How to Become a General Contractor

General Contractor Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $113,350
Avg. Pay / hour $54.50
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 10%

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.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$156,010
New Hampshire$119,480
New Jersey$164,670
New Mexico$107,260
New York$144,830
North Carolina$117,130
North Dakota$97,470
Rhode Island$135,160
South Carolina$94,700
South Dakota$129,370
West Virginia$86,500
Puerto Rico$77,840
Virgin Islands$88,600

The top earning state in the field is New Jersey, where the average salary is $164,670.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New Jersey - $164,670
District of Columbia - $156,010
Delaware - $148,920
New York - $144,830
Massachusetts - $141,840
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for General and Operations Managers, OCC Code 11-1021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a general contractor?

A general contractor, also known as a construction manager, is responsible for managing construction or renovation projects.

As a general contractor, you will sign the construction contract for the project.

You will hire subcontractors and suppliers for the project and you will have to make sure that the project is completed successfully.

Usually, contractors also have to prepare cost estimates, report work progress to their employers or clients and collaborate with architects and engineers.

General contractors are the ones who respond to clients for any construction delays, emergencies or other problems that appear during the project.

As a general contractor, you will have to know all the applicable laws and make sure that the construction crew complies with national, state and local regulations.

How much does a general contractor make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for general contractors was $93,370 as of May 2018.

Salaries vary depending on the region, the employer, and the contractor’s level of experience.

As a general contractor, you can make between less than $55,000 and more than $160,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a general contractor?

General contractors typically need a bachelor’s degree in construction or a related field.

You may find employment with no post-secondary education if you have a high school diploma and several years of experience in construction.

However, a degree in construction management, architecture or a related field may help prove your skills to potential employers and clients.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

Bachelor’s degree programs in construction management range between $30,000 and more than $120,000 and usually take around 4 years to complete.

An associate’s degree and several years of work experience may qualify you for managing smaller construction projects.

What is the demand for general contractors?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for construction managers will grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028.

The demand for general contractors is dependent upon the local economy and can vary year by year and region by region.

However, as more buildings are being constructed, general contractors should have good job prospects.

How long does it take to become a general contractor?

General contractors typically hold a bachelor’s degree in construction management, engineering or a related field.

A bachelor’s degree can be earned after 4 years of schooling.

However, you may also need a few years of work experience and a state license before being able to supervise a construction project.

After gaining a few years of experience you can apply for the Certified Construction Manager designation, a credential that is offered by the Construction Management Association of America.

Certification is not required but it can help you find a better paying job.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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