Group of four contractors in construction site gathering around a blueprint to illustrate the idea "how to become a contractor"
Maria Arnedo
By: marnedo
Read in 17 minutes

How to Become a Contractor in the US

Do you like construction?

How about leading a team to fulfill a project that was little more than a piece of paper?

If so, you certainly have asked yourself how to become a contractor.

Contractors are trained professionals that have the expertise and ability to manage and coordinate construction projects of varying types, ranging from commercial buildings to residential spaces. They can do it independently or as a part of a construction enterprise.

They hold an important position since every decision they make will have a direct impact on the building structure, soundness, and safety. Crazy, right? That’s why intensive training and preparation are needed to become a contractor.

If this sounds interesting to you, read some valuable information about contractor jobs in the US, and learn how you can become a contractor.

Already in the construction business? Learn here the 6 key steps to grow your construction business.

What Does It Mean to Be a Licensed Contractor?

A licensed contractor is primarily responsible for the supervision of an entire construction project. They have the background, knowledge, and training necessary (as well as a contractor’s license) to supervise and, sometimes plan, construction projects. 

How Much Do Licensed Contractors Make?Contractor average salaries

Before you learn how to become a contractor, here you have some data that may interest you:

The average wages for contractors (or construction managers) across the United States of America in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $50.48 per hour and $105,000 annually based on 2,080 hours (52 working weeks of 40 hours each).

Per the same organization, the following states have the highest mean of annual salaries for contractors:

  • New Jersey – $147,410
  • New York – $135,320
  • Delaware – $124,730
  • California – $121,540
  • Rhode Island – $120,000

They are all located in the northern part of the United States, and most of them have dense populations that demand new buildings and maintenance to the existing ones. Those situations result in higher salaries for contractors. Alaska’s high average has more to do with the harsh working conditions due to the climate.

Licensed contractor demand across the US

These are the five states with the highest number of employed general contractors:

  • Texas – Employed: 34,560; Mean Salary: $97,970
  • California – Employed: 32,830; Mean Salary: $121,540
  • Florida – Employed: 23,820; Mean Salary: $98,840
  • North Carolina – Employed: 13,500; Mean Salary: $111,250
  • Illinois – Employed: 13,040; Mean Salary: $95,120

#DidYouKnow: independent contractor vs. general contractor
Independent contractors are not typically considered employees. A general contractor, on the other hand, is a person or company hired by a customer to perform construction jobs. A general contractor may need to hire a subcontractor to perform the tasks as needed.

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Construction Company?

How to Become a Contractor in the US

1. Get experience

As you can imagine, those with the best and longest working experience will be prioritized over the rest. When it comes to contractors, the preparation starts as early as in high school via vocational programs that offer college credits.

Even the smallest and most seemingly insignificant jobs can help you train to become a contractor such as time management by doing chores at home and accounting by keeping tabs of the house bills.

2. Get the required education and licenses

When hired to perform contractor jobs, contractors will be required to show licenses and permits to perform their activities in their state. Sometimes, these licenses are granted by the county or municipality, but others may be given at the state level.

These professionals, to earn that title, need to pass one or more licensing tests in several areas, such as construction law, business management, and more. With the latter, they can learn about contracts, bidding, tax and labor requirements, and environmental safety. Other things that may be needed to practice are financial statements, reference letters, and insurance. The whole process can take three or four years. Specifically, a construction management degree takes between two to four years. You’ll find the types of construction degree in the sections below.

To sum up: How do I get a general contractor’s license?

