Do You Need Experience to Get a Contractor’s License in California?

The best investment that aspiring construction professionals can make toward their future careers in the industry is obtaining a California contractor’s license

With California contractor licensing, you will be able to officially and legally bid and work on contracts for projects with a value of $500 or more. 

Qualifications for construction licenses in California vary, so it’s important that you understand the specific requirements and qualifications for the type of license you’ll be applying for.

Requirements for California Contractor Licensing

In general, there are four specified requirements you must meet in order to obtain a contractor’s license in California. These requirements include:

  • Submitting an application
  • Passing the license-specific trade exam
  • Passing the Law and Business exam
  • Providing verifiable work experience

There is a specific order in which these steps must be taken, starting with your work experience. 

Work Experience Required to Obtain a California Contractor’s License

Every license applicant will be required to show proof of at least four years of work experience in the designated trade for which they will be applying for a license. Qualifying experience is required before you can take either of the examinations.

It’s important to note that credit for experience will only be given for experience acquired at a journeyman level or as a foreman, supervising employee, contractor, or owner-builder.

In addition, anything an applicant turns in as experience must be verified by a qualified person. This can be another contractor, an employer, a supervisor, a fellow employee, another journeyman, a union representative, an engineer, a homeowner, or a building inspector or architect.

Can Any of the Above Verify Work Experience?

Suppose that your neighbor is a homeowner, but they are also a physician with no experience in the construction industry who just moved into the neighborhood. In that case, they will not be able to verify your experience claim. 

The person who does verify your experience must have first-hand knowledge of your work. In other words, they must have observed the work you did. There is a section of the California licensure application that they must fill out regarding your experience.

Credit for Technical, Vocational, and Educational Training

You may be eligible to receive credit for up to three years of educational, vocational, or technical training that would count toward the required four years of experience. You must provide written proof of this education or training. 

Your training or financial institution should submit your official sealed transcripts to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) for evaluation.

At least one year of experience must be composed of practical experience. Applicants can also gain credit for various degrees, certificates of completion, apprenticeship training programs, and classes. 

Providing Proof of Experience

Here’s a tip: Even after you provide verifiable experience with your license application, don’t be surprised if you get a request to furnish additional supporting documentation. Be prepared to provide any additional proof that is requested. Failure to do so will result in your entire application for California licensure being voided or denied. 

See a list of acceptable supporting experience documentation to understand what types of proof of experience you may need to provide.