How to Become a General Contractor in California?


According to the California Contractors State License Board, there are more than 310,000 licensed contractors in the state. The Contractors State License Board receives over 25,000 applications for new licenses each year. While the process can seem intimidating, it is important to get familiar with the requirements, contractor classifications and business tools needed to ensure that your application is completed successfully. Proper preparation and good work experience increase the odds of an approved application.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction experience
  • Business entity
  • Bond
  • Insurance
  • Read the guidelines for licensing with the state. Before taking any action, the CSLB recommends you review its guidelines for new contractors. Available on the CSLB website, the handbook "BluePrint for Becoming a California Licensed Contractor," gives you a comprehensive overview of the steps, requirements and detailed answers on questions about liability, education and experience.

  • Select the contractor classification for your license. California has three primary classes for licensing. For information on Class A, B and C license, refer to the Blueprint guide or review the contractor license classifications document on the CSLB website.

  • Build experience through vocational school education and hands-on construction experience. There are no formal educational requirements for licensing in California, but completing a vocational school or community college construction program can count toward the work experience required for licensing. For information on construction programs available, contact the Chancellor's Office, California Community Colleges or the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education. To use your education as credit toward the four-year work experience requirement, you must provide copies of apprenticeship certificates or your college transcripts.

  • Create a business entity. For licensing as a contractor, you must establish a business name that has been registered with the secretary of state. For more information on registering your business entity, go to the California Secretary of State's website.

  • Complete the Certification of Work Experience form, which indicates you have the four years of work experience required for your license classification. Include your education experience if you cannot meet the full four-year requirement with work experience alone. Work experience can also be waived if you have previously passed the Law and Business Examination offered by the CSLB.

  • Complete the Application for Original Contractor's License available from the office of the Contractors State License Board or on the CSLB website.

  • Pass the written Law and Business Examination. You can request a waiver of this requirement if you have the required four years of work experience within the five years before your application submission. For information on the exam, visit the CSLB website.

  • Acquire and submit proof of bond and liability insurance for your business. You must submit proof of a contractor's bond in the business name of the applicant and a bond of qualifying individual for each business officer. You must also include proof of workers' compensation insurance or an exemption certificate if you have no employees.

Tips & Warnings

  • In the application, California urges applicants to disclose any prior criminal convictions, even if they have been expunged from your record. Any failure to disclose this information can lead to an automatic rejection of your license application.

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