How to get a California Contractors License Part 1

In this series of posts, I’ll tell you how to get a California contractors license.

Let’s begin with the Licensing Process:

1) Who must be licensed:

All businesses or individuals who construct or alter any building, highway, road, parking facility or other structure in CA must be licensed by the CSLB if the total cost including labor and materials is $500 or more.

2) What are the advantages to having a contractor’s license?

There are many reasons to get a contractor’s license:

A. You can do jobs that are over $500.
B. You can take the customer to court if you are not paid. (Without a license, a contract over $500 is considered illegal.)
C. You can legally advertise your construction business.
D. You can pull building permits.
E. You are eligible for special discounts from many material suppliers.
F. You can join builders’ associations that offer job boards, plan rooms, and group insurance.

3) What are the licensing classifications?

The classifications are broken down into 4 categories.

1) A-General Engineering
2) B-General Building
3) C-Specialty classes
4) D-Limited Specialty classes

4) What experience is required?

At least four years of journey level experience is required to qualify for the exam. Credit is given for experience as a journeyman, foreman, supervising employee or contractor or a combination of experience and education.

5) What if I do not have four years work experience?

You may still qualify by substituting apprenticeship or technical training or other education for work experience. For example, you could receive a credit of up to two years for a college degree in business. You don’t necessarily need a college degree. Transcripts showing course work in construction technology, drafting, accounting, etc., can also be substituted for a portion of the four-year requirement.

contractors licensing faqs_1

Part 2 of how to get a California contractors license. coming soon…


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Contractor Talk Post

Wow…. here’s a post/question/comment/complaint I received in the ContractorTalk Forum. I’m am so floored by how the CSLB is treating applicants, I’m beside myself. Read on…

Phil – I think you’re right about flagging Asian last names. As I explained to you in my private message, I’m being asked for all kinds of documentation for my Class B. And, I have an Asian last name. Go figure.

They didn’t take my business classes, algebra, advanced math or my CA real estate license and appraisal courses into consideration at all. First I was told that they can’t call my employer out of state, so they want 1099’s and check stubs. Fine. Sent them. The Licensee Deputy approves and then they send me to an Experience analyst. She tells me that the 1099’s are useless, because I, “could have earned the money doing anything”. So why did you ask me to hunt down an old, handicapped prior employer 3,000 miles away to get the darn things?

She tells me that my application shows c6 work and not Class B. She sends me a form asking if I want to withdraw my application. I emailed Andrea S. and asked her since when cantilevering decks, framing additions, siding and roof work is millwork. She said it was millwork and not general building! How ’bout that? She asks me to provide permits and contracts. I explain that as a journeyman employee I’m not required to have either, and that legally my contractor employer isn’t even required to keep those docs for more than 3 years. They then asked for client contacts, which I don’t have as an employee.

She says that I need to go back to the elderly, sick employer 3,000 miles away and get a notarized letter from him outlying my duties. I included hours worked, duties by year for the 10 years through apprenticeship (4yrs) and journeyman level (6 years). What else should he document in the letter?

I do think I’m being targeted. When I explained that I felt that shuffling me from department to department for 10 months now is excessive, and I don’t understand why they ask for documentation that they then tell me they can’t use (like the 1099’s and pay stubs), I’m told that I need permits and the notarized letter from my certifier. Wasn’t his certification enough? No, because he was a foreman and not a contractor. Again, I have no legal reason to have permits as a journeyman. I think they just don’t want to license me – possibly because I’m Asian.

I even included letters from people who can verify that I’ve done extensive work on my own homes. I offered to send in 200 material receipts to verify the work and was told that they weren’t needed. What else can I send in to help with this?

contractor talk post

My reply:

I may actually be speechless!!! Oh wait… no I’m not.

Your experience with the cslb just floors me!! How incompetent can one state agency be? Seriously?!? You give them what they ask for, what they have listed in their ridiculous list of acceptable items, then tell you they won’t accept them. I truly wonder (often) why the patients are running the asylum!

My advice is to contact your State Representative! Show the rep the letter the cslb gave you with the options. Show the rep what you provided, per their list, and show the rep the response you received from the cslb.

It has been pointed out to the Board, directly, that the licensing unit is asking for docs that most applicants aren’t required by law to need or obtain. Yet, they keep asking for them. Then they have the nerve to reject those docs.

I wish I had proof in hand that the cslb is profiling Asian applicants, but they are just smart enough not to have put anything in writing… as far as I’m aware. I was just told that the license techs were verbally told to pull apps with Asian last names. So suggesting to a State Rep that you’re being profiled would most likely be flat out rejected by the cslb. For me… I’d mention it anyway. Let the cslb hear the accusation so they know what they’re doing is out in the public.

