General contractors are the general managers of a construction project, coordinating every piece of the building process from start to finish to keep everything running smoothly and on time. General contractors are involved in every step of the process from creating initial estimates and placing a bid to finalizing the last details of a finished project.
At OnePointe Solutions, we have worked with general contractors to supply them with custom laboratory furniture and industrial workbenches for their various projects over the years. Sometimes also acting as the foreman of a construction project, general contractors have technical, hands-on experience from years of working in construction and strong managerial skills to work with specialty tradesmen.
Depending on where you live in the U.S., the process of becoming a general contractor can vary slightly, as will your opportunities to find work. In Alaska, where the majority of the state is untouched, opportunities to build are plentiful and ever-growing.
If you want to take advantage of Alaska’s growing infrastructure by becoming a general contractor, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, you’ll learn everything about working as a general contractor, including what qualifications you’ll need to work legally in Alaska.
Job Description: General Contractor
General contractors are primarily responsible for coordinating construction projects, starting with initial negotiations with clients. General contractors review building proposals, blueprints, and plans before submitting a bid, and may even visit the site in person to give the most accurate estimate.
To create an accurate proposal, general contractors work with an estimator to list all anticipated costs, including materials, equipment, cost of labor, and so on.
If a bid is accepted, the general contractor is charged with hiring tradesmen, supplying materials and equipment, for example, stainless steel and solid surface countertops and quality laboratory furniture and custom workbenches for a job, creating timelines and schedules, and overseeing the work being performed on-site each day. Some general contractors may also act as the foreman on-site, directing and managing the completion of each step of the building process.
To ensure the work is completed on time and according to local safety standards and regulations, general contractors are also in charge of obtaining permits and working with subcontractors.
Finally, general contractors are responsible for the safety of their crew. General contractors ensure that everyone is supplied with adequate safety equipment, that street closures and permits are established, that weather conditions are safe, and that all work is being done according to safety guidelines and standards.
General contractors have a huge responsibility, required to manage virtually every detail of a construction project from start to finish. At the start of a project, a general contractor will spend the majority of their time working in an office setting, preparing bids, and coordinating vendors.
Once a project begins, general contractors split their time between an office setting and working on-site, spending the majority of their hours overseeing the physical work of building new construction or remodeling an existing building.
General contractors organize material drop-offs, create schedules and timelines, select vendors and subcontractors, oversee work, and keep in close contact with clients to ensure their vision is fulfilled. While you will have a huge variety of responsibilities as a general contractor, you can expect to do the following in your position:
- Discuss project details with clients, architects, and designers before and throughout the building process
- Become familiar with future build sites
- Create estimates and project bids
- Build relationships with vendors
- Purchase materials and coordinate deliveries
- Rent/purchase machinery and equipment
- Hire tradesmen and subcontractors
- Apply for permits and licenses
- Manage employees; scheduling, workload, delegation
- Oversee and enforce safe construction practices
General contractors coordinate everything from the beginning of a contract to the finishing touches of the final project. As such, the work environment of a general contractor can vary from day to day, shifting from long hours of research and analysis at a desk to days spent outdoors and on your feet.
Because general contractors are responsible for everyone else on a job site, they must be able to maintain a focused, upbeat attitude even in stressful situations or uncomfortable conditions. Some things you can expect working as a general contractor include:
- Sitting or standing for long hours
- Working outside under inclement weather
- Wearing safety gear
- Working long shifts
- Reading blueprints, plans, and regulations
- Applying for licenses and permits
- Managing employees and enforcing safety and building standards
Qualifications to Become a General Contractor in Alaska
Now that you have a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a general contractor, you might be thinking that this work could be the right fit for you. Maybe you would like to become an independent general contractor, or maybe you want to start your own construction company and submit bids for local projects.
No matter what path you choose, you’ll need to meet a few basic qualifications. In addition to the basic requirements, you will also need to meet qualification requirements set by the state of Alaska to become a licensed general contractor in America’s last frontier.
General contractors do not have any formal education requirements, but to get started in construction, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Once you are 18 and have completed your basic schooling, you can begin applying for entry-level positions in construction.
