The Basics: What You Need to Know About Becoming a General Contractor

The Basics: What You Need to Know About Becoming a General Contractor


General contractors, sometimes referred to as project managers, oversee all the details of a building or remodeling project. This can be of residential properties or commercial (places that conduct any type of business) properties. Unlike subcontractors (e.g. plumbers and electricians), they aren’t specialized in one particular area of construction, but they do have a general knowledge of these areas. Instead, they hire these subcontractors to perform the more specialized tasks. But general contractors are still fully responsible for the entire project from its beginning to its end. 

Education Requirements

While it’s not necessary, some general contractors do earn a Bachelor’s degree. This is usually in construction management or a related field. A few general contractors have earned a Master’s degree, but it depends on where you live when you determine how much education you want to pursue. Many general contractors earn a two-year Associate degree, and still have all of the necessary skills to be a successful general contractor. Just keep in mind that you may have to follow up with continuing education courses every few years.


In most states, general contractors have to be licensed to work on building projects. If a state doesn’t require a license, it is usually left up to the city or local jurisdiction on whether or not a contractor needs to be licensed. In most cases, a general contractor needs some type of license to work on homes and other buildings.

Working as a General Contractor

Many general contractors decide to go into business for themselves. If this is the route you want to go, then there are several things you must do. First, you need to come up with a business plan. This will explain the details of your business, financial goals, and any funding needed. Once all of this is taken care of, you’ll need to register your business and choose a business structure.


One thing to consider when working as a general contractor is whether you will be hiring your own crew or hiring subcontractors whenever you are hired for a building project. As a business owner, there will be certain types of insurance that you’ll need (General Liability Insurance, etc.) specifically for your business, and when you hire employees, there are some additional types of insurance that you will need too. One of these will be workers’ compensation insurance and benefits.

Tools and Equipment

When going to school for construction, you receive a lot of hands-on learning and on-site training. This means that you’ve likely acquired many tools and you’re familiar with other kinds of tools and equipment you’re going to need. First and foremost, you’re going to need PPE (personal protective equipment), which includes gloves, safety glasses, a hard hat, and earplugs. When starting out, it may be necessary to rent tools from construction suppliers before you invest in buying your own.

Other Services

Don’t forget about business software. All businesses need some type of software to help with managing their day-to-day operations, and the construction field isn’t excluded from this need. It’s important to look into different project management and construction management software for your business. Take time to do the research to determine which one will best suit your particular needs.

You’re also going to need a way to haul your tools and equipment to and from the construction site. You can use your own vehicle, or you can invest in one specifically for your company. There are also companies that allow you to rent pickup trucks for your projects, for the entire duration of a project.


In addition to all of this, you’ll need certain interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to be a successful general contractor. A successful contractor pays attention to detail, communicates effectively with everyone he or she works with (including clients and all subcontractors), and has excellent problem-solving skills.

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