1. Decide on your license class.

2. Choose a specialty, if desired.

3. Name and register your company.

4. Pass the contractor’s examination.

5. Get the required insurances.

6. Pass a background check.

Licensing and Insurance Requirements

Common licenses:

 Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration ContractorsPSI Services, LLC
Alabama Electrical Contractors BoardProv, Inc.
Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board Prov, Inc.
Alabama Licensing Board for General ContractorsPSI Service, LLC
 Alabama Plumbers & Gas Fitters Examining BoardPSI Services, LLC
Arizona Registrar of ContractorsPSI Services, LLC
 Arkansas Contractors Licensing BoardPrometric
 California Contractors State License BoardCalifornia Contractors State License Board
Colorado State Electrical and Examining Board of Plumbers N/A
 District of Columbia Department of Consumer & Regulatory AffairsPearson Vue
Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation
 Florida Electrical Contractors Licensing Board Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation
 Guam Contractors License Board N/A
Hawaii Contractors License Board  Promet


 Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses Idaho State Contractors BoardN/A
Louisiana State Licensing Board for ContractorsLouisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors
 Louisiana State Plumbing BoardLouisiana State Plumbing Board
 Maryland Home Improvement CommissionPSI Services, LLC
Minnesota Department of Labor & IndustryN/A
 Mississippi State Board of Contractors PSI Services, LLC
Nevada State Contractors BoardPSI Services, LLC
 New Mexico Construction Industries Division PSI Services, LLC
 North Carolina Landscape Contractors’ Licensing Board PSI Services, LLC
 North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors PSI Services, LLC
North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors PSI Services, LLC
 North Carolina Licensing Board for General ContractorsPSI Services, LLC
Ohio Construction Industry Licensing BoardPSI Services, LLC
 Oklahoma Construction Industries BoardPSI Services, LLC
 Oregon Construction Contractors Board PSI Services, LLC
Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board N/A
 South Carolina Contractors Licensing BoardPSI Services, LLC
 South Carolina Residential Builders CommissionPSI Services, LLC
 Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors PSI Services, LLC
 Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation PSI Services, LLC
 Utah Construction Trades Bureau – Division of Occupational and Professional LicensingPSI Services, LLC
 Virgin Islands Board for General Construction Contractors – Department of Licensing and Consumer AffairsPSI Services, LLC
 Virginia Board for Contractors Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation PSI Services, LLC
 Washington Department of Labor and IndustriesPSI Services, LLC
West Virginia Contractors Licensing Board Division of LaborProv, Inc.

Do licensing requirements vary per state?

Yes, licensing requirements vary from state to state. Several of them need the contractor to have licenses for specific projects, including commercial, residential, or public works. The standards are not the same in every region.

Learn here all about the licenses you may need for your business.

3. Seek training

How to become a contractor? The easiest answer is, you need training, and there are several ways to obtain it. As we have said, doing stuff at home or the school itself are the most basic forms of training, but an apprenticeship provides a more specialized platform.

Vocational training is available, as are degree programs in construction management, science, or even engineering. Colleges and other higher education institutions offer those at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

The construction management course includes knowledge and training in math, physics, construction materials and methods, surveying, construction plans and measurements, and design.

Another great way to get the training you need in construction is by turning to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). They offer a variety of training programs for people seeking to get certified to do government jobs. These programs vary depending on your location: simply find your nearest MBDA Business Center and ask there.

4. Create a business plan

Believe it or not, as a contractor, it’s very important that you create a business plan so that you can make sure that your construction business takes the right path to success and profits. Not only that, but it will allow you to be more competitive.

A business plan allows you to carefully structure and understands your company: from your finances to where you fit in today’s market. It can also allow you to help differentiate your business from others in the industry. Furthermore, it can help you to create a sound marketing plan and plan for how to grow with external financing.

In short, creating a business plan is vital for you as a contractor.

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Construction Company

If you already started your business and you want to improve it, Camino Financial will support you, learn how:

Apply now!

How long does it take to become a general contractor?

There’s no straightforward answer. It will pretty much depend on how you want to get there.

You could rely on work experience and apprenticeships to get the knowledge and know-how you need to get your license. Or you could take a more academic path and get a bachelor’s degree in construction management.

Depending on what path you choose, it could take you between 3 to 5 years to become a licensed contractor.

Types of Contractor Degrees

  • Contractor Certification

It is a short program, typically up to a year, that teaches students specialized information about the industry. It serves as a preparation for degree programs that we will explain later. Contractor certifications are available in areas such as construction management, construction engineering technology, building systems, OSHA Outreach, and others.

