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General Engineering Contractor License

General Engineering Contractors (also known as the General A or Class A Contractors) specialize in construction projects commonly associated with public works including

  • water power 
  • irrigation 
  • airports 
  • refineries 
  • pipelines
  • freeways 
  • bridges 
  • power plants 

What Is A General Engineering Contractor?

General Engineering Contractor License

The General Engineering Contractor License is the classification required in the state of California for all contractors looking to bid on projects that include specialized engineering knowledge where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

General Engineering Contractors are sometimes referred as public works contractors or civil engineering contractors.

They often engage in:

  • Excavation
  • Demolition
  • Paving 
  • Grading 
  • Installing pipelines 
  • Constructing bridges 
  • Retrofitting high rise buildings 
  • Trenching 
  • Overseeing the construction of railways, airports, and refineries 
  • Water Power
  • Irrigation
  • Power Plants
  • Airports Airways
  • Sewage disposal plants
  • Land Leveling 
  • Surfacing
  • Flood Control
  • Inland Water Ways

Public Works Projects

Public works refers to infrastructure projects that are funded by tax payers.

Typically these types of projects serve the society directly and  include:

  • Bridges, railroads, and freeways
  • Airports
  • Public parks
  • Municipal Buildings
  • Hospitals

Generally these types of large contracts are awarded to General Engineering companies that hold the Class A license.

These projects are often very lucrative because they provide services  and maintain infrastructure that the public is highly dependent on. 

Duties of  a General Engineering Contractor

A general engineering contractor overseeing work done on a public works construction project

General A contractors are expected to have a supervisory level knowledge of all trades associated with engineering projects.

They are responsible for sub-contracting specialty tradesman to complete tasks on a construction project.

In many cases a General Engineering Contractor will oversee the direct management of a job site and report to either a project manager, team of engineers, or directly to the client.

Construction plans may be delivered to the engineering contractor who would then asses the scope of the project. They would be responsible for:

  • Hiring Subcontractors
  • Ensuring Job Site Safety
  • Estimating Labor and Material Costs
  • Ensuring Job is completed on time and at spec. 
  • Pulling Building Permits
  • Scheduling Inspections 
  • Keeping clients, project managers and investors up to date on progress

Blueprint Reading

a yellow pencil and wooden ruler laying on top of a white piece of paper that appears to be a construction blueprint

Anyone in a supervisory role on a construction site should know how to read blueprints. Engineering contractors have to be able to follow specific designs, symbols, and read complex structural prints.

The ability to quickly identify lines, abbreviations and measuring tools are vital skills. 

A general engineering contractor may be asked to create functional sketches and assess costs and labor needed based on a construction blueprint.

If you would like more info on blue print reading courses that can help you brush up on these important skills be sure to check out my Blue Print Reading Course for a basic introduction to the concepts you will want to know about.

Image features the 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.

The most profitable contractors are ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgable and helpful to their clients. 

Becoming EPA Certified is a requirement for general engineering contractors and can be completed in a one day, 8 hour course.

Staying 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, check out the article. 

General Engineering Contractor vs. General Building Contractor

There is a a lot of misinformation around what a General A contractor can and cant do. The biggest differences between the general contractor and general engineering contractor license are illustrated below:

  • Residential and Commercial Projects
  • Homes, Apartment Buildings, Restaurants, Strip Malls 
  • Framing, Electrical, Concrete, Plumbing
  • Requires 4 Years Journeyman Level Experience
  • check
    Must pass LAW and TRADE exam

General Engineering Contractor (General A)

  • Engineering and Public Works Projects
  • Bridges, Dams, Freeways, Waterways, Airports, Railroads, refineries  
  • Engineering, Earthwork, Tunneling, Concrete 
  • Requires 4 Years Journeyman Level Experience
  • check
    Must pass LAW and TRADE exam

Some things to remember are that:

  • Having the General Engineering Contractor License does not mean you can bid on Residential or Commercial projects associated with the General B license. 
  • To get the General B license if you hold the Class A, you will need to pass the General Contractor (B) Test.

