If you have ever looked into getting a Contractor License, chances are you have been bombarded with offers and courses from Contractor Schools all saying they can help you pass on your first try.

You may have asked yourself if it’s even necessary to go to a contractor license school. What do you learn? How can they help me? Or maybe is this a scam?

Roof builders mounting prefabricated wooden roof construction. Construction industry concept.

Contractor License Schools can teach you a lot about LAW

  • I spent 3 years running a contractor license school. I had the privilege of working with some of the top tradesmen in the country. 
  • Many of my students were journeymen with decades of experience.
  • I had foremen, superintendents, real estate agents, project managers, and unofficial general contractors in my classes every week.

What could a school or I possibly teach them about construction?  That answer depends on who are you and what exactly you are trying to learn. In this article, I am going to give you the inside scoop about Contractor License Schools. 

Who needs a Contractor License?

In California, anyone looking to charge over $500 for trade services has to be licensed. There are several reasons why someone would look to get a contractor license. Everyone has a different situation.

  • In some cases, somebody may want a license to grow their business and take on larger projects. 
  • Its possible they are employed but taking the exam to replace a qualifier in their company.
two glass contractors installing a large piece of gla

A contractor license is needed to charge over $500 for construction services

There are several scenarios, but 99% of the time it comes down to one simple reason. More money. A contractor license allows you to scale your business legally.

There are a variety of high paying career paths in construction that doesn’t require any licensing, however, starting your own business as a contractor allows you the most freedom and earning potential.

The Contractors State License Board, is the governing agency for contractors in California. There are 73 different trade classifications in California! 

  • Landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Drywall
  • Electrical
  • Concrete 
  • Roofing
  • Water Conditioning
  • Fire Protection

Every area of construction is regulated in California.

The CSLB processes applications, they administer exams, tracks active and inactive licensed contractors, conduct sting operations targeting unlicensed construction activity and much more.

Learn more about the Contractors State License Board!

Logo of the contractor state license board, image features an illustration of a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

Contractors State License Board

Contractor License Requirements

To get licensed in California, you need to:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Not currently be on probation or parole
  • Have 4 years journey level experience
  • Pass an examination

The state of California requires you to prove your experience before you are even allowed to take the exam. Your application will need the signature of a General Contractor or qualified person in addition to a detailed explanation of your knowledge and skill set. After your application is accepted, you will then take an exam.

Depending on your trade it could be just a LAW exam or a LAW and Trade Exam. If you want to know which contractor license you need, check out this complete post.

What does a Contractor License school teach you?

Contractor License schools will teach you the LAW and Business side of Construction. Concepts that are covered will include: 

  • Business Organization
  • Business Finances
  • Employment Requirements
  • Bonds, Insurance and Liens
  • Licensing Requirements
  • Safety
  • Public Works
a calculator and pen laying on top of a piece of paper that appears to be a financial statement. Contractor license schools typically teach vital business skills

Skills that are vital to the construction business are typically taught in contractor license schools

The test you are going to take poses questions as if you are running a full-time construction business with several employees. You will have to answer questions as if you are adhering to strictly to state law.

The classes are typically taught by either licensed contractors or people who are just really knowledgeable on construction law.

Remember, the goal is to help you to pass the exam. Contractor license schools aren’t meant to teach you the right way or the wrong way, they exist to get you to understand the CSLB’s way. Learn more about the Contractor License LAW exam!​​​​​

Contractor License Schools vs Trade Schools

There are critical differences between trade schools and contractor license schools that should be made clear.

A trade school or an apprenticeship teaches you the fundamentals of your trade and core technical skills, a contractor license school teaches you how to pass an exam. Learn the difference between an Apprentice vs. Journeyman!

Contractor License School

  • Private (for profit)
  • LAW and Business
  • Exam Prep focused
  • Classroom instruction, online or home study
  • Typically a month long
  • No official diploma or certification included
  • Offers application services, insurance and bonding

Trade School

  • Possibly State Regulated or Government Affiliated
  • Technical Skills
  • Hands-on Classes
  • Programs typically run 1-2 years
  • Diploma or Certification issued upon completion
  •  May offer job placement

There are contractor schools out there that mislead students into thinking that they teach a trade, which is false.

There is just no way they could teach you everything you need to know about building a house in a month-long classroom or online course.

a wood worker sanding a block of wood using a machine

Contractor License Schools do not teach trade

Think about it. Should someone who needs to be shown the fundamentals of framing, concrete, electrical and plumbing be looking to get a license that allows them to charge thousands of dollars for remodels? Of course not.

Application and Business services

Typically, contractor license schools offer business services. Going to a school can maximize your time.

These contractor license schools have specialists that are very knowledgeable on state laws and filling out applications correctly. In addition to exam prep, most programs also offer:

a white hand holding a pen filling out an application. Application services are often the most valuable benefits of going to a contractor license school

Having your application filled out correctly is essential

  • Application services
  • Liability insurance, workers comp and bonding
  • Corporation and business set up
  • Consulting and DBA Services

Getting these types of things handled for you is a good investment. If you are busy and don’t have time to focus on it than handing it off to a contractor school is a good idea.

 I have seen many guys procrastinate for months and even years because they insist on doing everything themselves… the only problem is that it never gets done.

If you are honestly looking to go to the next level, buy time and hire professionals to do the things you aren’t familiar with.

Saving you time and money in your career as a Contractor

Corrections on your Application

  • The CSLB has strict guidelines on how they expect applications to be filled out. I have seen people experience month-long delays just for simple mistakes on their forms.
  • I’ve dealt with construction firms out of state that missed out on multi-million-dollar projects because the CSLB sent their application back for corrections.
  • Having a professional make sure that documents related to registering a business, applying for insurance or bonding, and licensing are processed correctly.

Studying the correct material

  • LAWs in California are continually changing. The way it was a year ago, may be different today.
  • Before committing to a contractor license school, ensure that their content is up to date.
  • Especially the LAW material. Some schools just don’t invest in keeping their material up to date.

Networking and Morale Boosts

  • For a lot of tradesmen, being in a classroom environment can be scary. 
  • Being in a school with a group of people in the same situation as you are excellent for building confidence and also networking.

Continuing Educations and Certifications

  • If you are looking to further your career, adding additional certifications is a great idea. Most contractor license schools offer programs for
  • Mold remediation 
  • Lead Safety 
  • Home Inspection 
  • Blueprint reading and more.
  • Those that take the time to invest in themselves and keep learning always end up on top, so even if you aren’t necessarily looking to start your own business… take advantage of some of the other offerings at a contractor license school.

Getting busted Contracting without a License

  • While a document issued by a contractor license school is not officially recognized by a state agency. I have seen it help in some cases when appearing in front of a judge for contracting illegally. 
a wooden gavel laying on top of a platform. The CSLB conducts sting operations targeting unlicensed contractor activity

The CSLB conducts sting operations

  • If you were busted in a CSLB sting operation but show up to court with proof that you have enrolled in a school to get licensed, that could help you. This obviously depends on your judge and is in no way a guarantee.

Conclusion

Contractor license schools can a great in assisting you through the licensing process. They can be partners and consultants for you through out your career.

Use this article as a reference going forward. If you have any questions about the licensing process, check out some of our other content!

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