California Contractor FAQ

To obtain a license in California, you must have at least 4 years of experience to qualify to take the examination. However, you may receive credit for your technical training, apprenticeship training or education instead of a portion of the required 4 years of practical experience.

California Law requires all businesses or individuals who construct or alter any building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation, or other structure in California must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) if the total cost (labor and materials) of one or more contracts on the project is $500 or more. You do not have to reside in California to get and keep a contractor’s license. Contractors, including subcontractors, specialty contractors, and person engaged in the business of home improvement must be licensed before submitting bids.

There are serious penalties for unlicensed contracting without a license. First time offenses are usually a misdemeanor, carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine, along with a potential administrative fine of $200 to $15,000. The penalties go up with subsequent violations.

Obtain an Application for Original Contractor’s License from any office of the Contractors State License Board, by telephone from the CSLB’s 24-hour automated public information line, (800) 321-CSLB (2752), or via the CSLB Web site:  Submit the application,  application processing fee ($250) and all experience and certifications in support of experience to:

Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 2600
Sacramento, CA  95826

Do not submit any bonds or the initial license fee with your application.  Upon successful completion of your examination, you will be instructed to submit required documents (Contractors Bond and proof of Workers Compensation Insurance) and initial license fee.

The CSLB issues licenses to contract in particular trades or fields of the construction profession.  Each separate trade is recognized as a “classification”.  You may add as many classifications to your license as you can qualify for.  For the purpose of classification, the contracting business includes any or all of the following branches:  (Links to all the classification can be found on the California State website)

Class”A” – General Engineering  Contractor
Class “B” – General Building Contractor
Class “C” – Specialty Contractor

Must have more than $2,500 worth of operating capital.  Operating capital is defined as your current assets minus your current liabilities.

Yes – Given by the CSLB

After your application is processed and found acceptable, you will be sent a Notice to Appear for Examination which will include the date, time and location of the exam. Examination sites are located throughout the state. All qualifying individuals must pass the standard Law and Business examination in addition to a second test covering the specific trade or certification area for which they are applying. Both exams consist of multiple choice questions.

Contractors who work with asbestos or other hazardous substances are subject to a number of certification, registration, reporting, and safety requirements and require additional training, exams and applications to become certified.

You must have at least 4 years of experience to qualify to take the examination. Credit for experience is given only for experience at a journey level or as a foreman, supervising employee, contractor, or owner-builder (one who has the knowledge and skills of a journeyman and who performs work on his or her own property).

There are no education requirements to qualify for a contractor’s license. However, you may receive credit for your technical training, apprenticeship training or education instead of a portion of the required 4 years of practical experience. At lease one year must be practical experience. Check state web site for details.

There are no requirements for Continuing Education at this time. A Contractor’s License is initially issued for a two year period and expires two years from the last day of the month in which it was issued.



Out of state individuals can apply for a California License if they meet the qualifications. California has formal reciprocity agreements with the contractor licensing agencies of Arizona, Nevada and Utah in specified classifications where the scopes of practice and licensing requirements are either identical or fundamentally indistinguishable in each state with California. California may recognize the experience qualifications for certain trades and the Registrar may waive the written trade examination for a contractor licensed in another state. Applicants must still qualify by taking and passing the Law and Business Examination and must apply for and be issued a license by the California Contractors State License Board.

  • Information Last Updated: 04/2020
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