General Engineering Contractor License Requirements

To receive an exam date with the Contractors State License Board you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • 18 Years of Age
  • Valid Drivers License OR USA Issued Identification
  • Social Security OR ITIN #
  • check
    Cannot Currently Be On Probation or Parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journeyman Level Experience
  • Signature from a Qualifying Individual 
  • A way to prove experience if the state board asks

​​​​Journeyman Level Experience

General Engineering Contractor License

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a construction company, a General A contractor, or union.

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

A qualifying individual is someone other than yourself who can confirm your experience.

This person can be either a:

  • Licensed General Engineering Contractor
  • Fellow or Former Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Foreman or Supervisor
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman

Whoever you choose must include their information and a brief description of your experience.

The main areas of expertise a General A contractor needs to have experience in are:

  • Excavation
  • Seismic Safety 
  • Bridges
  • Structural Construction
  • Concrete Placement and Earthwork
  • Estimation

Work Experience for The Contractors License

You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have.

The Contractors State License Board gives you many ways to prove your experience including:

  • 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 

Fees

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

a wooden gavel laying on top of a platform.

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a General Engineering Contractor 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 

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. 

Contractor Exam: The General Engineering License

Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:

1) A-General Engineering                            (LAW + TRADE )

2) B-General Building                                     (LAW + TRADE)

3) C-Specialty Classes                                    (LAW + TRADE)

4) C-61/D- Limited Specialty                     (LAW TEST ONLY)

The General Engineering Contractor License Exam consists of two parts:

  • 115 Questions LAW
  • 115 Questions TRADE
  • 3 Hours To Complete Each Portion
  • check
    Multiple Choice Exam
  • check
    Close Book / Taken on a Computer
  • check
     Some Questions may refer to a diagram

The General Engineering Examination is divided into eight major sections:

1.    Planning, Estimating, and Project Management (25%)

     •  Plans and specifications

     •  Estimation

     •  Standards, codes, and regulations

     •  General building mathematics

2.    Structural Principles (6%)

     •  Structural construction

     •  Seismic safety

     •  Basic engineering

3.    Earthwork and Surveying (15%)

     •  Earthwork

     •  Soils and geology

     •  Surveying

     •  Site preparation

4.    Subsurface Work (15%)

      •  Shoring and sloping

      •  Dry utility and waterproofing

      •  Tunneling, drilling, and boring

      •  Surface drainage and water work

       •  Trenching and pipeline

       •  Sewers, water, and storm drain systems

5.    Foundation and Concrete Construction (8%)

        •  Concrete principles and placement

        •  Forms and falsework

        •  Foundations

6. Buildings/Structures and Related Work (5%)

         •  Commercial/industrial buildings

         •  Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing

         •  Masonry

        •  Demolition and disposal

7. Roadwork and Paving (6%)

         • Highways, roads, and parking lots

 8. Safety (20%)

         •  Personnel

         •  Transportation and traffic control

         •  Environmental

CSLB Test Locations

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

The current CSLB testing facilities are:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • You have 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations
  • You must wait 3 weeks to re-take the exam. $60 Per Re-take
  • You must score 70% or more

What is on the Law & Business portion of the General Engineering Contractor License exam?

California Contractor License Exam Prep

Here are 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 all types of construction professionals from various backgrounds and experience levels get licenses, and most are startled by how different the subject matter on the state exam is from their years of first-hand experience. 

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Studying just 15 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 state exam. 

Construction Apprenticeships

If you don’t have the four years required journeyman level experience to obtain a General Engineering Contractor License, not to worry.

Your journey begins here. Construction is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled tradesman are always in demand. Whether you are completely new or have some experience already, there are resources available to you.  

Generally someone looking to become a general engineering contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship program.

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

Conclusion

Getting the General Engineering Contractor License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to expand your services, become an RMO or position yourself to make a lot more money! 

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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