General vs. Specialty Contractors: Which One Should You Pursue?

The next few years will likely prove profitable for contractors of all stripes, courtesy of the housing inventory shortage. That makes it a good time for someone to start a construction business.

Of course, there are different types of contractors. They generally fall into two categories: general contractors and specialty contractors. If you’re looking for a career path, you might wonder which one will suit you better.

If that’s your situation, keep reading and we’ll explore how you can choose the course that is right for you.

Do You Want to Be in Charge?

As a rule, general contractors operate more as project managers than as workers. They assemble bids, talk with clients, and hire the teams who will do the actual work.

Specialty contractors often work for general contractors on projects. For example, the general contractor might bring in roofers, plumbers, and electricians to complete specific parts of the job.

Specialty contractors, in contrast to general contractors, typically perform labor related to their specialty.

How Do You Become a General Contractor

The more common route to becoming a general contractor starts with college. You pick up a degree, typically in a field like civil engineering.

Once you complete college, most states require that you work in the construction field for a period of time. Some may specify the number of hours, while others may set out a number of years.

Once you rack up enough experience, you can take the licensing exam for your state.

Educational Requirement of Speciality Contractors

Specialty contractors are a different story. While there are educational programs devoted to things like plumbing or electrical work, you must typically get accepted into an apprenticeship program.

You must work a set number of hours as an apprentice and journeyman. Each state sets its own rules, but 8000 hours is common. Your state may let you substitute training for some of those hours.

You can find more information here about contractor training options.

Some may also require that you worked in a managerial or supervisory position. Most states also require passing a state exam for specialty contractor licensing.

How Do You Want to Spend Your Time?

Some people see their future filled with meetings, talking on the phone, and reviewing plans. Others see themselves actively working on projects in a hands-on way. For those in the latter category, specialty contracting is likely the way to go.

General or Specialty Contractors

The housing shortage means that there will likely be abundant work for both general and specialty contractors for the next several years. Deciding which route you want to take depends on your interests.

For those interested in the overall management of projects, general contracting offers the best opportunities. You keep a bird’s eye view of the project while handing on specific tasks to the right people.

For those interested in keeping their hand in with the actual work, specialty contracting offers more opportunities.

Looking for more career tips? Check out the posts in our Business and Education sections.

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