If you want to go the post-secondary route, consider pursuing a degree in architecture, building science, engineering, construction management, or a similar field.
Remember, a bachelor’s degree is completely optional. Most general contractors began as laborers or specialty tradesmen and worked their way up to owning their own construction companies after gathering years of experience.
One of the most important steps you can take for your career as a general contractor is to gain a plethora of experience. General contractors oversee every step of the building process, down to choosing the right materials and hiring subcontractors to complete special tasks.
Because of this, general contractors need to be extremely familiar with the various jobs done in construction to be able to detect problems before they throw a project off course. If you want to become a general contractor in Alaska, start by working low-level construction jobs to gain experience, learn key terminology, make connections, and get a taste of what life could be like as a GC.
The more experience you have the better since you’ll need to be the top expert on everything once you take on a management role like general contracting. Work your way up to management positions to see how it feels to oversee other construction workers and to gain skills for successful team leadership.
Once you have gained relevant experience and feel qualified enough to begin overseeing jobs, you can begin the process of formally pursuing a career as a general contractor. One of the first steps to getting your GC license in Alaska is to qualify for and take two general contractor exams.
The first exam may be taken as the conclusion to a continuing education course from a certified education provider like the ACHP. This exam is to show that the applicant has the relevant knowledge and experience to manage construction projects in Alaskan weather conditions.
The second exam general contractors must complete before receiving their license in the state of Alaska is the Alaska Residential Contractor Endorsement Exam, and applicants are required to receive at least a 70% to pass the exam.
After completing your exams and paying all relevant fees, you can begin the process of applying for the various licenses you’ll need as a GC. The first step is to obtain a business license through the Alaska Department of Commerce, which includes filing paperwork and paying a $50 fee.
Next, complete the General Contractor Registration Application through the state of Alaska, which also includes a filing fee of $100. Once approved, licensed general contractors are also required to submit a $5,000 – $25,000 surety bond and a $300 license fee.
Part of the licensing process requires applicants to provide proof of insurance. Alaska GCs are required to have two types of insurance:
- Liability & Property Damage Insurance: $20,000 minimum property damage coverage, $50,000 minimum coverage for injury to one person, $100,000 minimum coverage for injury to two or more people
- Workers Compensation Insurance (if you do not have employees, you may be exempt)
In addition to the formal requirements to become a licensed general contractor in Alaska, having the following special skills will help to keep you in high demand:
- 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
Average Alaska General Contractor Salary & Benefits
It can take years to become a general contractor, but thanks to there being few education requirements, the path to making this your career doesn’t require much monetary investment. Once you begin working as a general contractor in Alaska, you can expect to have a starting salary of around $30,000 to $60,000. As you gain experience and grow your list of clients, you could be making as much as $120K per year as a GC in Alaska.
The Path to Become a General Contractor in Alaska
To recap, let’s take a look at this simple summary of the path to becoming a general contractor in the state of Alaska:
1. Complete Basic Education
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Though not mandatory, some individuals may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree to round off their education and gain more knowledge/experience.
2. Work In Construction
Start getting experience working various construction jobs to give you a general idea of what goes into the building process. During this time, be sure to talk with everyone you can to make connections for the future. Remember, as a general contractor you will be hiring subcontractors, so knowing vendors and other contractors is an excellent way to give yourself a leg up. OnePointe Solutions, for example, has been a trusted vendor among general contractors to provide high-end laboratory furniture that optimizes the efficiency and safety of the intended facility without breaking the budget.
3. Pass Alaska Contractor Exams
Once you have experience working in construction, you can begin taking continuing education courses that culminate in contractor exams. This step is important if you wish to qualify to become an applicant for an official license since the state requires applicants to demonstrate an understanding of the particular challenges and characteristics of building in Alaska.
4. Apply for Your License
The final step before you can begin submitting bids for general contractor positions is to apply for your license through the state of Alaska. As long as you meet all the qualifications and requirements leading up to the license application, this step is semi-formality, so don’t worry about being denied. Once you are fully licensed to work in Alaska, you can do things like purchase insurance, begin assembling a team and begin networking with other contractors in the area to be one of the first to hear about upcoming jobs.