July 7

Well Drilling Contractors are highly skilled tradesman.

The C-57 license is the classification for well drilling companies who provide critical services including: 

  • Installing and Repairing Wells
  • Boring
  • Drilling
  • Cementing and Welding

The ultimate goal being to deliver fresh water to communities.

Well drilling contractors possess a unique set of skills that are always in high demand.

In this article you will learn everything you need to get the California Well Drilling License and much more!

What is a Well Drilling Contractor?

"A well drilling contractor installs and repairs water wells and pumps by boring, drilling, excavating, casing, cementing and cleaning to provide a supply of uncontaminated water" - CSLB.GOV

The C-57 license is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on water well installation or projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Duties of a Well Drilling Contractors

A stone well. Drilling contractors looking to charge over $500 for their services in california must hold the C-57 license

Sometimes referred to as drilling contractors, excavating contractors, or water well drilling contractors.

Drilling contractors looking to get the C-57 license will need to be familiar with all aspects of the well drilling trade.

Tradesman that hold the C-57 license can engage in a variety of drilling related work including:

  • Site evaluations, cost calculation and equipment selection
  • Excavation and drilling
  • Water well set up, monitoring and de-construction
  • Installation and repair of pump and distribution systems
  • Monitoring Water Quality and Maintenance
  • Water well rehabiliation
  • Operating forklifts, swivels, back holes and customized cleaning units
  • Maintaining portable water tanks, smeal and pump rings
  • Cost Calculations
  •  Estimating, bidding, accounting and book-keeping
  • Maintaining Job-site safety


In many cases, drilling contractors that hold the C-57 license often work directly with

  • Industrial Companies
  • Water Authorities
  • Private Mineral water Treatment Companies

However, they may also function as a sub to a General Engineering Contractor to continually engage in water drilling work for multiple projects over an extended period of time.

General Engineering Contractors oversee that the well drilling subcontractor has executed their duties with adherence to state and federal regulation.

Learn more about the General Engineering Contractor License!


Logo of the contractors state license board, illustration includes a paint brush, cement truck and saw with the letters CSLB above in white

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 well drilling 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.

California C-57 License look up

The CSLB administers applications, exams, and maintains a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers which are public domain.

When looking for a reputable contractor you may use the CSLB website to check the status of a contractor license number.

You can view this information here at the California C-57 license look up page.

C-57 License Requirements

Well drilling contractors in California must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • 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 journey level experience?

Red truck with a large well drilling rig on the back

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a drilling company or a contractor that holds the C-57 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. 

Signature from a Qualifying Individual

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience when applying for the C-57 license:

  • Licensed General Engineering Contractor
  • C-57 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

How to fill out the C-57 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: 

“Bill and his team were excellent, they have done various projects for us” is not be descriptive enough.

 The CSLB will want to see:

"Bill has done bailing, swabbing, excavation and drilling. He has operated a rotary rig, forklift, done job site evaluations and disinfected wells" etc.

The description written by your qualifying individual will need to include the core skills required a well drilling contractor.

Work experience for the Contractors License

A construction worker using a directional drill into the ground. These are the daily duties of a well drilling contractor and will be expected skills when applying for the C-57 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.

  • 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 of the C-57 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony in California?
A hand filling out a criminal background check form

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-57 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
  • Embezzlement 
  • Forgery
  • Money Laundering

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 the CSLB asks for regarding your criminal history. 

The C-57 License Exam

The exam will be:

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

The Well Drilling (C-57 license) Examination is divided into seven major sections:

1.    Planning and Estimating (20%)

  • Site evaluation
  • Equipment and material selection
  • Cost calculation

2.    Water Well Drilling and Well Development (26%)

  • Water well setup
  • Water well drilling
  • Water well construction
  • Water well monitoring

3.    Geotechnical Borings and Environmental Wells (5%)

  • Geotechnical borings
  • Environmental wells

4.    Water Distribution System Installation (7%)

  • Pump systems
  • Distribution systems

5.    Water Distribution System Repairs (7%)

  • Pump system repair
  • Distribution system repair

6.    Water Well Rehabilitation and Destruction (10%)

  • Water well rehabilitation
  • Water well destruction

7. Safety (25%)

  •  Employee safety
  • Job site and equipment safety
  • Hazardous materials

Recommended Resources

CSLB Test Locations

The CSLB has testing locations in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • The Contractors State License Board will assign you a testing center based on your location 
  • The state exam is not available online 
  • You are allowed to bring a pre-approved translator with you 
  • The CSLB will grant you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations 
  • You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ($60 per retake) 
  • A 70% score will be required to pass

Learn more about Contractor License LAW

C-57 license study guides and practice tests

A calculator and pencil laying on top of a piece of grid paper with some math problems written on it

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

I have helped drilling 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-57 License for water well drilling.

Water Well drilling schools in California

A construction worker holding a red hard with a yellow tool belt on

If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level experience to get a C-57 license for water well drilling, your journey begins here.

Drilling is a global multi-billion dollar sector of construction.

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!

Blueprint Reading Course

Four construction workers analyzing a construction blueprint, with several tools, pencils and rulers on the table

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

Construction blueprints communicate important information about the area surrounding a structure and how it has been built including materials necessary.

Being comfortable with construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but is especially important for those looking to get the C-57 license. See our Free Blueprint Reading Course!

OSHA Certification

two construction workers on top of a steel beam. drilling contractors should be familiar with OSHA safety regulations

Occupational Safety Hazard Association

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.

The drilling industry can be dangerous, especially if your workers are not properly trained.

For employment with a drilling contractor it is typically required that you have completed some level of OSHA training.

Learn more about OSHA Training!

EPA Certification

Logo of the united states environmental protection agency

Understanding how to safely contain lead-based paint when altering structures built before 1978 is required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead paint can enter the water supply and be harmful to the public if not handled correctly.

Getting EPA compliant is not only important to the survival of your business but also the safety of your customers.  

For a complete guide on how to get the EPA Certification in 8 hours! check out this article. 


Getting the C-57 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to start bidding on projects or become an RMO for an existing well drilling company!

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!


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