Starting a Business in the Golden State? Learn About California Contractor Licensing

Like most states in the U.S., California requires that construction professionals obtain a general contractor’s license in order to legally operate. 

Whether you plan to offer your services in a specific trade, become a general contractor, or start a construction company offering home renovation and new construction services, it’s imperative that you start by becoming properly licensed, bonded, and insured.

Obtaining a license proves that you have the requisite knowledge and experience to deliver exceptional service, and it also gives your customers peace of mind that they won’t have to worry about potential issues like code violations or construction-site accidents. 

How do you go about obtaining California contractor licensing?

Choosing the Right License

There are three different types of contractor licenses you may obtain in the state of California:

  • Class A General Engineering Contractor
  • Class B General Building Contractor
  • Class C Specialty Contractor

If you’re a general contractor managing construction projects that involve two or more unrelated trades (such as carpentry, construction labor, plumbing, electrical, and roofing), you’ll need a Class B license. 

The other two are specialized, with Class A pertaining to specialized engineering projects and Class C related to performing any of 42 specific trades that fall under the construction category.

Qualifying Experience for Construction Licenses in California

When you start researching how to obtain a construction license, you’ll find that there are criteria pertaining to both experience and testing. Experience is an important consideration, as this prepares you to do the job and do it right.

Obtaining construction licenses in California requires a minimum of four years of experience within the 10-year period prior to application. This experience must be journey-level or above, which means completing an apprenticeship within your chosen trade and working for either a company or an independent contractor. 

Courses taken through a college or technical school may qualify for a portion of the experience requirement.

Licensing Exam

The California contractor’s license exam, offered by the Contractors State License Board, includes two parts: a Law and a Trade portion. This is a closed-book, multiple-choice exam, with each of the two portions consisting of over 100 questions.

It is a timed test with a duration of approximately 3.5 hours, and you will receive results immediately after taking the test. You will need to score 73% or above to pass. 

Although it’s not easy to get a contractor’s license in California, it’s well worth it for the professional benefits you’ll gain, namely the ability to legally operate as an independent general contractor or start your own business.