Like I said… I was almost speechless.

If you feel you’ve received biased, unfair, ridiculous treatment from the CSLB, let them know about it. Submit this form. CSLB Client Services Complaint Form

via California Licensing – Page 70 – Contractor Licensing – Contractor Talk.

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New “Handyman License” issued by the Contractors State License Board!

That is what I would like to see on the CSLB’s web page. New Handyman License Issued!

Think about it, the current law permits “unlicensed contractors” the ability to perform jobs that are $500 or less for labor and materials.

By law, they have to advertise as “unlicensed contractors.” But, by law, they don’t have to have a written contract for the work they do.

Now the CSLB is asking these “unlicensed contractors” for copies of contracts when they apply for a contractor’s license, but the law does not require them to have contracts. That makes no sense, so let’s file this under “Things that make you go… Hmmmm.”

handyman license


My suggestion is that they institute a handyman license. This license will allow people the ability to do work at the current $500 limit (or, perhaps, they should increase it to $1000), and the experience will be more easily documented. The CSLB could require that they have a written contract, and when it comes time to apply for a full-fledged contractor’s license, they’ll have the documentation to prove their experience.

Here are the Pros:

  1. The CSLB could increase their revenues by collecting licensing fees, renewal fees, etc.
  2. The CSLB could possibly eliminate a lot of the unlicensed activity that they currently spend countless man hours and resources trying to eliminate.
  3. The CSLB would make it easier on the applicant to provide the necessary work experience when the handyman applies for a full license.
  4. The CSLB would make it easier on the application technicians who process these applications.
  5. The CSLB could require the handyman license to carry a, let’s say, $5,000 bond. This would protect consumers, which is the mandate of the CSLB after all.
  6. I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of at this moment.

Here are the Cons:

  1. I can’t think of a single con.

Who benefits?

  1. The CSLB
  2. The consumer
  3. The licensee
  4. The surety companies
  5. The CSLB Staff
  6. Those of us in the licensing industry!

handyman license


I realize this would take legislation to institute, and the CSLB would have to draft the legislation and get it sponsored by a legislator. So I have no delusions of this happening any time soon, especially when it makes a great deal of sense. But a handyman license would go a long way to fixing some of the issues that currently plague the construction industry.


Study Materials

Application Services

Online Study Materials

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Young Journeyman

Q. What’s a young journeyman?

A. An applicant who is usually less than 25 yrs of age. Being tagged as a young journeyman can be a huge hurdle to overcome. The Contractors State License Board will make the applicant jump thru many hoops to prove their experience.The problem in proving your experience lies in the requirements for licensure. You must have at least 4 yrs of experience at the Journeyman Level. So if you’re applying at the age of 23… that would imply that you’ve been a journeyman since the age of 19. That’s hard to do since most of us graduate from high school when we’re 18, and most apprenticeship training programs can take 2 yrs or more.

The Proof.

If you do get tagged as a young journeyman, you’ll need to show, or attempt to show, w-2’s, pay stubs, tax returns, etc. For most of my clients in this position… that can be very hard to do.

Long term.

Let’s say you do apply, get the young journeyman label and are denied. When you go to apply again in the future, you’ll have to jump thru all of those hoops again.

My advice.

Wait. Wait until you’re 25, 26… You will be less likely to be labeled a young journeyman and will most likely have more documented experience to back up your application.

young journeyman

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Contractors License Schools

Many contractors license schools offer guarantees. Who should you believe?

I found an interesting blog post today put out by one of my competitors.

What’s interesting about it is that the whole post is basically and advertisement for their company wrapped in a neat little “information” wrapper.

Now, I’m not saying that what was written was entirely incorrect, just some of it. And my service was not included, so I guess I should be thankful. I can only assume I wasn’t included because I don’t fraudulently call myself a “school” like they do.

What’s wrong?

My main issue (as I stated above) has always been and remains to be so today, is that these places call themselves “schools.” They are not educators teaching you your trade. They, just like all of us, are there to assist you in passing your exams. So it’s a wonder that this company and others like it continue to be allowed to use the word “school.”

Driving School – teaches you how to drive
Mechanic School – teaches you how to turn a wrench
Culinary School – teaches you how to cook
Contractors School – teaches you how to perform a trade? NO! They show you have to pass a state exam. Period.

Case in point… a good friend of mine, who happens to have a master’s in education and a teaching degree was offered $50,000 to be an instructor at one of the contractors license schools. Can he teach? You bet! Did he know anything about construction? Not a single thing! Degree or no degree, how can someone teach you: 1) what you should already know, and 2) something that he doesn’t know?

