how to get a sign installation contractor license in California

C-61/D-42 Non Electrical Sign Contractor

Table of Contents

What is a C-61/D-42 Non Electrical Sign Contractor?

non electrical sign that says pre owned vehicles

“A non-electrical sign installation contractor fabricates and installs all types of non-electrical signs, including but not limited to: post or pole supported signs, signs attached to structures, painted wall signs and modifications to existing signs” – CSLB.GOV

The C-61/D-42 is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to contract for non-electrical sign projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500

C-61 Limited Specialty Classification

The C-61 Limited Specialty License is an umbrella term for all licenses that may fall under a more obscure category of construction work.

They cover specific areas of construction and construction-related tasks. 

If your skillset or business is limited to one particular portion of trade work, you could obtain a C-61 limited specialty license to contract over $500 for your services legally.

Typical duties of a Sign Contractor

The C-61/D-42 license can cover a wide range of areas involving the production or repair of non-electrical signage.

A Sign contractor often has an acute artistic perspective when creating signage but also the ability to effectively communicate with business owners to bring their visions to life.

Their duties include:

  • Fabrication and installation of non electrical signs
  • Graphic design and drafting
  • Erecting signs made from wood, canvas, vinyl, glass and metal
  • Obtaining permits, knowledge of local laws and filing paperwork for public signs
  • Using software, sprayers and specialized machinery
  • Pole and monument installation
  • Working with cranes and ladders
  • Bidding, accounting, and estimation
  • Ensuring personal and job-site safety

If you also work with electrical signs you may obtain the C-45 License.

What is a subcontractor?

a spray can and mask laying on top of a table

Non-electrical sign contractors typically work directly with clients which tend to be business owners. However, they may also function as subs under a General Contractor.

For example, a General B or Painting Contractor may subcontract someone holding the non-electrical sign contractor license.

As a result, a prime contractor ensures that the siding subcontractor's duties are executed adhering to safety codes or to the specific requests of a client. 


Logo of the Contractors state license board, which is the governing agency for construction contractors in the state of california. Image features a paint brush, hand saw, and cement truck 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 sole responsibility is to protect the consumer public. 

They ensure that anyone charging over $500 for construction services is qualified and registered with the state.

The C-61 / D-42 sign contractor license is issued to contractors by the CSLB. 

Contractor License Requirements

To get a non-electrical sign contractor license in California, you must prove a minimum of 4 years journeyman level experience and pass a two-part state exam with the Contractor State License Board.

To qualify for an exam date you must meet 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 sign installation company, or for a contractor that holds the C-61/D-42 contractor 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 of a Qualifying Individual

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

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-61/D-42 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Filling out the Sign 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:

“Steve is a great guy, he made our banner” is not quite descriptive enough.

The CSLB will want to see something more like: 

“Steve has installed grounding and lettering. He has fabricated signs using metal, wood, canvas and many other materials. He has operated laser engravers and done sandblasting” etc.

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

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 which include:

  • 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 somewhere 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 

Contractor License Fees

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

a wooden gavel laying on a table. the sign contractor license requires that you complete fingerprinting

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-61/D-42 contractor License. Thousands of tradesmen get licensed in California each year, despite having a criminal record.

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. Typically the CSLB is most concerned with Fraud, Embezzlement, and Forgery.

The Contractor License Exam

Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:

1) A-General Engineering

2) B-General Building

3) C-Specialty classes

4) C-61 / D-Limited Specialty classes

Each category of license except the D-Limited Specialty license class requires that you pass a TRADE exam. C-61 Classification licenses do not have trade portions.

You must only pass a LAW exam. The exam is:

  • 115 Questions on Contractor LAW
  • 3 Hours to complete
  • Multiple choice, taken on a computer
  • check Closed Book

The Law Examination is divided into eight major sections:

1. Business Organization (10%)

  •  Company organization
  •  Project organization

2. Business Finances (15%)

  • Cash management
  • Budget and planning
  • Taxes
  • Financial reporting

3. Employment Requirements (12%)

  • Employment regulations
  • Evaluation and record-keeping
  • Payroll

4. Bonds, Insurance, and Liens (10%)

  • Bonds
  • Workers’ compensation insurance
  • Liens and other remedies
  • Other insurance

5. Contract Requirements and Execution (23%)

  • Bidding
  • Cost control
  • Contracts
  • Payments

6. Licensing Requirements (8%)

  • Business license
  • Contractor’s license
  • Activity regulation

7. Safety (15%)

  • Training and reporting requirements
  • General safety
  • Hazardous/unknown materials

8. Public Works (7%)

  • Prevailing wage requirements
  • Bonding requirements
  • Insurance requirements

Learn everything you need to know about Contractor License LAW!

Recommended Resources

CSLB Test Locations

There are CSLB testing locations in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • The CSLB will assign you a testing center based on your location
  •  The test is not available online 
  • The CSLB allows you to bring a pre-approved translator with you 
  • The CSLB will grant you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass the test 
  • You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ($60 per retake)

California Contractors License Exam Prep

a wooden architect scale laying on top of a piece of paper

  • Getting the D-42 sign contractor license is a smooth process if you have the right information. 

  • It can be confusing to see un-familiar terms used to describe tools or job site practices. The Contractor LAW exam covers a number of different topics.

  • Questions are presented to you as if you are running a large scale remodeling business with multiple employees.

  • Being prepared and knowing what to study is the most important thing you can do in ensuring your success on the contractor license exam.

Construction Apprenticeships

If you do not have the experience required to get the C-61/D-42 Sign Contractor license, not to worry! 

Your journey begins here. Generally, someone looking to become a contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship to find an experienced person to work with.

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

EPA Certification

Logo of the united states environmental protection agency

When making alterations to or around structures built before 1978, deck contractors must know how to contain lead paint if it is present. Rules for Lead paint are set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead paint can travel miles through air, rest on soil, and enter air ducts causing potentially fatal respiratory damage.

Sign contractors looking to build profitable businesses must position themselves as experts and the authority within their industry. 

Contractors must be a source of information for their clients and community if they want referrals and repeat business.

Learn how to get an EPA Certification in 8 hours!

Blueprint Reading Course

image of a desk with construction reading blueprint material

Non-electrical sign installation contractors should be able to read designs and symbols on construction blueprints.

If installation or repair is part of a larger project, being able to execute their duties within the larger scope of the job is essential. 

Reading blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesmen but can be especially important for deck contractors.

Check out our Free Blueprint Reading Course!


Getting a Contractor license for non-electrical sign installation 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!