How Licenses for State Contractors Can Vary

A state contractor’s license is not a catch-all. There are many different kinds of licenses for different kinds of contractors. Before you jump into a license program, make sure you’ve done your research so you can be confident that the license you’ll be getting is the one that best serves your skill set.

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General Engineering Contractor

According to the California Contractors State Licensing Board, the general engineering contractor is one who deals with “fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill.” This definition can apply to almost any structure dealing with water: pipes, drainage systems, irrigation, docks, shipyards, bridges, and power plants. This also covers any jobs that involve moving earth around, such as excavation, paving projects, road building, and land leveling. All of these areas of work require state contractors with a general engineering license.

General Building Contractor

This license covers any project involving the building or repair of a structure intended for the use of support or shelter for people or animals. Another way of defining a general building contractor license is that the projects include work on two or more unrelated building trades. An example would be a job that includes framing and electrical. Because of this degree of flexibility, most people commissioning large-scale building projects prefer to have a general building contractor involved. Otherwise, they’d have to hire dozens of specialty contractors to complete each part of the project.

A general building contractor is a go-to in the construction industry today, as having one can move along a contract project far more quickly.

Specialty Contractor


A specialty contractor is one who holds a license in only one particular trade. In California, there are 41 different classifications of specialty contractor. The advantage of a specialty contractor is that this person may have very in-depth knowledge about a particular trade, more than a general contractor would have. The disadvantage is that there’s a relatively narrow window of work that person is licensed to do.

Many specialty contractors will seek to pick up several state contractors’ specialty licenses so that they can increase their workload. Or a specialty contractor may eventually want to move up to a general license, so that he or she can oversee more large-scale and complicated projects that involve several trades.

Learning About Your Trade

Contractors License Resource Group can help you decide the best route to go when it comes to pursuing a state contractor’s license. Learn the ropes of blueprint reading, marketing, job estimating, and developing your business’s brand through weekend classes. If the general contractor license is right for you, there are several informative classes you can take in as little as one day each. Whatever path you choose to take, CLRG will put you on the right track to the career you’ve always wanted.


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