How to Get a General Contractor License in California

Any business or individual who wants to work in California’s construction industry doing specialty or general contracting needs a contractor license. 

Three main types of contractor licenses in CA are available through the California State License Board (CSLB)—Class A, Class B, and Class C. The licensing classification required depends on the type of work a contractor plans on doing. 

  • Class A: General Engineering Contractor - principal work requires specialized engineering knowledge and skill. This includes irrigation, drainage, reclamation works, railroads, highways, streets and roads, etc. 
  • Class B: General Building Contractor - main business is in connection with any structure built, being built, or to be built. Construction projects that require using at least two unrelated building trades or crafts. Class B-2 is for residential remodeling contractors that make improvements to, on, or in existing residential structures.
  • Class C: Specialty Contractor - operations involve doing construction work that requires the use of specialized building trades or crafts. This includes concrete, electrical, flooring, landscaping, etc.

Note that California contractors can apply for more than one designation. Additionally, home improvements to your own primary residence do not require a contractor license. For a complete list of what each contractor license class covers, see The Business & Professions Code Division 3, Chapter 9, Article 4.

How Much Does a California General Contractor License Cost?

A general contractor license in California costs approximately $650 in initial licensing fees and application fees. Plus, anywhere from $250 - $2,500 for a $25,000 California contractor license bond. 

Find more on the required CA contractor bond in Step 4 in the guide below. The guide covers everything you need to know, breaking down the licensing process step-by-step. We dive into license requirements, the contractor license exam, experience requirements, and more.

Eligibility Requirements for Getting a General Contractor License in California

To be a qualifying individual for a general contracting license in the state of California, you need to meet the following requirements. 

  • Age – be a minimum of 18 years old.
  • Application History – be applying for the first time. Or never been denied/had a license revoked for reasons that would prohibit the granting of this license. 
  • Identity – have a valid Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
  • Qualifying Experience – At least four years of experience in the past ten years (journeyman-level or higher). This may include working as a contractor, foreman, journeyman, or supervising employee. 
  • Education – No post-secondary is required. However, if you have related college or technical school training, you may be able to count it as part of your qualifying experience.
  • Trade Exam – Pass the CSLB exam.
  • Background Check – This process includes electronic fingerprinting.

Surety Bond & Insurance – Be able to secure a California contractor license bond, along with liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

How to Get a General Contractor License in California

Step 1: Register Your Business

Register your business with the California Secretary of State. Here, you will choose your business structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation), which can affect which insurance you need. 


Step 2: Fill Out a California Contractors License Application 

You can print the contractor license application forms and mail them. Alternatively, you can request a printed packet to fill out. For this application, you will need information such as:

  • Your contact and identity information (SSN or ITIN)
  • Construction business name and information
  • Work history
  • Requested license classification


Step 3: Complete Fingerprinting

All applicants must complete fingerprinting as part of a background check. This can be done electronically through a Live Scan fingerprinting provider


Step 4: Get a Surety Bond

A $25,000 California contractor license bond is an application requirement. Generally, this bond costs 1% - 5 % ($250 - $1,250) of the bond amount for those with good credit. Have bad credit? Chances are you can still secure this bond for a higher premium.

See what rate you qualify for with an online bond quote. It’s quick, free, and no obligation

Why is a Contractor License Bond Required? 

This surety bond protects the general public. It acts as a financial guarantee that a licensed contractor (the bond holder) will conduct business ethically and lawfully. If they fail to do so, a claim can be made against the bond, and the bonding company initially pays for any losses the claimant suffered. See CA Bus & Prof Code Section 7071.5 for situations where claims can be made.  

However, it is essential to note that all surety bond claims go through a verification process before paying out. A good surety provider will participate in this investigation to ensure their client isn’t paying for false claims. 


We recently had a CA general contractor, Dan*, have a claim made against his bond. The claim was submitted by one of his former subcontractors for non-payment. Our surety expert assigned to Dan’s case was able to verify that this claim was false—a paper trail showed the subcontractor was indeed paid the agreed-upon amount. The bond claim was not only deemed invalid, but Dan then had grounds for legal recourse against the subcontractor for the falsified claim. 

*Name has been changed for privacy


Step 5: Get Insured

  • General Liability Insurance – Covers claims related to third-party injury or property damage. 
  • Workers’ Compensation insurance – Covers workplace-related injuries and sickness for you and employees. Contractor businesses that deal with asbestos abatement, concrete, HVAC, tree service, or roofing require this, even if they have no employees. 


Step 6: Submit the Application

Submit your licensing application, supporting documents, and all required fees. At this time, fees are only accepted by mail.

Mailing address:

Contractor State License Board

9821 Business Park Drive, 

Sacramento, CA 95827


Step 7: Take the Contractor Licensing Exam

Once your application is approved, you have 18 months to pass the exam. You have unlimited tries to obtain a passing grade within that time, with each retake costing $100. The Law and Business portion of the exam must be taken at a testing center as it is not available online. 

What is on the California contractor exam? The test consists of a written Law and Business Examination, an Asbestos Open Book Exam, and a specific trade examination (if required). For exam specifics such as structure and content, see the official CSLB examination study guides—available free of charge in both English and Spanish.

Once you pass the exams, it takes an average of 1-2 weeks for a California contractor license to be issued. Before taking on any work, ensure that the online CSLB contractor registry has you marked with an “Active License” to avoid any penalties reserved for unlicensed contractors.

How Long Does It Take to Become a General Contractor in California?

It takes approximately 1-2 months to become a general contractor in California. This doesn’t include the four years of required work experience. Rather, it accounts for the time to:

  • Fill out and process the license application (3-4 weeks) 
  • Receive your license after passing the exam (1-2 weeks)

How Do I Prepare for the California General Contractor Exam?

The best way to prepare for the California general contractor exam is to use the official examination study guides from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). They are available free of charge in both English and Spanish and provide a breakdown of topics, example questions, and test strategies.

While there are also schools and training that can help you prepare for this exam, note that none of them are officially affiliated with CSLB.

From Our Customers

Ready to Get Started?

Get a real-time quote today. You’ll be bonded in minutes, not days!