There's a reason why the market for the global construction industry is expected to be worth $17,247 billion by the year 2029. Whether it's new houses or places of business, the world relies on this industry to make construction dreams a reality.
General contractors make up the backbone of this industry. But what do general contractors do precisely? And how much do they make?
If you're interested in a career as a general contractor, you're likely asking yourself these questions. Luckily, you're in the right place.
In this guide, we'll teach you everything you need to know about general contractor careers, including how to become one. That way, you can decide for yourself whether or not it's the right decision for you.
What Is a General Contractor?
Before diving into the specifics of general contractor income, it's essential to understand who they are and what they do. A general contractor is a person that oversees a construction project.
They're in charge of both day-to-day operations and big-picture items alike. A general contractor has responsibilities before, during, and after construction.
Before the process even begins, the GC must create a budget, obtain building permits, hire subcontractors, and collaborate with the building designers.
During the construction, a general contractor will ensure everyone is on task and following a strict schedule. They'll also respond to delays and work to combat potential setbacks.
Once the job is completed, the general contractor will collect lien waivers and ensure that all the workers are adequately paid.
As you can see, construction projects wouldn't be possible without a general contractor. So, let's take a closer look at how much they make.
How Much Do General Contractors Make?
As we'll learn in later sections, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to a general contractor's salary. That being said, some averages will give us a basic idea.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor, the average general contractor salary is roughly $38.50 weekly. In addition, they'll typically work long hours during the week.
The average weekly hours is 38.8 (roughly eight-hour days besides the weekends). So, assuming the general contractor has steady work, that translates to roughly $77,677 annually.
Contractor Earnings Based On Employment
General contractors are far from the only contractors out there. There are a variety of specialty roles that they rely on to get specific jobs done.
Specifically, you can break them into the following categories: carpenters, construction laborers, plumbers, and electricians.
According to the same BLS source, each of these different contractors makes different amounts of money. It breaks down as follows:
- Carpenters make a median of $48,510 annually
- Construction laborers make a median of $37,770 annually
- Plumbers make a median of $59,670 annually
- Electricians make a median of $58,720 annually
So, if the role of a general contractor feels too broad for you, then you might want to consider one of these specialty contracting positions.
Factors That Affect How Much General Contractors Make
We've covered that the average yearly salary for a general contractor is $77,677. However, it's important to note that that amount can vary more or less depending on certain factors.
In this section, we'll discuss some things that can influence your salary as a general contractor once you start working. That way, you can get a better idea of how much you'll earn for your specific circumstances.
Where You Live
Where you operate will also have a big influence on the amount of money you make as a general contractor. Someone working out of New York City will make a lot more money than a general contractor based in a rural area like Springville, Alabama.
Part of this concerns the high cost of living that comes with urban nature. However, it also has to do with the high-profile nature of building projects in places like New York City.
Jobs in urban areas often have a lot more competition. There are also a lot more project opportunities available for ongoing work.
Want to find out the average job costs in the area you're living in? Try looking at local jobs in the area on LinkedIn. This will give you a good idea of how much the average project bid will go for.
Quality of Your Work and Clients
This factor can be a bit hard to quantify, but it affects the price nonetheless. Let's say you're a general contractor that specializes in plumbing services.
Since your plumbing services are second to none, you decide to charge more for them than other companies. However, whether or not you will make money off this decision depends on your clients.
Some clients might be willing to pay a little extra for exceptional plumbing work. Others might just be concerned with their bottom line. If you're willing to put in the effort to convey the quality of your work, you can be more discerning with the clients you take on.
However, this might not be an option depending on where you live. Certain areas might not have an influx of clients to choose from. In these situations, beggars can't be choosers.
The Way You Manage Your Business
For the sake of this article, we'll assume that you own your construction business. That means that the amount of money you make will be contingent on how your manage your operations.
For example, if you can't stay on schedule, don't effectively communicate with stakeholders, and run into needless delays, it's going to affect how much money you make.
People don't want to work with someone that can't manage a team efficiently. So, if projects take you too long for one reason or another, you can expect a smaller salary and less business.
Word gets around the construction industry, and people don't want to work with the wrong general contractor.
That being said, the opposite is also true. If you prove that you can run your business efficiently and cost-effectively, people will pay more to work with you.
