Just moved to California as a contractor and need your CSLB license – as any contractor does – to start doing construction work in the State?
Or maybe you’re a fresh-faced 18-year-old, who sees a career in construction in the future, and you are looking for the path to making that a reality.
In any case, no matter what type of construction work you want to do in California, you need a CSLB license – and in order to get a CSLB license, you need to first become a journeyman.
But what is a journeyman? And how does it play into getting your CSLB contractor’s license? In this article, we’ll walk you through everything and anything related to being a construction journeyman.
Journeymen and Journey-level Experience
The CSLB defines a journeyman as anyone who has “journey-level experience”, which is anyone who “has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform a specific trade without supervision.”
Unlike a novice or a trainee, a journeyman is fully qualified and capable of performing their trade without supervision. They are experienced, skilled construction workers who have specialty expertise in their area of operation – whether it’s a hands-on trade like plumbing or the more general practice of general contracting.
Despite the ability of a journeyman to essentially perform all of the jobs of a licensed contractor, a journeyman cannot do contracting work on their own – only under the supervision of a general contractor. That means that even if you have all the skills to perform construction work on jobs over $500, you still cannot do it.
If journeymen are found doing contracting work, they are treated just like any other unlicensed contractor in the eyes of the law – facing all the same penalties, despite their skill and experience.
Do not do work on your own as a journeyman – wait until you’re a licensed contractor. You’re already on the path to becoming a licensed contractor, so why ruin it by breaking the law?
The Journeyman’s Experience Requirement
One of the essential requirements to obtain a CSLB contractor’s license is the journey-level experience requirement. This requirement means that you must have at least four (4) years of journey-level experience in your area of expertise.
You must have four years’ journey-level experience in your trade. If you’re a plumber applying for a C-36 Plumbing license, you need four years’ journeyman experience as a plumber. You can’t, for example, do 4 years of general contracting work, and then expect to get an HVAC contractor’s license.
Exceptions From The CSLB Journey-level Experience Requirement
As always with the CSLB, there’s always exceptions to the rule. There are many situations where one may be exempt from the classical definition of “journey-level experience”.
Some situations where you can apply for an exception from the journey-level experience requirement include:
- The CSLB does allow anyone to apply for an exemption to the journeyman requirement by substituting four (4) years of technical training or apprenticeship training
- Note – you must have at least one (1) year of practical experience.
- In some situations, you can be exempt from the journey-level experience requirement if you built your own home. This is taken by the CSLB on a case-by-case basis.
- The CSLB has reciprocity agreements with a number of states – and if you’re a licensed contractor in these states, you can be exempt from having to start over again as a journeyman.
The Path To Becoming A Journeyman
Don’t have your journey-level experience but need some to get your contractor’s license? How do you even get your journeyman experience in the first place?
An easy way to do it is to reach out to local contractors in your area and see if they’ll offer you an apprenticeship or work experience program in the area you’re interested in. You may not be making a ton of money, if you’re making money at all, but think of it long term – you are building your knowledge base and your abilities so that you can start bringing in the big bucks for the rest of your life.
By working under a licensed contractor, you can not only learn the ropes but also perform the work you will ultimately be doing in your area of expertise. Look at it this way – most people go to university for four years only to leave with a diploma, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and a degree in something that probably won’t be relevant in a few years anyway.
What’s a few years of learning the skills that will suit you for life – and being paid for it? Anyone with a bit of determination and an attitude of open-mindedness and learning can get their CSLB license – all it takes is a few years of hard work.