How To Become a General Contractor? First Steps

Do you have the skills to lead and motivate people? Do you have an entrepreneurial mindset characterized by dedication, commitment, and a strong work ethic? Are you interested in a career in the construction industry?

If this sounds like you, then general contracting may be the right career for you.

Whether it’s a minor home remodeling or an expansive commercial complex, construction projects always require someone to be on top of everything – and that’s where general contractors come to the picture. They hire workers, look for subcontractors and suppliers, and oversee the entire project to ensure deadlines are met.

General contractors are usually employed by property owners, government, developers, and even homeowners for various construction, renovation, and remodeling work. Some common projects include residential homes, commercial projects, and retail stores. There are plenty of opportunities available for general contractors across all 50 states.

But how does one become a general contractor? Here are the initial steps in your journey in the construction industry.

Know the educational requirements

As with any other trade or profession, you need to have the necessary educational requirements to become a licensed contractor in your state. In all states, you’re required to have at least a high school diploma. Some states require completing a technical vocational course or a bachelor’s degree program (or its equivalent). The college degree should be focused on engineering, architecture, construction management, and project planning. A post-graduate degree in construction management can further boost your marketability.

Gain experience

Alternatively, you can use the experience as a requirement for a contractor’s license if you lack formal education. The minimum work experience varies per state but is usually at least three years full-time or apprenticeship position in a construction-related job. The position must show direct involvement in construction planning and management, such as shadowing or working closely under a licensed contractor.

Develop key skills

Whether you are applying for licensure on the merits of industry experience or formal education, you should develop key skills needed to become a successful general contractor. You need an in-depth understanding of various construction concepts and practices, building codes, and construction equipment operations.

Aside from construction-related skills, good entrepreneurial skills are vital to succeed in this field. Soft skills, like communication, critical thinking, supervisory, time management, and problem-solving skills, are also equally important in this position.

Pass the licensing exam

Most states require passing an exam to be a licensed general contractor. Once you complete the educational or experience requirement, you can apply for the licensure exam. Application procedures and requirements vary from state to state.

For example, the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors of Georgia requires applicants to pass two examinations: one on their desired license type (residential or general contracting), and another on business and law. Meanwhile, other states only have one exam.

In some states, general contractors need to register with the city or county. Some jurisdictions require professional references or a background check. In all states, you will need to show proof of insurance.

Find out which government office regulates licensing requirements and handles the test in your state. Meet all requirements and take the exam. Once you pass the exam, you can then start your career as a general contractor.

Prepare a business plan

Tenant build-outs experts from AFS General emphasize that being a general contractor doesn’t stop with being licensed. In fact, your journey into this big industry is just starting.

As a general contractor, you need a plan on how to succeed in this highly competitive industry. This document outlines how you will manage your business from securing licenses to winning projects and down to sustaining operations. It should have a financial plan on where to get funding and how to ensure profitability. A good business plan should have forecasting on how the business will look like in the next six months, one year, or five years down the road. It provides a blueprint from which the business is built.

These are the first steps you’ll take if you want to become a general contractor. While the construction industry offers immense opportunities, starting is not easy. As you start your career, you need dedication and commitment to build a strong professional reputation and win contracts.

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