General Contractor Job Description, Salary, and Requirements.
General Contractor Job Description & Definition
What Does a General Contractor Do?
In this career guide summary, we’re going to discuss the position of general contractor: the job description, salary, requirements, and more. A general contractor is responsible for running building/construction projects day to day. They’re responsible for all communication with the clients, and also ensure that needed materials are always on site, manage their employees, and also manage the work of sub-contractors who have been hired to perform various parts of the project (such as electrical or plumbing).
They take all responsibility for the project, and in the end, are responsible for answering to their clients who hired them to complete the work. Depending on the nature of the work and the size and structure of the company, some general contractor’s wear the tool belt as much as their employees, while others mainly play a management role and oversee the multiple projects their company is working on.
Often times the general contractor is in business for themselves, and will run a small to large crew and work on multiple sites at a time. Some general contractors take commercial and residential work, while others do strictly one or the other. You’ll commonly see general contractors running residential builds or remodels: building new homes and additions, or remodeling kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, building decks, etc.
Finally, some general contractors also do their own design work. So if a client is interested in a new kitchen, the general contractor will draw up some designs (nowadays on the computer) and present them to the client. However, some contractors choose to work hand in hand with interior designers, and let them run the design-focused things while they focus on building what the designer comes up with.
In the end, the general contractor coordinates everything from beginning to end. The general process of their work begins with them talking with clients about the scope of work the client wants, providing the client an estimate or bid for work, then reviewing plans, and starting and managing the construction/remodel process.
- Understand client’s needs.
- Visit the site, estimate, plan.
- Review plans.
- Provide all tools and materials.
- Hire & manage sub-contractors.
- Apply for any necessary permits.
- Adhere to building code.
- Maintain communication with clients.
- Manage all employees.
- Plan reading.
- Building skills (carpentry, tiling, etc.).
- Time management.
- Personnel management.
- Communication skills.
- Eye for design.
As much as this job requires, there is no formal education required. Anyone who is skilled in building/design, with a knowledge of estimating, plan-reading, and the other necessary skills could venture to become a general contractor. Of course, should you decide that formal education is the right route for you, you can pursue degrees in building science, etc. But many contractors start as laborers, learn the trades and become skilled builders, and then learn how to operate as a general contractor by keen observation and hard work on the job.
Most states or countries will require some form of licensing and insurance to work as a general contractor. The type of licensing and insurance you’ll need to operate as a general contractor will depend on the state or locality where you’re operating.
General Contractor Salary
How Much Does a General Contractor Make?
General Contractor Career Paths
Where Can You Go From Here?
To become a general contractor, we recommend starting as a laborer working under a general contractor you respect and trust. Here’s a brief outline of the steps we recommend:
1- Find a contractor who consistently performs the highest quality work (if possible). Work for that person for a while (like, 2-5 years).
2 – Learn not just the trade, but how to run an effective trades business. Ask questions about how the company estimates, how they bid, how they communicate to customers, and more.
3 – Take on more and more responsibility and learn the ins and outs of the business side of things. Before jumping out on your own, you should get to the point where the general contractor you work for is having you run your own job site, so you can experience the unique stresses and demands of that position.
4 – When you’re ready to go out on your own, use nights and weekends each month to research what it takes to start a business, the legal, the requirements, the unique stresses.
5 – Stare everything in the face, realize what this will take, then start your company. Not “jump out of everything stable and start with loads of debt” kind of start, but rather start a “side hustle” ; building a small book of business (friends and family) keeping costs low and lean.
6. And once you have more work for the next 6 months than you can handle on nights and weekends, see if you can go to your boss and scale back to part time. Eventually, take the plunge – with years of experience helping another business grow, and after lining up many leads for yourself.
However, if you want to become a general contractor and work for someone else – your best bet is to work your way up in a company you respect, and work as a foreman – managing one or more jobs at a time for that company. After you do that consistently for some time, you’ll have earned enough experience and credibility that you can begin applying to other, (probably larger, or more established) companies to apply for the position of general contractor.
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If you’re interested in this, you might like:
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Learn construction job skills online.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Construction Managers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm (visited August 02, 2017).
- Payscale, General Contractor Salary, on the Internet at http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=General_Contractor/Hourly_Rate (visited July 20, 2017).
- Wikipedia, General contractor, on the Internet at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_contractor (visited July 20, 2017).