Alabama real estate is on the up and up since most current construction is either outdated or unfit for use. As such, there are tons of opportunities for professionals working in construction, including general contractors looking to take the lead on major projects around the state.
General contractors take on several roles throughout the building process, from performing administrative, financial, and scheduling tasks to working hands-on with builders during construction.
While the role of a general contractor is largely the same throughout the U.S., each state has unique requirements for GCs seeking a license to work. In Alabama, where opportunities are growing every year, general contractors must undergo a process to prove that they are qualified to work as a GC in the state.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the process of becoming a general contractor in Alabama, to help you start your career.
Job Description: General Contractor
General contractors take on the responsibility of coordinating construction projects and overseeing the totality of their completion. At OnePointe Solutions, we have worked alongside general contractors with the construction of laboratories, commercial spaces, and provided industrial furniture (i.e. custom workbenches) for various types of facilities as well.
However, before a contractor can begin working on a job, they must win approval from the client in the form of a bid.
Working with a construction estimator, general contractors review building proposals and blueprints to create an estimated total cost of the project as well as an itemized list of all materials, equipment, anticipated labor needs, etc.
Once a bid has been accepted, general contractors move on to hiring tradesmen for the team, purchasing materials and equipment, coordinating scheduling and timelines, and assessing the building site for special circumstances or foreseeable issues. For example, in regards to purchasing, if a general contractor is constructing a dental lab, they may order epoxy resin or solid surface for countertops, casework, lab tables, and other forms of material and equipment appropriate for the job.
When the building begins, general contractors will often take on the role of a foreman, overseeing and managing all activity throughout each step of the building process.
While on-site, general contractors are in charge of the following:
- Crew safety
- Equipment and site safety
- Permits and street closures
- Anticipating weather conditions and scheduling accordingly
- Enforcing quality and safety standards
Special Skills & Qualifications
Before we get to the specific requirements you’ll need if you want to become a general contractor in Alabama, let’s go over some of the special skills that will help you to qualify. No amount of education or experience will help you get the job if you can’t demonstrate that you have these skills, so be sure you can meet these qualifications before you set your sites on a career as a GC:
- Ability to read building plans and blueprints
- Building/construction skills
- Excellent time management and organizational skills
- Attention to detail
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills
- Budget and purchasing experience
- Comfortable working with new people
- Able to learn quickly and in stressful situations
- Concern for the wellbeing of others and a touch of perfectionism
Qualifications to Become a General Contractor in Alabama
If a job as a general contractor sounds like the life for you, there are some important qualifications you will need to meet before you can call yourself a licensed Alabama general contractor. As a GC, you can work as an independent contractor, or full-time with a construction company.
Many contractors create their own businesses, allowing them to take on bigger contracts while controlling quality, labor, and costs. No matter what you choose to do with your general contractor license, you can create a successful and long-lasting career.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started:
There is no “general contracting” degree, and likewise, no formal education requirements to become a general contractor. However, to begin in an entry-level construction position and to work your way up through the ranks, you will need to have completed a high school degree or have earned an equivalent degree – i.e. GED.
Once your basic schooling is completed and you are 18 or older, you can begin working on construction sites to see whether the work is right for you.
If you want to attend college but are set on pursuing a career as a general contractor after earning your postsecondary degree, consider a bachelor’s in architecture, building science, construction management, engineering, or a similar field. A college degree is entirely optional since many construction professionals earn top positions through years of hard work and experience, but a degree may increase your chances of moving up early.
Construction requires technical, hands-on skills which can only be developed through experience. General contractors in particular need to have experience in every area of construction since they are in charge of overseeing each step during a build.
Without the appropriate experience, a general contractor won’t be able to spot mistakes or potential issues that could cause a project to fall behind schedule or go over budget.
Gaining the amount of experience you will need to work as a general contractor can take years, so get started right away if you think this could be the career for you. Working entry and mid-level construction jobs will help you to learn everything you need to know about a job site and help you to make connections to fuel future opportunities and management positions.
Take as many jobs as you can in as many areas as possible since you’ll need to know all the ins and outs to become an effective general contractor.
Forming a Business & Building Working Capital
Once you have begun to gain some experience and have worked on many job sites, it is time to start saving money. General contractors in Alabama must have a minimum of $10,000 in working capital, or own a business with that amount to be considered a qualified applicant.
