If you have an interest in construction and dream of taking on a complicated management role, you could have a career as a general contractor. General contractors manage projects from start to finish, performing everything from administrative roles to taking on hard labor on the job site.
General contractors need to be experienced and highly qualified, but if you are willing to do the work to get the job, you will be rewarded with an amazing career.
In Arkansas, the construction industry has remained strong even throughout various economic crises. As a result, general contractors are constantly in high demand in Arkansas, making it an ideal place to get your license and begin taking on bids.
In this guide, we’ll be covering all the details of what it takes to become a general contractor and how you can get licensed through the state of Arkansas.
Job Description: General Contractor
General contractors are essentially the managers of a construction project and are charged with overseeing the entire process from start to finish. Before a general contractor can be accepted for a job, they must first create a detailed bid for the client.
GCs work in conjunction with construction estimators to create itemized lists of all foreseeable costs including materials, tools, equipment, labor, and more.
To create these estimates, general contractors must be familiar with every step of the process and be able to anticipate possible issues or special circumstances that may require additional financing. General contractors must read plans and design specifications and may need to make in-person visits to the job site to survey the terrain.
If the final bid is accepted, general contractors move on to coordinate the hiring of tradesmen, coordinating scheduling, purchasing materials, and renting tools and equipment. At OnePointe Solutions, we’ve been a trusted vendor among general contractors to provide quality industrial furniture to meet and exceed the needs of virtually any given project.
For example, if a GC has an automotive plant they are building for a car manufacturer, we may supply them with epoxy resin, stainless steel; and/or maple block as countertop options, durable workbenches for the daily tasks, and storage cabinets for organization around the plant.
During the building process, some general contractors take on the role of foreman, while others work in conjunction with other managers on-site. GCs, ensure that construction is completed according to the plans and specifications, oversee team members and subcontractors, and are responsible for the safety of everyone and everything on the job site.
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
Every state has specific qualifications and licensing requirements for its general contractors, but some skills will serve you no matter where you work. Special skills can sometimes be learned, but are often innate, so no amount of training or extra experience can compensate.
Some special skills and qualifications all general contractors need to meet include:
- 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 Arkansas
If you think working as a general contractor could be a fit for your skills and professional goals, there are also some specific state requirements you’ll need to meet. In Arkansas, anyone who submits a bid for a construction project over $50,000 must have a general contractor license. General contractors can be business owners or individual independent contractors – either way, you’ll need to satisfy these requirements:
There are no formal education requirements for general contractors in Arkansas, and most colleges do not offer programs that develop skills specifically for this line of work. To begin working in construction, you must be over the age of 18 and should have earned a high school degree or equivalent.
Once you reach these base requirements, you can begin applying for entry-level positions to gain experience.
If you have a desire to pursue higher education but are certain that a job as a general contractor is for you, consider studying engineering, construction management, architecture, or a similar field. Remember, this is optional: many successful general contractors do not have college degrees.
Experience is one of the most important qualifications you can have when pursuing a career as a general contractor. GCs oversee every step of the building process, which means they also need to be able to spot issues in every type of work.
Because of this, the best general contractors are those that have had experience in as many areas of construction as possible, gaining exposure to what can go wrong in any given situation.
Most general contractors begin working odd jobs around construction sites, then typically find some area that they feel suits them best. From here, they work their way up the ranks, making connections and developing their skills. The more experience you can get: the better.
Arkansas offers two licenses for general contractors depending on the type and size of the projects you intend to bid on. General contractors can choose between one of the following license types:
- Commercial: for commercial projects over $50,000
- Restricted: Commercial projects less than $750,000
- Unrestricted: Commercial projects over $750,000
- Residential: for residential projects of any size
No matter which of these license types you intend to pursue, your first step will be to fill out an application and pay a nonrefundable $100 filing fee. Completed applications must be submitted to the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board for consideration along with all additional paperwork and documentation (see below).
In addition to a license application form, applications must also submit three (3) references from qualified individuals who can vouch for your qualifications and abilities. All references must be completed by the individual, and within 90 days of the date you plan to submit your license application.
References cannot be bankers, financial suppliers, or individuals on your payroll and must be able to prove that they have observed your abilities. Reference forms can be found on the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board website with licensing applications.
General contractor license applicants are only required to pass one exam by the state of Arkansas: the Arkansas Business and Law exam. A copy of your passing score must be submitted within 90 days of your application. This exam costs $80 and can be registered online.
During the application process, general contractors will be required to submit a variety of financial documents and proof of insurance. Full details on requirements for specific licenses will be listed on the application forms, but in general, you can expect to need:
Applicants must file a $10,000 contractor’s bond. This may be acquired through a financial institution or insurance provider.
All general contractor license applicants must submit an independent CPA report. This report should include a letter from an independent CPA, income tax statements, and any additional footnotes.
Finally, general contractors wishing to obtain a license must provide proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance before they can be considered for approval.
Arkansas General Contractor Licensing Fee Overview
While the exact amount you will spend applying for your general contractor license may vary, all applicants can expect to cover these basic fees:
- Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board application filing fee – $100
- Arkansas Business and Law exam fee – $80
Average Arkansas General Contractor Salary & Benefits
A booming industry showing no signs of slowing down, there are ample construction opportunities for general contractors seeking jobs in Arkansas. If you become a licensed general contractor, you can expect to make around $30,000 – $100,000 per year with ample vacation time during off-seasons.
The Path to Become a General Contractor in Arkansas
Think you could have a future as a general contractor in Arkansas? Follow this basic path to start your career:
1. Complete Basic Education
Complete a high school degree or earn a GED. Once your basic education is complete, you can begin applying for jobs in construction.
2. Work Construction
Apply for and accept as many jobs as possible to gain relevant experience. The more facets of the industry you can be exposed to the better, so be sure to say yes whenever possible. Make connections in the process – these will come in handy when you work to become licensed.
3. Complete License Application
Once you feel confident that you have the experience needed to become a general contractor, you can begin the application process by filling out the application form available on the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board website. This application includes a $100 filing fee.
4. Gather Three References
Attached to the basic application form, you will find forms for three professional references. These forms must be completed within 90 days of submitting your application, and your references must have relevant experience and reasonable authority in your field.
5. Pass Arkansas Business and Law Exam
In addition to your application, you will need to take the Arkansas Business and Law exam and submit a copy of your passing score along with your application. Registration for this exam costs $80.
6. Prepare Financial Documents
Have all financial documents (including proof of insurance, contractor’s bond, and CPA report) compiled and ready for submission at least three weeks before the Arkansas Residential Committee meeting you intend to attend.
7. Submit Application to the Board
Submit your completed application to the board for consideration at the committee meeting. If you are accepted and your license is accepted, you may begin bidding on commercial or residential projects throughout your license term.