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Obtaining your California contractor's license

How to Obtain Your B-General Building Contractors License in California

Obtaining your “B” General Building contractors license is often-times considered a process. Completing this process in an efficient manner is similar to following a checklist. You see, most applicants think that they need to complete some kind of school prerequisites before submitting their application to the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). However, unlike other state tests or occupations, there is no requirement for a certificate-of-completion before applying for your contractor's license. In essence, this is not one of the items on the so-called checklist.

The CSLB does require certain experience requirements to be met instead. As an applicant, you must :

  • Demonstrate 4 years of journey level experience.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Possess a social security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

In essence, “Journeyman level” is defined as the experience gained when an individual is no longer a trainee or apprentice, and that individual can perform general building work without supervision. The four years of experience must include framing or rough carpentry and a minimum of two unrelated core trades, which can include concrete, electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc.

On average, it will take two-to-three months for you to become a licensed general building contractor here in California. The speed of it all varies depending on the time of year you apply, as well as the state's workload. Becoming a student at Contractors Intelligence School will help you complete your licensing process efficiently.

The Application

To speed things up, start filling out the application for original contractor's license. As a student at Contractors Intelligence School, you will have ample resources available to make this step in the process simple. The school will ask you to submit your completed application for review, that way you can be sure that when it ends up at the CSLB, you have the best chance of getting approved quickly. Once final, you will be instructed to send the appropriate documentation and the school will hand-deliver the final documents on your behalf.

Obtaining your California contractor's license

Studying

Now that the application has been submitted, your next step is to start studying. There are many approaches you can take; however, an effective study strategy is outlined within your student account.

Application Acceptance and Test Scheduling

During your studying and approximately 2-4 weeks after submitting your application, the CSLB will send you an acknowledgement letter by mail. This letter will contain an application fee number and a contractor PIN. You can use this information to check your application status directly on the CSLB's website. Additionally, anytime you reach out to the CSLB with questions or concerns, you may need to provide them with your assigned application fee number.

Upon checking your application status online, there will be a point where the text will read “Application Posted,” which means that the CSLB has approved your application. In a short amount of time, you'll receive another letter in the mail instructing you to schedule your exam(s). As of April 1, 2022, the CSLB has outsourced their examinations to a company called PSI Exams. As another checklist item, you will need to contact PSI and schedule your required exam(s). As of today, the exams are only administered in English and Spanish. If you want to use a translator or need an American with Disabilities Act accommodation, you'll need to make those arrangements well before your scheduled exam date.

Test Day

On test day, arrive 15-30 minutes early and bring a valid photo ID. After being admitted, you will be provided everything that is necessary to complete your exams. The law & business exam will be a multiple-choice exam and contain approximately 115 questions. You will be given 3-½ hours to complete this exam. The trade exam will also contain about 115 multiple-choice questions and have a time-limit of 3-½ hours. Your test results are instantaneous. As you walk out of the testing center, you will be handed a printout telling you if you passed or failed your exam.

Miscellaneous Test Information

One thing to note here is that the Law and Trade exams are independent of each other. You will be scheduling these exams on separate days or on the same day but at different timeslots. If you happen to fail one of the exams, you only come back to the failed portion. As a matter of fact, you can reschedule the failed portion as many times as needed within 18-months after your application has been posted, though you'll need to pay a rescheduling fee each time. Just note that there is a 3-week cooling off period for every failed attempt. This means that you won't be allowed to test for a minimum of 3-weeks. Failing the exam does NOT affect your actual contractor's license in any way, plus, after completing a course at Contractors Intelligence School, you'll have a 98% chance to pass on your first try.

Obtaining your California contractor's license

Final Steps

After you pass the required exam(s), PSI will provide the CSLB with your test results and the CSLB will send you a letter outlining some final steps prior to issuing your license number. You may be required to complete the following:

  • Pay the initial license fee
  • Obtain appropriate bonding
  • Obtain workers compensation (if applicable)
  • Complete your livescan fingerprinting
  • Complete the open-book asbestos exam

Initial License Fee

For the initial license fee, you can write a check or submit a money order. This fee is used to activate your contractor's license for the first two years. On the flip side, if you don't plan on operating your business immediately, you'll still have to submit the initial license fee, but you'll also need to complete the appropriate inactive license form.

Bonding

All contractors in California are required to obtain a regular contractors bond, but depending on your ownership percentage within the business, additional bonding may be required. Regardless, obtain the required bonding through a reputable bond company or, as an alternative, provide the CSLB with the required cash deposit in the form of a check or money order. If needed, Contractors Intelligence School works with Pro-Builders Insurance Agency to offer students bonding and other insurance options.

Workers Compensation

You'll have to submit proof of workers compensation insurance before your license number can be issued. If your company doesn't have employees, you may qualify for an exemption. Under current law, there are certain license classifications that cannot be exempt from workers compensation. It is always best to contact your insurance agent for additional details. In 2026, California will require all licensed contractors-even those without employees-to carry workers compensation insurance coverage.

Livescan Fingerprinting

Sometime around your application being posted, you'll receive 3 identical documents called “REQUEST FOR LIVESCAN SERVICE,” this request is for fingerprinting. It's a good idea to complete your fingerprinting once you receive the request, mainly so you don't delay the issuing of your license later. Simply bring the LIVESCAN pages with you to the fingerprinting location. After the scan, they'll keep a copy and give you the remaining pages back. At some point, you'll want to mail one of the hard copies to the CSLB. If you don't receive the LIVESCAN request forms, don't worry, there's a chance you don't need them. For example, if you were a registered salesperson for a previous employer or, you were listed as additional personnel on another contractor's license, you won't need to redo the fingerprinting. Alternatively, you may contact the CSLB and request a duplicate.

Asbestos Open-Book Examination

Finally, there's the asbestos open-book examination. You'll be instructed to complete this open-book exam online. This open book exam mainly serves to give contractors information about asbestos and its dangers. You will be given a total of 90 days to complete these final steps after passing your required exam(s). The sooner they are completed, the sooner your license number can be issued.

Recap

Let's recap the process. Complete the CSLB application and have the school review it. Mail the application along with any required documents and start studying. Check your mail for an acknowledgement letter and use the provided fee number and PIN to check your application status online. If your application is posted, you can schedule your examinations with PSI Exams and contact the school if you need classes. Pass the test and complete the final steps. Finally, wait for the license number in the mail. All in all, this process will require your attention. Follow it carefully, and you should be licensed before you know it.

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