  • Associate Contractor Degree

A Construction Management Associate degree is a brilliant choice for aspiring contractors. It takes two years to finish and provides useful tools. The best part is that it can be completed online. Some applied associate degrees offer students the chance to enter the workforce faster.

  • Contractor Bachelor Degree

Contractors with a bachelor’s degree will always have an advantage over others who have completed shorter courses. The bachelor’s degree requires nearly four years to complete but is worth every second. If you want to know how to become a contractor that is widely recognized around the country for the quality of his/her job, then you will find it out with a bachelor’s degree.

Contractor Careers with Higher Demand

Now you know how to become a contractor, it’s time to learn the contractor jobs currently in higher demand to find the inspiration you need to get started.

Landscape architect

They are practical designers who are trained to create functional yet visually attractive spaces outdoors. They can work in commercial establishments as well as in residential places, with college campuses and parks being other possibilities. The median wage was a little under $64.000 by 2015.

Green building contractor

They are fully-capable construction managers being tasked with the responsibility to create or restore buildings with reclaimed and sustainable materials, which also need to be environmental-friendly, hence the term “green.”

Building inspector

The building inspector’s job is practically self-explanatory, as you might expect. They supervise and inspect buildings before and after they are constructed, and most importantly, they make sure that it fulfills every permit, code, ordinance, and other possible requirements.

Master carpenter

With a median wage of $42,000 by 2015, master carpenters are capable of building pieces and equipment with raw materials, and they can go both indoors and outdoors. Private companies, homeowners, and construction firms often seek a great master carpenter.

Cost estimators

Cost estimators are masters of economics and the value of raw materials, supplies, labor, and other elements that are vital for a construction project. The mean wage in 2015 was $60,390.

How to Find Contractor Jobs

Once you become a contractor and you meet all the requirements explained in the sections above, it’s time to look for contractor jobs in your area. Where to start? The following tips on how to find contractor jobs will help you:

  • See if your local city or county building inspector will post your contact information in their office. They regularly receive requests from homeowners and businesses that are looking for reliable construction contractors.
  • Rather than find contractor jobs, let people find you. Sign up with HomeAdvisor, Porch, Angie’s List, and other websites where customers are interested in hiring a construction contractor. They can schedule an appointment with you so you can bid on their project. These sites allow you to put your name and business in front of thousands of potential clients.
  • Find jobs in your area by accessing jobs listed with BidClerk. The website has over 400,000 jobs listed each year and 1.1 million active clients. You can search for jobs by each state to bid on the right job for you. You can also get free leads on similar websites such as Construction Monitor, ConstructionWire, and iSqFt.
  • Jobs are also posted on recruiting websites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and other sites. Type a job title and city, state, or zip in the search bar to narrow down choices.
  • If you Google, “how to find contractor jobs”, there are millions of results!
  • If you aren’t ready to strike out on your own, meet with an established construction contractor who may be willing to take you on as an apprentice. Hands-on experience is one of the best ways to perfect your trade even when you have a contractor’s license or a construction management degree. You could also track down contractor professionals in your area through Yellow Pages. After your apprenticeship ends, you’ll be able to list the work experience on your resume.

Waist up portrait of cheerful young woman wearing hardhat smiling happily looking at camera while posing confidently in production workshop, copy space. concept: how to ebcome a contractor


In conclusion, if you are resolved to find one of the many contractor jobs available, you must know everything about how to become a contractor in the US, including

  • regulatory issues by state
  • median wage per state
  • the courses you need to take 
  • know if you want to embark on a “solo” career or not

By just seeing the figures we presented in this post, you can agree that construction is big in the US. It shapes the economy of this country and with some effort and perseverance, you could benefit from its impact too. But don’t limit yourself to learn how to become a contractor: stay on top of other trends in business and finances by subscribing to the Camino Financial Newsletter!


Check if you
qualify for a loan