• Reinforcing steel Contractors are highly skilled tradesman that specialize in the fabrication and placing of steel mesh or bars to reinforce steel structures. 

In this article you will learn everything you need to know about get the C-50 License for Reinforcing Steel Contractors

Construction workers installing rebar on a building

C-50 Reinforcing Steel Contractor License

What is a C-50 Reinforcing Steel Contractor?

"A reinforcing steel contractor fabricates, places and ties steel mesh or steel reinforcing bars (rods), of any profile, perimeter, or cross-section, that are or may be used to reinforce concrete structures" - CSLB.GOV

The C-50 license is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on steel reinforcement projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Duties of Reinforcing Steel Contractors

The C-50 License exists as a classification in the state of California primarily because it certifies a service that is a fundamental element found in many structures all over the country.

Sometimes referred to as steel contractors or rebar contractors, the reinforcing steel trade can include duties such as:

  • Fabricating and shaping steel bars
  • Setting bar supports
  • Placing and tying reinforcing steel
  • Reinforcing Steel for Bridges, Parking Structures, Patios, Pools, High Rises and Water Treatment Plants
  • check
    Setting templates and placing marks
  • check
    Using various types of rebar and welded mesh to achieve structural soundness
  • check
    Stressing cables
  • check
    Reading blueprints, plans and specifications
  • check
    Estimating materials and costs
  • check
    Maintaining personal and job-site safety

 Steel Contractors engage in various forms of cost calculations as well as welding and fabrication methods to complete projects and have strict methods of job site safety and follow specific storage requirements for products and equipment. 

To get the C-50 license you will need to demonstrate a knowledge of all the duties associated with reinforcing steel.

Construction worker holding rectangular pieces of rebar in his right hand

Reinforcing Steel Contractors must be familiar with a wide range of duties


Reinforcing steel contractors typically work with  General Engineering Contractors, architects or developers. The C-50 license is typically held by steel contracting firms that engage in large scale engineering projects.

A General Engineering Contractor oversees that the reinforcing steel subcontractor has executed their duties in adherence to code. Learn more about the General Engineering Contractor License


The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governing body for all contractors in the state of California. Their responsibility is to protect the consumer public and ensure that anyone charging over $500 for construction services is qualified and registered with the state of California.

The reinforcing steel contractor license is issued to contractors by the CSLB. The CSLB administers applications, exams, and maintains a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers which are public domain.

logo of the cslb which is the governing body for contractors in the state of california

Contractors State License Board

How to get the C-50 License

 To qualify for an exam date you must meet the the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • check
    Not Currently be on probation or parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
  • A Qualifying Individual to sign off on your experience
  • A way to prove your experience if the state asks for documentation

What is a Journey level experience?

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a reinforcing steel contractor that holds the C-50 license.

  • A journeyman can perform all of the duties associated with his or her trade.

The CSLB will want to see four full-time years over the last ten years. The years do not need to be consecutive, but they do need to be four years in total. 

A construction worker wearing a welding mask welding a large piece of steel. Journey level experience is required of anyone looking to get the reinforcing steel contractors license

A journeyman can perform all of the duties associated with reinforcing steel

Signature of a Qualifying Individual

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience when applying for the reinforcing steel contractors license:

  • Licensed General Engineering Contractor
  • C-50 License Holder
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • check
    Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • check
    Business Associate
  • check
    Fellow Journeyman
  • check
    ​​​​Union Representative

Filling out the Reinforcing Steel Contractor License Application

Your Qualifying Individual will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skillset. The way this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted. For example: 

"Rob has worked with steel for a long time” is not descriptive enough.

The CSLB will want to see:

"Rob has installed welded wire mesh, pre-tension tendons, fabricated steel reinforcing bars, read blueprints, estimated for materials and done job site evaluations" etc.

The description written by your qualifying individual will need to include the core skills required for reinforcing steel contractors.

Work experience for the Contractor License

You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have. The Contractors State License Board gives you a few ways that you can prove your experience.

A construction worker using a saw to cut a piece of steel, generating many sparks

You may be asked to prove 4 years experience to the CSLB

  • Tax Returns
  • Check Stubs
  • Contracts
  • Material Order Invoices or Receipts

The CSLB  receives thousands of applications per month so there is a good chance they won’t document your experience but if you are one of the applicants that get reviewed you will need to be ready to submit something. 

The CSLB does not accept pictures of projects.

