How to Become a Licensed Contractor in California

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding contractor licensing in California.

Who must be licensed as a contractor in California?

All businesses or individuals that construct or alter any building, highway, road, parking facility, railroad, excavation, or other structure in California must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board if the combined labor and material costs for one or more contracts on the project is $500 or more. Contractors must be licensed before submitting bids.

Who can become a licensed contractor in California?

A licensed contractor must be 18 years of age or older, have either a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number, and have the experience and skills necessary to manage the daily activities of a construction business, including field supervision, or be represented by someone (a “qualifying individual”) with the necessary experience and skills.

What kind of experience is required?

At least four years of journey-level experience is required to qualify for the exams. Credit may be given for experience as a journeyman, foreman, supervising employee or contractor in the particular classification for which you are applying.

Is school necessary?

No. There are no educational requirements to qualify for a California contractor’s license. You may receive credit for technical training, apprenticeship training, military training, or education instead of a portion of the required four years of practical experience. At least one year must be practical experience.

While education is not necessary, an exam preparation program designed around the topics covered on the exam can help you gain confidence for passing your exam on the first try.

Is there an exam requirement?

Yes. The qualifying individual (either you or your representative) is required to pass two written exams: one for business and law and one for trade knowledge. There are some situations in which a waiver for the exams can be issued. CSLB schedules exams after the application is submitted, reviewed, and accepted as complete.

How much does it cost to apply?

As of July 1, 2017, there is a non-refundable $330 fee for an original application and a $200 initial license fee for one classification. The application fee for each additional classification is $150.

Are there additional financial requirements to qualify for a license?

Yes. All applicants must submit to CSLB a contractor bond or cash deposit payable to CSLB in the amount of $15,000. CSLB does not issue bonds.

Is worker’s compensation insurance required?

All contractors who have employees must present proof of workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Contractors without employees are required to file a certificate of exemption. However, C-39 Roofing contractors are not eligible for an exemption from the workers’ compensation insurance requirement.

What other application requirements are there?

All applicants must be fingerprinted (at an additional cost to the applicant) and undergo a background check before CSLB will issue a license.

Where do I get an application or find answers to further questions?

California Contractors State License Board
1 (800) 321-2752
9821 Business Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95827


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Very informative and knowledgeable
Gary H.
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