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General Contractor Training Program Overviews

A general contractor, sometimes called a general project manager or construction superintendent, is responsible for coordinating all aspects of a construction project. While certificate and 2-year construction training programs are available, more and more general contractors have completed a 4-year training program and sometimes go on to pursue a master's degree.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

General contractor training can happen in a number of ways. Some contractors gain years of experience as a construction worker, and others earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in building construction technology, construction management, architecture or engineering. Many employers now prefer to hire general contractors with at least a bachelor's degree, but work experience remains important. Knowledge of computer applications, such as Microsoft Office and Project are usually required. Additionally, being able to speak both English and Spanish is helpful.

Formal Education

Most commonly, individuals interested in becoming general contractors pursue a bachelor's degree in the field, but master's degree programs are available. There are also a number of associate degrees and certificates available in construction management, which can prepare inexperienced job seekers or help experienced workers advance to general contractor roles. Some general contractors may pursue a master's degree in business.

Bachelor's Degree in Construction Management

At the 4-year degree level, students gain a basis in construction concepts, materials and applications and also learn about business and leadership. They take classes in blueprints, electrical systems, structural foundations and building equipment. Building codes, construction legalities and cost calculations are also covered. Additionally, construction management undergraduates often study economics, finance, advanced mathematics, statistics and communications.

Master's Degree in Construction Management

Individuals who have unrelated bachelor's degrees or those who want to work for larger construction corporations typically pursue master's degrees in construction management. At the graduate level, students gain advanced knowledge of construction management principles and often learn about field-specific computer applications, contract negotiation, risk management and sustainable construction.

Job Experience

Many times, college graduates have gained construction experience by participating in an internship. Once they graduate, aspiring general contractors can gain additional experience through entry-level opportunities assisting site managers or related industry personnel. In order to work as a general contractor, applicants must usually have 5-7 years of construction experience.

Licenses and Certifications

Most states require general contractors to have a license. Voluntary certifications are often preferred by employers and are offered through various general contractor organizations. The Construction Management Association of America (www.cmaanet.org) offers a Certified Construction Manager credential, while the American Institute of Constructors (www.aicnet.org) certifies individuals as Associate Contractors or Certified Professional Contractors. In order to qualify for certification, applicants must generally meet education and work experience requirements and pass an exam.

Workshops and Seminars

Local colleges often offer 1-2 day seminars for construction professionals on various topics, such as material selection and cost analysis. Organizations, such as the Associated General Contractors of America (www.agc.org), often sponsor industry conferences, which can last 4-5 days. During this time, participants can attend seminars on topics like sustainable building. They can also listen to guest lecturers or learn about new construction products.

Additional Professional Development

General contractors can stay abreast of industry trends, news and regulations by visiting organizational websites and signing up for e-newsletters; construction magazines are also available. Contractors can also participate in online professional discussion forums.

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