What Is the Best Degree for a General Contractor?

As a general contractor, you wear many hats (or helmets, if you want to keep your job) – construction expert, business owner, marketing professional, logistics maestro, engineering authority, and so on – all of which require knowledge and experience with a variety of fields.

While the beauty of general contracting is that you don’t need anything but job experience and hard work to reach the GC level, one does sometimes wonder if a college degree is necessary – or even beneficial to becoming a general contractor.

In this article, we’ll take a look at whether it makes sense to get a college degree if you’re planning to become a general contractor. Is it worth it? And if so, what degree makes the most sense if a general contracting career is in your future?

Do You Need A Degree As A General Contractor?

A general contractor is akin to the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring every instrument plays in harmony to create a symphony. From the initial design and planning stages to the final brick laid, they oversee every nuance of a construction project.

The cold reality is that being a general contractor is a ton of work. Sure, it’s physically taxing, with long hours and constant problem-solving, but for most contractors, we’re used to spending long hours on our feet, often in hot buildings or cold winds.

No, more significantly, being a general contractor is extremely taxing mentally. It requires you to constantly be in problem-solving mode, both on a micro and macro- scale. You need to pay attention to a thousand different things at once, often doing complex calculations and cost-benefit analyses in your head about materials, labor, and client expectations.

This leads us to our original question – do you need a degree as a general contractor? The answer is no. But do you need a flashlight when inspecting a job site at night? Nor do you need a worksite trailer when a tent would do. Sure, you can do without it, but education is like any tool – it can only make you better if you know how to use it.

A degree can arm you with the wide array of tools gen cons needs to not only survive as a general contractor – an extremely competitive field – but to thrive. All education and knowledge can give you a massive advantage over your competitors, so while you don’t need a degree, if you work at it, it’ll reap big rewards for you and your business.

What Is The Best Degree For a General Contractor?

If you’re thinking about becoming a general contractor, there’s a variety of different degrees out there that can benefit your business. While construction-related degrees used to be relegated to the worlds of engineering and architecture, schools across the country have begun offering construction-related degrees in things like general contracting!

That said, general contracting degrees are still rather rare and lack pedigree at this point in time. Usually, you find that the best educational opportunities for general contracting-specific education are local schools (like ours) that have established streamlined content relevant only to general contractors.

With that in mind, you’ll find that universities and colleges offer degrees related to only a few general contracting skills, like engineering or architecture.

Which of these types of degrees you pick isn’t specific. There isn’t really the best degree for general contractors. They all offer different things, with different pros and cons.

Bachelor’s in Building Science

  • Overview: A fusion of construction techniques with business acumen.
  • Key Subjects: Mathematics, design principles, building codes, construction methodologies, cost estimation, and project management.
  • Pros: Offers a panoramic view of the construction landscape, while also getting into the nitty gritty with mathematics and understanding of codes.
  • Cons: Few. Hard to tell if programs lean towards one or the other – business or construction.

Bachelor’s in Construction Engineering

  • Overview: As the name suggests, this degree yields an understanding of the technical and mechanical aspects of construction.
  • Key Subjects: Structural dynamics, geotechnics, materials science, and construction logistics.
  • Pros: Prepares students for the technical challenges of large-scale construction projects. An engineering degree means you can tackle any challenge.
  • Cons: Unlike many building science degrees, this program is often lacking in business programs.

Bachelor’s in Architecture

  • Overview: Architecture is basically an intersection of design with construction.
  • Key Subjects: Architectural design principles, building systems integration, and presentation and communication skills.
  • Pros: Ensures projects are both visually appealing and structurally sound. Forces you to work through real-world problems as you develop your work.
  • Cons: You might find yourself pigeonholed as an architect rather than a general contractor. If you like doing on-site work, this might not be for you

The Best Universities for General Contractor-Related Degrees

Want to get a degree in one of these fields? Here are some of the most well-respected degrees in the nation. While many of these universities are expensive, they may give you a leg up on the competition not only in the pedigree of their classes but also in the value of their network.

What’s really important is you choose an area of expertise that is interesting to you, as that will give you the best chance of success in your field.

Building Science:

Construction Engineering:


There’s No Wrong Answer Here

When it comes to becoming a general contractor, the wonderful thing is that there is no wrong answer. It’s one of the things we love about our profession – anyone, from any walk of life, can work hard, acquire the right skills, make the right moves, and ultimately become a general contractor!

That is to say, we neither recommend going to, or skipping school as a general contractor. If it works for you, there’s certainly a lot to gain. If you’d rather skip school and start getting experience, that path is relevant as well.

While many of us turned to the construction field because we didn’t like school, the potential upsides of going to school for general contractor-related education far outweigh the negatives of going back to school.

And honestly, if you can’t hack it in the cushy halls of a college, you frankly won’t be able to handle the significant demands of effective general contracting. We always recommend arming yourself with knowledge – and in that vein, we have to say that more education is better. That said, everyone’s situation is different, so make sure it makes sense for you.

Additional Reading

National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies
Best Degree Programs – Construction Project Manager
College Consensus – Construction Degrees

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