees, check out some of our recent posts, like How to Obtain a Contractor License with Minimal Fees and our Comprehensive Guide To CSLB Application Fees!

Liability and Mitigating Risk

We mentioned above that having a Contractor’s Bond (and very soon, workers’ comp) is essential as you move toward getting your general contractor’s license.

This is because the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will not issue an active license, reactivate an inactive license, or renew an active license until these protections are in place.

This fact really gets to the heart of what it takes to become a general contractor. It takes the willingness to take on a hefty amount of liability. It takes someone who isn’t afraid of risk, but who can mitigate risk while on the job.

It takes a commitment to working in compliance with building codes and regulations. Meeting these standards is non-negotiable for a general contractor.

A failure to comply with the guidelines and restrictions set by local authorities inevitably leads to an increase in legal liabilities, financial penalties, and a damaged reputation.

Throughout your four years of required training, you’re likely to make mistakes and you’re likely to learn from those mistakes. But when you’re officially a license-holding general contractor the mistakes will be more costly and possibly more dangerous.

Can you envision yourself working closely with clients and crew members to mitigate risk as you work through your career in construction? Are you prepared to keep a clean paper trail documenting all your contracts, permits, inspections, and transactions?

Networking and Building a Reputation

Sometimes a word-of-mouth testimonial is your best asset. One major pillar that you’ll need to prop up your career as a general contractor is networking and reputation-building skills.

  • Join Trade Associations and participate in industry events, workshops, and seminars. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are great places to seek out networking opportunities.
  • Fix up your online presence and create a professional website for yourself. Link to social media and LinkedIn and include client testimonials there along with details about your industry expertise.
  • Prioritize customer service and nurture lasting relationships with clients. Remain consistent and always deliver high-quality workmanship while also keeping your communication with clients open and honest to maintain mutual trust.


It definitely takes a great deal to become a general contractor. But if you determine that you’re up for the task, it’s nothing you can’t handle.

Meeting the necessary requirements for getting the General Building Contractor license is only the beginning. Beyond that step, you will need to invest in continuing education for yourself and manage your financial responsibilities from job to job and in between jobs.

You will also have to work in compliance with California codes and local ordinances all while keeping up strong and healthy relationships with clients and colleagues.

If you see yourself aligning with this career journey, please check out the CSLB website to get the most current and accurate guidance for the next steps toward your future in construction.

This entry was posted in Construction, Contractor Business, Contractor Jobs, CSLB News, Tips on by .

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 www.MakeMeAContractor.com and tuned for more informative posts.