How To Get A Contractor License With No Experience

Want to get a contractor’s license in California, but don’t have any experience? Can you even get a contractor’s license without experience?

In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of getting a contractor license with no experience in California. Let’s take a look at the journey from a person with a dream and no experience to becoming a licensed contractor!

1. Determine If You’re Eligible

While most people are eligible to get a contractor’s license, there are a few eligibility basics you need to fulfill.

First of all – are you at least 18 years old? You must be at least 18 to get a contractor’s license.

Do you have a valid Social Security number or tax I.D.? You’ll need one of those too.

Fulfilling these essentials is critical to getting a contractor license in California – no matter your experience, education, or experience.

2. Identify Which License Classification(s) You’re After

Take a look at the kind of construction work you’re hoping to do (general contracting or electrical work, for example), then cross-check that with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) License Classifications.

Once you see which license(s) align with your skills and career goals, you can start the journey of obtaining a contractor’s license in that area.

3. Enroll in a Contractor License Course

There’s no educational requirements to become a contractor or have a contractor’s license – that’s the beauty of the profession – but it can be hugely beneficial to contractors to take short, specific courses that can help you learn the skills to be a successful contractor.

You can also check in with the CSLB – who have approved exam study guides to help fresh new contractors like you to prepare as well.

4. Gain The Necessary Experience (Or Get An Exemption)

Now’s the hard part – gaining the necessary experience to get your contractor’s license.

In California, the CSLB requires either:

If you don’t have or can’t gain this experience, there are other ways around it.

There are a few routes you can take to securing a license when you have little to no experience.

The most common path is gradually accumulating experience in low-paying positions. Jobs that pay less than $500 do not require a contractor license. Once you work the required number of hours for the license classification that you’re applying for, you go through the regular process, pass your exam, and apply for your license.

An alternate route for you could be partnering with a responsible managing officer or a responsible managing employee. In this case, you’d find someone who already has a license and you’d work together. The CSLB would understand that the one contractor license covered both of your work and all legal liability sits with the licensed contractor.

Another way is to receive a grandfathered license. Let’s say you work for a family business or just an individual that happens to be your relative. The experience that you accrue working under that person may qualify you to inherit the family license once the license holder retires or passes away.

In any of these rare alternate situations, you will have to apply for a waiver from the CSLB and get their approval.

Submitting a Certification of Work Experience to the board might be necessary to convey that someone who holds a contractor license can verify that you are qualified to perform construction work.

5. Apply for and Secure Your License

Now that you have the experience or have received a waiver of said experience, you can officially apply for your contractor license.

The way to do that is online, via the CSLB website. Simply apply there, submit all of your paperwork, and then you’re on to the next step.

6. Take The CSLB Exam

Once you apply, you have to take the CSLB exam. This 100+ question exam consists of two parts: a law & business section, and a trade-specific section that features questions related to your license.

You may apply for an exemption from the CSLB exam, and if you apply via an alternative route besides doing four years of on-the-job experience, this may apply to you.

7. Pass A Fingerprints and Background Check

Be prepared for a fingerprint check and a background check. It’s standard procedure when applying for the contractor licenses you’re pursuing.

Don’t be afraid if you have a criminal record. In many cases, the CSLB will contact you and decide on your license on a case-by-case basis.

8. Get Your Contractor’s Bond and Meet Your Insurance Requirements

Depending on the license classification you’re going for, your bond and insurance needs may vary. Check out the bond requirements on the CSLB website and go from there.

At the very least, you’ll need a $25,000 contractor’s bond to obtain your license. By 2026, all contractors will also be required to have workers’ compensation insurance, even if they don’t have employees!

9. Pay Your Application Fees

Starting your contractor career from scratch is not cost-free, unfortunately. You’ll be responsible for covering application and license renewal fees that will come up every couple of years once you’re officially licensed.

Rest assured that it’s all worth it. You get to work higher-paying jobs with your license and you avoid any sort of expensive legal trouble that comes with working without a license.

Conclusion

Getting a contractor license in California isn’t easy – if it was, everyone would do it!

The process takes time and requires a lot of mental and physical effort to get to the finish line, but the opportunities that await on the other side are massive.

The CSLB actually offers a free workshop that can walk you through everything we’ve discussed here. Best of luck to you as you take your first steps toward becoming a licensed contractor in California.