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Arizona is home to tons of commercial and residential construction opportunities, making it a hotspot for general contractors looking for work. At OnePointe Solutions, we’ve worked with general contractors over the years to supply them with commercial cabinets, plastic laminate casework, and other furniture and materials for their various construction projects.
General contractors oversee and manage construction projects from start to finish, handling everything from the initial bidding process to coordinating the final details of a build.
A job that requires a high degree of organization and lots of experience, general contractors are among the most important people on a job site.
If you have a passion for construction and are interested in building a career as a general contractor, now is the perfect time to get started. Like every state in the U.S., Arizona has specific licensing requirements for its general contractors, and you will be required to meet several standards if you are to be considered.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a general contractor in Arizona and give you a simple step-by-step explanation of the entire process.
Job Description: General Contractor
A general contractor is in charge of coordinating and overseeing construction projects from start to finish. The first step a GC will take for any project is to create a bid.
General contractors with construction estimators review the building site, local regulations, and the architectural design, then propose a bid based on the estimated cost of labor and materials.
To do this part of the job effectively, general contractors must be familiar with every step of the building process to anticipate all potential associated costs.
After a bid has been accepted, a general contractor will begin to form a team, hiring tradesmen, renting equipment, purchasing materials, and creating schedules to keep the project on track. For instance, if a GC is tasked with building and outfitting an office, they may order laminate cabinets for storage for a breakroom and solid surface or maple block as countertop options to make the space look elegant and polished.
Additionally, general contractors must ensure that all building sites are secure and operated using standard safety procedures since they are in charge of the safety of everyone and everything on site. Once the building begins, general contractors may spend long hours on-site taking on the role of foreman and overseeing every step of the construction 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
While each state has specific requirements for its general contractors, there are some basic skills and qualifications that are universally applicable. No matter how long you work construction or how many exams you pass, you will need these important skills to build a long successful career as a general contractor:
- 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 Arizona
Arizona is a great place to live and work, but if you think a life as a general contractor in AZ could be right for you, you’ll need to meet some key qualifications. In Arizona, any and all construction projects no matter the size or scope are required to have general contractor oversight.
As such, even contractors working small, inexpensive jobs will need to acquire an Arizona contractor license. Here’s what you’ll need to qualify:
No formal degree for general contractors exists, and most contractors start their careers fresh out of high school in entry-level construction positions. If you are over 18 and have a high school diploma or equivalent (i.e. GED), you can immediately begin working in construction to gain relevant experience.
If you wish to pursue higher education, a degree in engineering, construction management, architecture, or some similar field may give you an upper hand.
Most important for a job as a general contractor is experience. General contractors oversee every single step of the building process, which means they need to have a strong working knowledge of the various techniques used.
The best way to become acquainted with the many components of construction is to get as much experience as possible. Work in as many areas of construction as you can to become intimately acquainted with everything from laying the foundation to adding the final decorative elements.
Once you have worked a variety of entry and mid-level construction jobs, you will have a diverse set of skills and a personal knowledge of what it takes to get a project done. Having plenty of experience can also help you to relate more closely to your team, and establishes a common language that will come in hand on the job site.
During the application process, you will be required to provide proof of experience. In Arizona, this means a minimum of 4 years working on relevant construction projects.
During your time working in construction, you will make plenty of connections. As part of the Arizona licensing process, you will need to have a ‘qualifying party’ to vouch for your experience.
A ‘qualifying party’ is defined as someone with the necessary skills to evaluate your reputation and experience, for example, the owner or employee of a contracting business.
Arizona general contractor applicants must complete two exams: the Status and Rules Exam, and the Trade Exam. Both of these exams are administered online, and applicants must achieve a 70% or higher to pass. Additionally, applicants must pay a $60 exam fee for each exam.
Before applying for your license, you will need to submit to a background check. Your qualifying party will also need to pass a background test.
Form a Business Entity
In Arizona, general contractor licenses are only granted to established business entities. Businesses must be registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Any corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or sole proprietorship may be eligible.
Proof of License Bond
Once your business is registered as a legal entity, you will need to file a Contractor’s Bond. The exact amount of your bond will be determined by your intended work volume and license classification. Commercial general contractors can expect to produce a surety or cash bond of $5,000 – $100,000, while residential general contractor bonds typically range from $4,250 – $15,000.
While some states ask that you submit payment at the time of application, Arizona requires that you pay licensing fees before submitting your completed application.
Commercial general contractors are required to pay:
- $200 application fee
- $580 licensing fee
- Fee Total: $780
Residential general contractors pay:
- $180 for their application
- $320 in licensing fees
- $370 for a recovery fund assessment,
- Fee total: $870
Submit License Application
Finally, you will submit your license application forms along with a government-issued ID for both yourself and your qualifying party. Once you have been accepted, your license will be issued for two years.
After two years, the applicant will be required to file a renewal application and pay an additional fee.
General Contractor Licensing Fee Overview
While the exact fees you’ll pay to become a licensed general contractor in Arizona will vary slightly, you can generally expect to pay the following during the process:
- Status and Rules Exam – $60
- Trade Exam – $60
- Proof of License Surety Bond – $5,000 to $100,000 (commercial), $4,250 to $15,000 (residential)
- Licensing Fees – $780 to $870
- Renewal Fee (every two years) – $580
Average Arizona General Contractor Salary & Benefits
General contractors working in Arizona can expect to make between $40,000 and $100,000 per year. A job with a fair amount of flexibility, working as a general contractor can allow you to take certain seasons off while still enjoying a full year’s salary.
In addition to your guaranteed pay, you will also receive full benefits and insurance coverage.
The Path to Become a General Contractor In Arizona
Ready to start the process of becoming a general contractor? Follow this simple path to your new career:
1. Finish Basic Education
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. While not necessary, those wishing to pursue higher education should study engineering, construction management, or some similar field.
2. Gain Experience & Identify a Qualifying Party
Enter the construction workforce by taking on entry-level positions. Work in as many areas of construction as possible, and be sure to make connections during the process. Once you find someone you enjoy working with and vice versa, identify them as your future qualifying party – a.k.a. the person who will vouch for you and your experience.
3. Take Exams
Take two exams online: the Status and Rules Exam and the Trade Exam. Each exam costs $60, and you must achieve 70% or higher to pass.
4. Register Your Business & Pay Surety Bond
Register your business with the Arizona Corporation Commission. This is necessary because Arizona does not grant general contracting licenses to individuals, but rather, to businesses. This is the time to gather funds and prepare to pay your surety bonds. Depending on the nature of your work and the size of the projects you intend to pursue, you could pay anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000.
If you’re interested in starting a general contracting business, check out our guide below:
5. Pay License Fees
To register for your license, you will first need to pay all relevant fees. First-time commercial contractors pay $780, while residential contractors pay $870.
6. Apply For Your Contractor License
Once you have paid all fees and provided all relevant documentation, you will be able to formally submit your application for review. Since the process up to this point is relatively extensive, once you reach this step you are almost guaranteed to be accepted. Once you have been granted a license, it will remain active for a period of two years.
7. Renew Every Two Years
If a career as a general contractor suits you and you want to continue working after your first license has expired, you will need to file for renewal. Renewal licenses are granted for two-year periods, and cost around $580 at the time of renewal.
Need Help With Your Commercial Project?
If you’re a general contractor in Arizona or another state in the U.S. and have a commercial project, we can provide you with a range of solutions from:
Give us a call at (866) 222-7494 to speak to a design specialist today.