How to Become a General Contractor
It's important to note that there's no one set path for becoming a general contractor. That's because different states have different requirements for becoming either a licensed or certified general contractor.
However, most of the time, it requires completing an exam while fulfilling requirements when it comes to either work experience or education.
Figuring out the loops you need to jump through to become a general contractor in your state can be confusing. That's why we recommend scheduling a contractor licensing consultation.
This service will help guide you through the process of getting properly licensed in your specific state.
However, to give you a general idea of what to expect, we'll walk you through the average process involved in becoming a general contractor.
1. First Consider Work Experience
You have two paths when getting started as a general contractor. First, you can either dive into the necessary work to start gaining experience. Or, you can enroll in formal education.
The right option for you will depend on your preferred learning style and whether or not you want to take on student loan debts. However, it should be noted that industry employers will typically have a hiring preference when it comes to college graduates.
Let's first start with the work experience route. If you go with this method, you must apply for plumber, electrician, mason, or carpenter jobs. Try as many of these roles as possible instead of focusing on just one.
As a general contractor, you will be in charge of supervising these specific subcontractors. So, the more insight you can gain from different experiences, the more knowledge you can bring to the table.
In addition to practical fieldwork, you can also gain experience through internships and co-op educational programs. Alternatively, you can consider applying for an apprenticeship with a trade association.
These types of programs generally last between three to five years. In that time, you'll combine construction work with classroom education.
There are a variety of apprenticeship programs out there. However, an excellent place to start looking is the Associated General Contractors of America if you're interested.
2. Or Get a Bachelor's Degree
As we mentioned in the last section, another route you can go is pursuing a formal education. If you know for sure that you want to be a general contractor, the most relevant major option is construction management.
So, look for universities near you that offer this type of degree option. However, you can also consider adjacent degrees like construction science, architecture, and engineering.
Next, decide whether you want an Associate's, Bachelor's, or Master's degree. Associate's degrees typically only require two years of experience. But, you will likely need years of additional work experience before taking your exams.
However, depending on your state, you can often take the exam directly after finishing your Bachelor's or Master's degree. Once you find a school that offers your desired degree, you should send in your application.
Make sure you also apply for financial aid or scholarships if needed. You should also consider getting work experience in the form of internships or an actual job while you earn your degree.
You can do this either during the summer or after you graduate. Sometimes a degree by itself is enough to qualify you for certification and licensure. But, some on-site experience can give you the confidence to take on what is often a stressful job.
4. Get Licensed
Next, you will need to be appropriately licensed. Unfortunately, this can vary widely depending on where you live. Not only do different states have different license requirements, but there can be variations on a local and even city level.
To get a sense of the differences, let's take a look at the different license requirements in Alabama and Colorado. In Alabama, you're required to have a license for commercial projects that cost $50,000 and residential projects that cost $10,000.
In addition to this, candidates need to pass tests related to law, business, and trade. In the application, they'll need to prove both their experience and their overall net worth.
Lastly, they'll need proof of their general liability insurance. This process in Alabama differs a lot from Colorado. Colorado doesn't offer a statewide general contractor's license. So, the process of applying for a license will differ in a city like Denver versus one like Colorado Springs.
The good news is that many cities in Colorado, as well as a variety of other states, accept the results of an ICC exam. What's an ICC exam? It's an exam program offered by the International Code Council's Contractor.
It's important to note that the ICC isn't a licensing agency. But, many cities accept the test results to satisfy their test requirements. Specifically, ones found in:
- South Dakota
You can visit our guide here if you want to learn more about the ICC National Standard Contractor exams.
Remember that certain states will mandate years of work experience before you can apply for a license. So, if you live in one of these states, consider this before applying to a college program.
Want to Become a General Contractor? Contact Contractor Training Center
We hope this article helped you answer the question, How much do general contractors make? As you can see, the construction industry is a lucrative profession.
However, becoming a general contractor requires quite a bit of effort. Here at Contractor Training Center, we do everything possible to make becoming a contractor as easy as possible.
Whether it's ensuring your application is mistake-free or helping you prepare for your test, we ensure that you're not wasting time or money on your career goals.
So, if you're ready for the general contractor career that you've dreamed of, make sure to contact us today.