How to Become a Building Contractor: A Basic Guide

workers at a building construction site

Getting a home or business off the ground takes years of experience and skill. A contractor is a professional who makes sure the whole operation runs smoothly — from planning to execution.

This exciting job requires interpersonal capabilities, an understanding of math, and knowledge of the construction industry.

Without building contractors, a new home would just be a sketch on a piece of paper, and the first brick and mortar for a small business would still be a dream.

Becoming a contractor is an involved process that takes years, requires exams, and is constantly changing. But the reward is high, and building contractors get well compensated for their hard work.

Are you ready to start on this path? Let's find out how:

What Does a Building Contractor Do?

First, let’s make sure you know what you're in for before you jump into the game of contracting.

A contractor is not just an architect who can swing a hammer. Most likely, you'll be a small business owner on top of your contracting duties; that means you are in charge of accounting, payroll, and finance as well!

Learn what a building contractor does day-to-day and decide if this fast-growing job is right for you.

Maintain Client Relationships

Building customer relationships and generating leads is as essential as building.

New homeowners will shop around, looking for the best contractor and seeking several bids before settling on one.

You can make yourself stand out for these clients by proving that you know the local code, can obtain permits quickly, and have an ongoing relationship with the Homeowner's Association. Self-promotion is a tenet of contracting.

Contractors who go above and beyond generate more leads and create repeat customers. Marketing yourself is necessary to keep your contracting business afloat.


While you may consistently work with a small team of architects or laborers, you need to expand your network.

Subcontracting involves partnering with plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other building specialists.

But remember, you are responsible for every person you hire. If a plumber springs a leak, you will be the one talking to the client and taking the fall.

To protect yourself, only work with the best.

Place Bids

When a project opens up, every contractor will leap at the opportunity to secure the job.

Good building contractors can quickly perform a cost-benefit analysis and determine the right price to bid. Sometimes, that means making a high bid on a potentially risky project. Other times, it means hedging your bets and taking smaller projects like renovations.

Contractors are always thinking about risk vs. reward.

Understand the Industry

There is no set standard for a building contractor business. Some folks work in a small family company; others act as general managers and have dozens of employees who run the day-to-day operations.

However, all building contractors have in common the knowledge of the ins and outs of the local construction and building scene.

No two counties, towns, states, or municipalities are the same, and the savvy contractor knows who to trust and who to question. They also know which local, state, and federal codes and regulations to follow in a given situation.

How to Become a Building Contractor

Contractors are the managers of the construction industry.

Good managers have been through the wringer a few times themselves. That's why formal learning and practical experience are both of equal value when certifying new contractors.

If you're serious about becoming a contractor, take these steps, and in the end, your dream job is waiting for you.

1) Earn Your Degree

First things first, you need to get a formal education in your chosen field. A relevant Bachelor's or Associate's degree will get you on track.

If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can directly enroll in an associate-level program at a trade school studying construction management or construction technology.

These programs will give you the basic math and geometry skills you need to vet architectural plans. They also introduce you to financial management and interpersonal communication. An Associate's Degree typically takes about two years to finish.

In a 4-year Bachelor's program, you can study more specific topics like architecture, algebra, marketing, general management, or surveying. In some cases, a Bachelor's degree will give you an edge over an Associate's degree.

Education through a trade school can lead to a secure, fruitful, and satisfying career. But most people agree real-world experience is more valuable than what's in a textbook, which is why you need experience.

2) Spend Time in the Field

Next, you have to prove you can apply your skills in person. You have the choice between joining an apprenticeship program and general employment.

Some states, California, for example, require 6,500 hours of on-the-job training over four years before moving on to the next steps. Other states are far laxer when it comes to requirements. Always check your local state's rules and complete the necessary training.

Most prospective contractors will seek mentorship from a general or construction contractor while studying in school. This overlap of training can streamline the process of obtaining your license.

3) Obtain a License

Before you start taking in clients, you need to get your certification.

There are different forms of licenses for different contractors. You decide which path you want to take, whether high-budget commercial certification or smaller home renovation certification.

When performing contracting work over a few hundred dollars, you need a license to operate legally in most states. Getting the license involves passing a written exam and submitting the requested documents.

Requirements vary around the country, but you can locate your state's needs here at the Contractor Training Center.

You can retake the exam until you pass, but if you want to pass on your first try, make sure you reach out to the Contractor Training Center for assistance.

4) Start Your Career

Now that you have your certification, it's time to begin the career you've been slowly putting together for years!

In most cases, you have two paths: join a company, or forge on alone.

Joining a more prominent company gives you access to bigger projects and the advice and guidance of experienced professionals. However, you will not have the final say and must answer to the higher-ups.

Starting your own company means you are your own boss. On the flip side, that means you are in charge. You're paying out your employees. You are responsible for all aspects of your business.

Whichever path you choose, it will put your skills to the ultimate test. It won't take much time to see how you fare in this challenging and competitive market. A successful contractor combines books smarts, street smarts, and confidence to overcome any obstacle!


The steps to becoming a building contractor may seem daunting at first, but with a little help, everything is manageable.

At Contractor Training Center, you'll find all the tools you need to ace the test and achieve your contracting goals.

We have study guides for every state and offer personal training to link you with key test-taking strategies and expert teachers.

Reach out today and pass your test with flying colors!

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