California Contractors License Guide
To obtain and maintain a California Contractor’s License, you must apply to the California State Licensing Board (CSLB). The CSLB regulates the construction industry, ensuring that contractors are practicing healthy, safe and ethical standards on the job site and while the public.
Keep reading our 8-step guide to learn more about applying, renewing and taking the California Contractors Licenses Exam.
Feel free to jump ahead sections with the California contractor license steps menu on the right.
Determine the Type of Contractor License You Need
In the state of California, if a project’s value is over $500, including both labor and materials, you will need to obtain a contractor license. This covers contractors, subcontractors, and specialty contractors. Licenses may be issued to individuals, partnerships, corporations or LLCs.
Note: If you’ve held an active license in good standing for five (5) years from Arizona, Nevada, or Utah, you may be eligible for reciprocity from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Read more on the CSLB website to determine further requirements.
Access California Contractor License Application Forms
For new applicants of all business types, there are three ways to access the Application for Original Contractor License (13A-1):
Fulfill Requirements and Obtain Required Documents
- Applicants must be 18 years or older with a valid Social Security Number.
- A DOJ and FBI background check: This applies to all applicants, as well as their partners, owners, and managers. Live scan fingerprinting locations are available here.
- Working capital of a minimum of $2,500.
- Obtain Certification of Work Experience: This form is required to prove journey-level experience.
- Construction Project Experience: This form is used along with the Certification of Work Experience. One form is required for each completed construction project.
- An Additional Personnel form: This form must be completed when there are additional personnel to report on behalf of the applicant.
- A Disclosure Statement Regarding Criminal Plea/Conviction: The applicant shall list each plea or conviction, regardless of when the crime was committed, and/or whether it was dismissed or expunged. One form must be submitted for each plea/conviction reported and must be fully completed.
- Accommodation Request for Examination: For examination accommodation, proof of learning disabilities may require professional evidence from a medical professional or learning institution.
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance or an Exemption from Workers’ Compensation Insurance form.
Submit Your California Contractor License Application
As of May 1, 2017, CSLB will only accept applications with a revision date of October 2016 or later. Any applications older than October 2016 will be returned, along with included fees.
Licensing and Application Fees
As of July 1, 2017, there is a California contractor license application fee of $330.
Live Scan fingerprinting requires a $32 DOJ processing fee, as well as a $17 FBI fee. Fees may fluctuate depending on location.
There are different ways to pay your application fees. For more information, please visit the CSLB Forms and Applications page.
Send your application and all required documents to the following address:
California State License Board
9821 Business Park Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95827
Pass Your Examination
If you have been qualified and working under the same classification with a California contractor license in good standing for at least five years, or have passed the law and trade examinations for licensure, no examinations are required. All other applicants are required to pass their Examination with a minimum score of 67%.
Top 3 California Contractor’s License Schools
We recommend that you take a look at the list of California contractor’s license schools that have a proven track record in assisting future contractors. Any of these will surely help you prepare confidently for the exam. Below, we’ve reviewed their main strengths and price ranges to make your choice easier:
#1: License Instruction Schools: Contractors Intelligence School
The License Instruction Schools were established in 1982 and claim to be the largest contractors licensing school in the U.S. The number of contractors they have prepared for the license exams are well in the thousands. They offer courses for all 43 contractor classifications, as well as for the General Engineering, General Building and the Law and Business exam.
When you sign up, you will receive a manual and a CD, which you can use to study on your own time. The course takes place in the two days prior to the exam, eight hours each day. Tuition is only $495 for most classifications except Roofing and Swimming Pools.
#2: License Instruction Schools: Contractors School
The Contractors Intelligence School offers three options for license courses in California. You can choose in-class preparation, home study or online practice exams. With the first option, you receive study materials in advance and then attend the 2-day course just before the exam. The home study version means you get materials to prepare by yourself, including manuals, practice exams and CDs or DVDs. The online option gives you 90-day access to online practice exams.
The price of the in-class preparation courses starts at $395. Home study costs $195. The online practice exams’ prices vary depending on the classification field. The school offers a trade-only course starting at $235.
#3: California Contractor School Online
The California Contractor School Online is another great option for your California contractor’s license exam course. It offers manuals and online tests in all of the contractor classifications for the state. Like with other online schools, success depends on your own diligence in taking the online tests and preparing with online manuals.
Access to the Business, Law and Management Online Practice Test for three months costs $85. The California Business, Law and Management Manual’s price is $114.
After passing your licensure examination, all applicants in the state must take the Asbestos Open Book exam and mail a completed verification form with the rest of your application, including a renewal/California surety bond verification and license fee notice, to the following address:
California State License Board
P.O. Box 269074
Sacramento, CA 95826-9074
Obtain Your California Contractor Licensing Bond
Before the CSLB issues an active California contractor license, you must obtain a Contractor License Bond. An applicant’s contractor license bond amount, or cash deposit with CSLB instead of a contractor license bond, is $15,000, as of January 2016. A Bond of Qualifying Individual in the amount of $12,500 may be required in addition to the contractor bond in the situations outlined.
How Long Does the Contractors License Process Take?
Forms and documents are processed in the order they are received. You are able to check the status of your pending application via the CSLB website.