Application Processing, Fees and Criminal History

The time it takes to get your application processed and assigned a test date fluctuates throughout the year. Typically you can expect:

  • 6-8 Week Application Processing Time
  • 3-4 Week wait for an Exam date

I have seen some situations where applicants got their test date sooner and some where they got their test date much later.

The most common reasons your application would get held up are:

  1. Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays) 
  2. Criminal History 
  3. Proving Experience
  4. Mistakes on your application 

Application costs for the C-50 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony in California?

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-50 License. I have personally helped guys with all types of criminal records obtain multiple licenses.

The key is to be honest on the application, even if the felony or misdemeanor happened years ago and even if it was expunged.

BE 100% HONEST ON THE APPLICATION, because they will see everything anyway when you do fingerprinting. The CSLB handles criminal records on a case by case basis. Remember, their responsibility is to protect the public. In my experience, they primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with:

  • Fraud
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
a wooden gavel and law book laying on top of a white surface. reinforcing steel contractors looking to get the C-50 license should be honest and transparent about their criminal recor

Be 100% Honest on your application about your criminal record

In the state of California, you are required to divulge any criminal charges when applying for any state license even if they have been expunged. You will need to be prepared to submit anything they ask for regarding your criminal history. 

The Reinforcing Steel Contractors License Exam

The exam will be:

  • 115 Questions on Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions on Reinforcing steel 
  • You will have 3 hours to complete each portion
  • check
    The exam is multiple choice and is taken on a computer
  • check
    Closed Book

The Reinforcing Steel Contractor's License (C-50 license) Examination is divided into six major sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (43%)

  • Plans and specifications
  • Types and grades of reinforcing steel
  • Determining quantities of materials
  • Estimating costs

2. Fabrication (9%)

  • Preparation
  • Fabrication​

3. Layout and Placement of Reinforcing Steel(20%)

  • Placing marks
  • Setting templates
  • Setting bar supports
  • Placing and tying reinforcing steel

4. Placement and Stressing of Post-TensionedCables (7%)

  • Layout and placement of cables
  • Stressing of cables
  • Equipment handling

5. Safety (21%)

  • Personnel safety
  • Equipment and site safety

CSLB Test Locations

Currently, there are CSLB testing locations in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego

Learn more about Contractor License LAW

Contractor License Exam Prep

Some things to remember:

  • The questions you will see on the exam may use outdated terms
  • Processes may be completely different from how things are done on the job site
  • You will see questions about things you may have never done before
  • Questions will be presented to you as if you are running a large scale construction business with several employees and jobs happening all at once. 
  • Know all aspects of your trade
a white piece of grid paper, a calculator and a pencil

The C-50 License Exam has 230 total questions

I have helped reinforcing steel companies from all over the country get licensed in California. Many are startled by how strict the laws are here. 

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Studying just 10 mintues a day consistently can dramatically increase your chances of passing the test on your first try.

Focus on and study ONLY the information that you need to pass the C-50 License for Structural Steel.

Steel Apprenticeships

If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level experience to get a C-50 license, your journey begins here.

Steel is a global multi-billion dollar sector. Generally, someone looking to get into this trade would find union or apprenticeship program.

For a detailed explanation on this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman!

a fabric of steel rebar

Apprenticeships are a great first step into the steel industry

Blueprint Reading Course

a featured image for a blog post about how to learn construction blueprints. reinforcing steel contractors looking to get the C-50 license should know how to read construction blueprints

Learn more about Blueprint Reading!

It is critical for reinforcing steel contractors to be able to read construction blueprints or at least be able to recognize lines and symbols.

Construction blueprints communicate important information about how a structure has been built as well as what materials are necessary or have been used for its construction. 

Being comfortable with construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but is especially important for those looking to get the C-50 license. See our Free Blueprint Reading Course!

OSHA Certification

Statistically, 21% of all work-related fatalities are in construction. That equals about 1 and 5 worker deaths on average. In the construction industry, the leading cause of worker deaths is reported as falls, struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between.

featured image for a blog post about osha certifications. reinforcing steel contractors looking to get the c-50 license should absolutely  get osha certified

Occupational Safety Hazard Association

The steel industry is notoriously dangerous, especially if your workers are not properly trained. For employment with a steel contractor its typically required that you have completed some level of OSHA training. Learn more about OSHA Training.


Getting the C-50 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to start your own company or become an RMO for an existing firm! The key is to take action and follow these steps from beginning to end. 

If you have found this article helpful feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to check back for updates!

About the Author

Digital Constructive is the #1 Online Resource for Construction Professionals

Save Time and Energy:

Stay Up To Date On Changes To Contractor License LAW!