Contractors operating their own business must register their company with the secretary of state, a process which includes an application and a $200 domestic filing fee. Once your LLC is formed, it will be your responsibility to maintain detailed financial and tax records, which may be requested during the licensing process.
This includes records of worker compensation, purchases, utility fees, insurance fees, and so on.
While you may need to pass several exams to become certified in a certain trade or area of construction, you’ll only need to pass one to become a general contractor: the Business/Project Management Exam. Register and take this exam online once you are prepared to begin the application process.
Before we get into the details of licensing, you will need to know a key difference that makes Alabama stand out. General contractors are granted “Prime Contractor” or “Subcontractor” licenses, rather than the ubiquitous “general contractor” license. Depending on the type of work you plan to pursue as a GC, you will be granted one of the two types:
- Prime Contractor License: GCs pursuing commercial/industrial projects over $50,000, or residential projects over $10,000
- Subcontractor License: Subcontractors working for licensed prime contractors on projects over $50,000
If you are a general contractor interested in overseeing the totality of projects, you will be pursuing a Prime Contractor License.
Once you are prepared to begin applying through the state of Alabama, your first step will be to fill out a Financial Statement and a Prime Contractor License application form, both available online. The application form includes a nonrefundable filing fee of $300, which must be paid at the time of submission.
To qualify for consideration, all paperwork, documentation, and fees must be submitted a minimum of 30 days before the Alabama Licensing Board’s quarterly meeting where all new applications are reviewed.
As part of the documentation process, all applicants must provide proof of liability insurance. No surety bond payments are required for general contractors in Alabama.
General Contractor Licensing Fee Overview
Depending on the specifics of your career as a GC, the exact fees you pay during the licensing process may vary. In general, here’s what you can expect to pay:
- Alabama Secretary of State LLC filing fee – $200
- Prime Contractor license application filing fee – $300
- Annual Prime Contractor license renewal filing fee – $200
Average Alabama General Contractor Salary & Benefits
General contractors in Alabama are frequently required to oversee large, expensive projects (i.e. schools, hospitals, laboratories, businesses, shopping centers, etc.) and are therefore often some of the most well-paid GCs in the country. With an average base salary of $70,000-$130,000 per year, general contractors can make upwards of $200,000 per year as they gain experience and return clients.
The Path to Become a General Contractor in Alabama
Feeling inspired to start building a path to a career as a general contractor? Let’s look at the basic steps you’ll need to take:
1. Finish Basic Education Requirements
Earn a high school diploma or GED. Though not required, some general contractors also choose to pursue a college degree in a relevant field (i.e. engineering).
2. Get Experience Working Construction
Once you turn 18, you can begin applying for positions working on construction sites doing technical work and labor. Gaining as much experience as possible will help you to qualify for jobs as a general contractor in the future. Take jobs in as many roles as possible, and work to make connections in the process.
3. Establish a Business or Work as a Subcontractor
Continue gaining experience by establishing your own business or working as an independent subcontractor. During this time, you can begin to build working capital. To apply for a general contractor license, you will need to have a minimum of $10,000.
4. Pass Alabama Contractor Exam
Register and take the Business/Project Management exam online through the state of Alabama. This step can be taken after you have already sent application materials to the licensing board but must be completed before the quarterly meeting.
5. Prepare Application Documents
Prepare and send all relevant documents to the Alabama Licensing Board a minimum of 6 months before the quarterly meeting you plan to attend. These documents include a variety of financial documents, personal statements, and application materials. The application form itself must be submitted with a nonrefundable application fee of $300.
6. Attend Alabama Licensing Board Quarterly Meeting
Attend the Alabama Licensing Board quarterly meeting to have your application considered. After the meeting, it could take up to three months for your application to be approved. Once you are fully licensed in Alabama, you can begin to submit bids for contracts, purchase equipment, seek out subcontractors, and more.
7. Renew Annually
Alabama Prime Contractor licenses need to be renewed each year. Prime contractor renewal applications must be submitted no later than 45 days before the expiration of the original license. In addition to the application and all relevant documents (i.e. proof of insurance, financial statements), the renewal process includes a $200 filing fee.