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How to Become a General Contractor: Steps, Skills, and Benefits
6 minute read
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Tim Forestell
August 8, 2023

How to Become a General Contractor: Steps, Skills, and Benefits

Wondering whether becoming a general contractor is the right move for your career? Wondering what do I need to be a General Contractor? Welcome to the comprehensive breakdown of what a general contractor is and how to become one. This guide will cover the skills needed, the benefits of this career path in the construction industry, average salaries, and more.

Becoming A General Contractor

General contractors oversee the completion of all construction and day-to-day work on a construction site. Their responsibilities include meeting with clients, deciding on timelines and budgets, and hiring suppliers, laborers, and subcontractors for each project. Other tasks include creating and adhering to production schedules, inspecting each team's quality of work, and staying up-to-date with building codes and regulations.

Additionally, general contractors are in charge of conducting inventory checks on materials and equipment. This can include understanding supply chain trends, equipment utilization, and more. It's also often up to the general contractor to decide what equipment will be rented or owned for each project.

What Do You Need to Become a General Contractor?

Here are some of the factors you'll need to consider before you decide whether or not to continue with this career.

Education and Training

The education for becoming a general contractor is not as formal as other careers, but the experience you required is arguably more essential. Typically, the education you need to become a general contractor is a high school diploma or GED. However, the reality is that having experience working on construction projects is the best type of education for this job. You can acquire this knowledge by having grown up in a family that works in trades, getting an apprenticeship, taking classes like woodshop, or going to college.

Employers or clients may favor general contractors with post-secondary education and other skills for general contractors at first. However, if you have a proven track record of completing projects then that will often take priority.

If you do pursue a college diploma or bachelor's degree, general contractors of study in related fields like business, economics, civil engineering, structural engineering, or statistics. College and apprenticeship programs usually involve practical experience on construction sites. A diploma might take two to three years, while a bachelor's degree could require three to four years.

Gaining Field Experience

To become a general contractor, prior industry experience is essential. Start with entry-level construction roles like construction workers to learn about the industry and job site safety. As you progress, you can aim for higher positions within your current company or explore opportunities externally. This experience builds a foundation for eventually creating your own company and becoming a general contractor.

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Licensure and Certification

Due to individual states and provinces having their regulations for general contractors, it's important to deep dive into the required qualifications for your area. For example, in Ontario, the Home Construction Regulatory Authority issues licenses required to build new homes. It's essential to contact the regulatory board in your area for more information on the registration and licensure process.

Business Formation

Starting a general contracting business involves careful planning, legal compliance, financial management, strong contracts, efficient project management, and a solid online presence. You must prioritize safety and adhere to industry standards while seeking professional advice as necessary. As your business flourishes, continue refining your operations and expanding your skills for long-term success.

How long does it take to Become a General Contractor?

There are a few steps to become a general contractor to consider. Especially, when you are considering the estimated timeline of a general contractor. Many general contractors start their careers by working in construction-related roles to gain experience and familiarity with the industry. Gaining this experience goes hand in hand with education and can take anywhere between two to five years.

General contractor licensing requirements vary by state and country. Preparing for and completing the licensing process can take a few months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the requirements. Additionally, depending on where you live you may have to prepare and complete a licensing process and that will vary.

Taking your licensing exam will take one day, however, you need time to prepare and study for the exam. You'll need to also set aside time for the application process, which includes submitting documentation, paying fees, and undergoing background checks.

Some general contractors choose to work for established construction companies, while others may decide to start their businesses. If you choose to start your own business, the timeline will depend on factors such as business planning, securing financing, finding clients, and establishing a network within the industry.

How Much Does it Cost To Become a General Contractor?

Many varying prices depending on your state or province. Varying prices and costs regarding exams, licensing costs, and other expenses.

Essential Skills for a Successful General Contractor

Project management, communication, and problem-solving are all key skills needed to be a successful general contractor. These traits come in handy due to the job requirements that come with the position. When looking at the tasks that a general contractor handles it's evident that these traits are essential to success. In addition to these traits, having wide-ranging knowledge of construction processes and equipment is extremely beneficial when in this position.

Do you need a license to work as a General Contractor?

There are a few different licenses needed, but remember to check with your local authorities for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Acquiring a general contractor's license allows you to oversee and manage construction projects. This license demonstrates your skills and qualifications to handle various aspects of construction, including project management, safety regulations, and building codes.

Depending on your specific type of work you might need specific licenses for certain trades because they may have specialized safety and regulatory considerations. In addition to individual licenses, you might need a business license to legally operate a construction business in your area. This license ensures that your business is compliant with local regulations, taxes, and other legal requirements.

Some jurisdictions have specific licenses for contractors who work on residential properties. Once licensed, you may need to engage in ongoing professional development or continuing education to keep your license valid and up-to-date with the latest industry standards and practices.

General Contractor Career Path

While this is a challenging and demanding career path, there are benefits of becoming a general contractor that make it worth the challenge. With the benefits ranging from an income increase to the satisfaction of overseeing a successful construction project, there are many reasons why this path could be perfect as your next step.

Average Salary for a General Contractor

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for general contractors in 2021 was $98,890. This may vary depending on your state, whether you're an independent contractor or a subsidiary, how many clients you have, the types of projects you do, and many other factors.

How DOZR Supports General Contractors

Using the tools in your toolbox to the best of your abilities is a key part of being a general contractor, including using equipment (even if they don't fit in your toolbox). Knowing if it's better to rent, buy, new, or use, can be a challenging aspect of being a general contractor.

DOZR helps to ensure that as a general contractor, you have easy access to the right rental equipment for your construction project. Search DOZR for heavy equipment rentals near your job site.

Hopefully, this comprehensive breakdown has helped you to better understand how to become a general contractor with no experience and what the job entails. For more blogs like this, subscribe to our newsletter and get them delivered straight to your inbox.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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