How to Become a

General Contractor

The complete career guide to be a General Contractor: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $97,510
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 4.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Deal Making
    Career Attribute

General contractors orchestrate residential and commercial construction projects. In many ways, a general contractor operates as a project manager. They evaluate needs, estimate costs, hire subcontractors, and supervise work to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.

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What is a General Contractor?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in general contractor roles:

  • Evaluate blueprints and/or existing structures to determine the types and amount of work needed for commercial or residential projects
  • Estimate cost of time, materials, and subcontractor fees needed to complete a project and provide clients with an estimated cost
  • Purchase or obtain materials needed to complete projects
  • Hire subcontractors to perform specialty work like plumbing and electrical when required
  • Oversee all individuals working on a project to ensure safety precautions are adhered to, resolve impediments, and encourage productivity

A Day in the Life of a General Contractor

General contractors reduce the burden on clients when starting new commercial or residential construction or renovation projects. Rather than the client having to determine what services are needed, how much each will cost, and trying to find contractors to perform each service, they hire general contractors. General contractors act as project managers for the entire project, conducting all hiring, doing all budgeting work, and negotiating with the client on requirements and costs.

For new construction projects, general contractors evaluate the job site and blueprints in order to determine the types and amount of work needed. For renovation projects, the general contractor will visit the site of the renovation to review the types of work needed. He/she will use their former experience to draw early conclusions on the cost of the project and provide an early estimate to the client. Then, the general contractor works with other contractors to subcontract parts of the work to other companies, such as plumbers, electricians, and painters.

The general contractor acts as a liaison between subcontractors and the client. When issues arise, the general contractor is called in to evaluate the problem and decide how to handle it. Sometimes, this means going back to the client and getting additional budget; sometimes it means working with the client on a resolution. The general contractor also oversees work as it’s being completed to ensure productivity and safety on the job site.

Typical Work Schedule for General Contractors

General contractors typically work at least full-time hours and may be required to work overtime. In general, most construction work will be completed during the day on weekdays, but the general contractor may need to work weekends or evenings to accommodate client schedules or to finish projects on time.

General Contractor Specializations

There are two main specializations for general contractors. Commercial general contractors work on large-scale new construction or renovation projects for businesses, corporations, or governments. Residential general contractors work on major home renovation projects and may also coordinate building new residential homes.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Construction Worker
  • Mid-Career: Construction Foreman
  • Late Career: General Contractor

Typical Employers

Many general contractors are self-employed or own their own construction businesses. Others work for large construction companies or real estate developers.

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How To Become a General Contractor

It is not necessary to have any postsecondary degree to work as a general contractor. Many general contractors start off as construction workers where they learn the basics of masonry, framing, carpentry, plumbing, and other related trades. This knowledge helps general contractors create more accurate bids later in their career. After gaining experience as construction workers, general contractors often gain management experience as construction foremen before taking general contractor roles.

Conversely, it is not absolutely critical for general contractors to have a functional knowledge of how to complete construction projects. In some cases, a theoretical knowledge is enough for a general contractor to be successful, as their main role is to manage projects being completed by construction workers and other subcontractors. In these cases, a certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field such as construction science, building science, surveying, or construction safety may be ideal.

If you want to work for a company as a general contractor, the company may require you to hold a degree to qualify for the position. However, if you want to be self-employed and run your own business, you’ll need a good reputation and references more than a formal education. However, individuals hoping to run their own general contracting company can benefit from business and management classes at the college level so that they can run their businesses more effectively.

General Contractor Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do General Contractor salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, General Contractor's can make an average annual salary of $97,510, or $47 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $66,680 or $32 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #72 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a General Contractor. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among General Contractors

  • 0.8%   Doctorate
  • 5.3%   Masters
  • 27.9%   Bachelors
  • 8.5%   Associates
  • 24.3%   College
  • 26.3%   High School
  • 6.9%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does General Contractor job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 17,900 jobs for a total of 391,100 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 4.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #445 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most General Contractors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 142,000 6,700 7%
Nonresidential building construction 55,500 -2,000 -2%
Residential building construction 33,800 2,200 2%

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