What Degree Do You Need to be a General Contractor?

Behind every great construction project is a general contractor. From minor home improvements to the construction of skyscrapers and other structures, you’re pretty sure there’s a general contractor that oversees project planning and execution.

General contractors play an immense role in the construction process. Their main goal is to implement a project based on the agreed program of works. They manage everything that happens on-site and even behind the scenes of a construction or renovation project. They liaise between the property owner or developer and the sub-contractors, suppliers, and skilled workers who perform various tasks, such as civil works, carpentry, woodwork, plumbing, and electrical work.

The tasks of general contractors are far-ranging. They review architectural plans, prepare the program of works and schedule, hire workers and subcontractors, purchase materials, and oversee the day-to-day activities. Throughout the project, they need to ensure that deadlines are met and quality work is done.

Typically, property owners, developers, and the public sector hire general contractors to organize and manage various projects, including buildings, roads, residential homes, production plants, retail stores, and commercial complexes. They are virtually everywhere.

Considering the looming construction boom post-COVID-19 offers a promising career. If you’re interested in becoming one, you may be wondering what you need to be a general contractor. Here we take a look at the education, training, and experience of a general contractor.

What You Need to be a General Contractor?

A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement to become a general contractor in all 50 states of the US. Some prospective contractors complete vocational training, while others earn a degree in engineering, construction management, or science. Aside from educational requirements, most states require qualifying for and passing a licensing exam to become a licensed contractor.

Contractors at AFS General Contracting emphasized that similar to other careers, practical experience in the construction industry is vital. A combination of trade expertise and management skills is important to succeed in the general contracting business. Tradesmen gain hands-on training and experience from working under the supervision of a general contractor. It can take several years to get a full grasp of the construction and project management concepts. Apprenticeship provides a perfect avenue to learn about the standards, regulations, and laws that govern the construction industry.

What Degree Should You Take?

Completing a college degree best prepares you for a general contractor post. At least, 45% of general contractors hold a bachelor’s degree. Some of the most common majors for a general contractor include:

  • business,
  • construction management,
  • general studies,
  • accounting and
  • engineering courses like civil engineering, electrical engineering, etc.

Most colleges offer these courses in various degree levels (associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees). Although a business major is the most common college degree of general construction, construction management, technology, or science program provides the best theoretical foundation for this career.

Construction management degrees complement engineering concepts with business management to prepare you to oversee the construction process from planning down to completion. These degree programs typically include courses in mathematics, physics, and construction (principles and methods, surveying, materials, design, plans, and measurements).

These college courses also equip students with theories and skills in project management, including human relations, contracts, cost estimating, value analysis, building codes, and scheduling.

Usually, bachelor’s degree programs are earned in four years. While some construction management programs are delivered online, the majority should be taken in the traditional setup.

Why Earn a Degree?

Unlike other careers, general contractors don’t necessarily require a college degree. Around 21 percent of contractors are high school graduates. Substantial work experience as an electrician, plumber, carpenter or mason can advance you to a general contractor position. You can also gain experience through field jobs, internships, or actual work under the supervision of a general contractor.

If you can become a general contractor without a college degree, why would you bother to enroll in college?

Having a bachelor’s degree and construction experience improves your chances of being hired or winning projects according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. If they are given options, industry employers and project owners are still inclined to hire general contractors who have degrees. When it comes to major projects, it’s quite understandable why clients would want to entrust supervision to someone who has sufficient educational preparation.

Many general contractors even advance their educational credentials by gaining a master’s degree. Graduate degrees are aimed to further enhance the technical, organizational, management, and financial competencies which you need to supervise or lead a construction firm. It also greatly improves your career opportunities.

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