How to Become a General Contractor

A general contractor plans and manages the construction of a building.

They could be constructing a home, office, factory, or even a skyscraper.

A general contractor works with a client to finalize plans and blueprints.

They then contract work out to a range of specialist trades people.

Almost all general contractors start their career in their own trade, and move on to work as site managers, then become a general contractor and go into business for themselves.

To become a general contractor you will need to have a very wide skills base.

First of all, you will need to have a very good knowledge of all facets of construction, along with firsthand experience in the industry.

You will need excellent organizational skills, and will need to be able to multitask as well.

Perhaps the most important skills you can have as a general contractor are in communication.

Between clients and trades people, you can expect to spend a lot of your time talking on the phone and sending other correspondence.

Educational Requirements to Become a General Contractor

Most general contractors start out in a trade.

They may be a builder, carpenter, plasterer, electrician, or pretty much any other trade related to construction in some shape of form.

To gain a trade, you either need to complete a four year apprenticeship, or attend vocational college for two years, then spend another two years learning on the job.

Many general contractors hold a bachelors degree that has some relevance to their field of work.

Many complete this as a mature age student, after working in the industry for some years first.

If you are completing an apprenticeship and looking to become a general contractor, you should definitely try and meet as many people as you can in the building industry.

Networking is going to be an essential part of your career, and it’s never too early to start learning.

A good step is to get work for a general contracting company as a tradesperson.

This is a good way to learn how these firms work, and what kind of challenges you might face.

It’s also an opportunity to meet people in the industry.

Before you start out on your own as a general contractor, you will likely need to attain a license to practice from your state.

The rules surrounding this vary from state to state.

You will also need to learn about the tax laws surrounding contractors, and set up a good bookkeeping system to both collect income and pay your contractors.

General Contractor Job Description

A general contractor coordinates and plan construction work.

They will take a building project from planning stages, through to completion.

To do this they need to work closely with clients, architects, and contractors.

A general contractor will coordinate a variety of trades people to conduct all of the work needed to complete a project.

This might include carpenters, electricians, plumbers, plasterers, and painters, just to name a few.

When there is a problem, the general contractor is the person who must find a solution.

Time management is important in construction, one slight delay can have an ongoing effect that can cost money and lose clients.

Another part of the role of general contractor is self promotion.

As most general contractors are self-employed, there is a need to advertise and market a service.

Good general contractors will get the majority of their work via word of mouth.

Here are some of the tasks a general contractor might complete:

  • Communicating with clients about projects
  • Visiting sites and completing feasibility studies
  • Communicating with surveyors
  • Communicating with architects and designers
  • Communicating with trades people
  • Delegating tasks
  • Ensuring all work is insured
  • Ensuring all work is of a high standard
  • Following building and safety codes
  • Completing administrative tasks
  • Promotion and marketing of services

General Contractor Salary and Career Path

Most general contractors start their careers as apprentices within a particular trade.

They may practice their trade for some years, then move on to become a general contractor

Once working as a general contractor, some people work within firms.

The majority are self employed though.

The median wage of a general contractor is around $80,000 a year, with the top 10% earning over $100,000 a year.

The bottom 10% earned around $60,000.

If you’re a tradesperson, or you have an interest in construction then you may enjoy becoming a general contractor.

This is an excellent career path to follow if you are looking for a role where you can work for yourself and have an uncapped income.

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