The CSLB Class A General Engineering License: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a contractor, engineer, or someone looking to begin a career down either of these paths, you have probably wondered about the CSLB Class A General Engineering License.

This license covers all the activities of a general engineering contractor in California – everything from planning an interstate highway project to fixing the irrigation system on the Capitol building. We’ll cover what the Class A License is, what jobs you can do, what jobs you can’t do, and so much more.

Let’s dig in!

Defining the Class A General Engineering License

Outlined in the Business & Professions Code Division 3, Chapter 9, Contractors, Article 4, Classifications 7056, the Class A General Engineering Contractor license is required for individuals whose primary contracting work is “associated with fixed works demanding specialized engineering knowledge and skill​.”

According to the CSLB, a general engineering contractor is “a contractor whose principal contracting business is in connection with fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill, including the following divisions or subjects: irrigation, drainage, water power, water supply, flood control, inland waterways, harbors, docks and wharves, shipyards and ports, dams and hydroelectric projects, levees, river control and reclamation works, railroads, highways, streets and roads, tunnels, airports and airways, sewers and sewage disposal plants and systems, waste reduction plants, bridges, overpasses, underpasses and other similar works, pipelines and other systems for the transmission of petroleum and other liquid or gaseous substances, parks, playgrounds and other recreational works, refineries, chemical plants and similar industrial plants requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill, powerhouses, power plants and other utility plants and installations, mines and metallurgical plants, land leveling and earthmoving projects, excavating, grading, trenching, paving and surfacing work and cement and concrete works in connection with the above mentioned fixed works.”

Holy cow – that’s a lot of words!

In short, the CSLB Class A License is predominantly aimed at general contracting tasks encompassing construction, alteration, repair, remodeling, demolition, and the management of various large-scale projects including highways, roads, railroads, and other significant structures within the state of California. Usually, these projects are large in scale and involve teams of Class B and Class A contractors working to execute the project.

Class A contractors, unlike Class B or Class C contractors, have a scope of work that exists outside simple residential or commercial contracting. Unlike these other contractors, Class A contractors work on the “bigger” projects, often governmental projects, involving substantial expertise and scale.

You’ll see Class A contractors on every public works project. If someone’s building a new bridge; if you see sensitive excavation work; if you see a tunnel being dug for a new railway – all of these projects are being overseen by one or multiple Class A contractors.

In general, Class A contractors are “hands-off” contractors, usually involved more in the planning and management of the project, rather than being on-site to oversee teams or performing specialty work. However, Class A contractors may hold Class B or Class C licenses and may do work on their own projects in some situations.

Types of Projects Class A Contractors Do

Class A contractors in California are entrusted with the responsibility of executing fixed works that necessitate specialized engineering knowledge and skill. Unlike Class B and Class C license holders, that usually means big public works projects that involve tons of expertise in physics and engineering.

Usually, these projects are governmental projects where thousands or millions of people will interact with the construction. This high level of use means that an engineer’s knowledge and expertise are necessary to complete the project in a way that is safe and resilient for the public.

Here’s a closer look at common types of projects that Class A contractors take on:

Infrastructure Development:

Environmental and Public Health Projects:

Industrial and Commercial Constructions

Recreational and Other Constructions

The Most Common Types Of Class A Construction Projects 2023

Here are the most common types of projects Class A license holders are involved in this year:

Can A Class A Contractor Do Construction Work?

Class A contractors are allowed to self-perform work falling within their license classification, which includes an extensive range of construction activities. Here’s a breakdown of construction tasks and how they relate to Class A work.

Do You Need An Engineering Degree To Be A Class A Contractor?

The common thread among these diverse projects is the requirement for specialized engineering knowledge and skills – an undertaking that usually requires higher education.

While you technically do not need a bachelor’s degree or equivalent 4-year degree in engineering, it is all but necessary for you to find any real work. Nobody is going to trust a multi-billion dollar public works project to someone who hasn’t got the mathematical, physical, and engineering skills to safely and properly do engineering work.

That’s why most colleges and universities in the U.S. offer engineering degrees. Without a strong basis in engineering knowledge, there’s no way you’re passing the CSLB exam, let alone getting hired by an engineering firm.

In short – while you technically do not need an engineering degree to get your Class A license, in practice, you absolutely need it. Where the rubber meets the road, all Class A engineers must have the knowledge and expertise a 4-year engineering degree gives you.
significance of staying updated with the latest amendments and requirements​.

Conclusion

A Class A General Engineering license is a golden ticket for many construction professionals who are burned out on the day-to-day grind of on-site construction, or for young people just entering the workforce who want a consistent, steady job that pays well and doesn’t require them to be out in the elements 200 days a year.

If you want to be a part of the construction industry but want to do it from the comfort of a desk – the Class A General Engineering license is probably for you. Just get ready to head back to school!

Additional Reading

CSLB Official Website
CSLB Examination Study Guides
CSLB Examination FAQs
California Contractors Exam Study Materials