Anyway… moving on… (their post is below)

Beware??? Who closed their doors and made this company the contractors license schools police.

Being a member of the BBB means nothing. The BBB is just a membership club that gives its “paying” members higher scores. Pay their fee, you get a high score. The BBB is not a regulatory agency and has no authority over anything or anybody.

Claims having over 650 practice test questions? It appears this company believes the material they make up is the best on the market. So not true!

Claims to complete your application for you? This is a service I offer, and yes, I do take the information from the applicant and fill out their form. But, being a former cslb app tech, I can’t tell you how many apps I rejected because the applicant may have had all the necessary information, but failed to put it in the app the correct way. “Schools” that don’t let you take the study materials home? I suggest, don’t bother going to one of these “schools” in the first place.

“Schools” that DO NOT offer a guaranty. Really? Have you read any of the guarantee’s offered by these “schools”? One says you have to prove that you’ve taken the test several times, have requested and studied their “updated” materials, then and only then, will they give you any money back. What a joke. That would take a year, and only if you followed all twelve steps they want you to follow. If their materials were any good, you would have passed the first time and not needed several attempts to pass.

Schools claiming to be “State Certified” contractors license schools?? Wait.. so it’s ok to call yourself a “school” but don’t you dare call yourself a State Certified contractors license school? C’mon!

The post stated:

BEWARE of Schools that offer or don’t offer the following:

Schools that are NOT Members of the Better Business Bureau
Claims over 650 practice test questions per course
Claims having On-Line course at this time
Claiming to complete your application for you
Claims they can set the State Exam date for you
Schools that DON’T let you take or keep your study materials
Schools that service Licensing for Multiple States
Schools that offer large discounts
Schools claiming to be a “State Certified” Schools

Next, they state:
It is difficult to select a Contractors Licensing School over the internet. You should be aware of the consumer’s issues and we have completed an intensive analysis of the current Contractors Schools Market.

My response:

They have completed an “intensive analysis” of the current Contractors license schools market? Really? They compared 4 out of the 40 they say are in existence. Apparently this poster didn’t read anything he wrote after he wrote it. Note, I’m not giving away the identity of this “school” or the other contractors license schools they analyzed because they would just end up emailing me to tell me how right I am, and I hate it when they do that.

Next, they posted:

All schools listed INCLUDE:

Specializes in California State Contractors Licensing
Home Study for Contractors Trade Courses
Study Manuals for Trade and Law & Business
Course Instruction Classes on Audio CDs
California State License Forms and Applications
Standard Telephone and Email Support
A minimum of 400 practice test questions per course
Allows you to keep your study Materials after Exam
Home study courses and study manuals? Pretty much the same thing!
Course instruction classes on audio cd’s? How about audio and video like the materials I sell.

CSLB forms can be downloaded by anyone, anytime from the CSLB website. It’s nice of this company to include this in their list, but every service or “school” provides these. I even email the forms to people who aren’t my clients! They call looking for the form, I send it to them.

How does this company get to decide that 400 practice questions are acceptable? Is that a number they just pulled out of thin air? They say “beware” of materials with over 650 questions because they know that the materials I and others sell from a publisher with 30+yrs in this business offer the most comprehensive practice exams with that many practice questions. And they know that they are far superior to what any “school” has created.

contractors license schools

Final comment about guarantee’s:

I don’t offer one because:
I have no control over how you study and how long you study
I have no control over how you retain information
I have no control over how well you take tests
I have no control over your state of mind when you are taking the tests

I can only state that 98% of people who use the materials I offer pass their exams. After that, it’s all up to you! Besides that, a guaranty suggests that the materials being offered are not worth the money you paid for them. A guaranty is not going to make some “schools” materials any better.

Final final comment about guarantee’s:

Why would you buy materials from a company that feels they need to offer a guaranty, go thru all of that studying, taking the tests, failing because the contractors license schools materials were substandard, only then to jump thru their hoops to get your money back and have to buy quality materials from another company (The Contractors License Guru) so that you can pass the tests!

Guaranty from the company discussed above?

My favorite is #15… 200% Refund. No Questions Asked. LOL You only have to jump thru 14 simple hoops to get there AND #7 says they’ll tell you when YOU can re-test! No thank you!

To obtain your 200% Refund follow these Simple steps;

Enough Study Time; You must provide yourself adequate time for study. Typically a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks is needed to prepare for each per course.

When you get your Exam date; Email us at … and include your Name, Trade, Order# Date of Purchase and Fax# or call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

We will fax you any Course Updates (within 48 hours) that have been created since your original course date. Review and study the new updated exam questions.
On the day of your Exam; note any information that you were required to know for the state exams that was not covered in our course materials.

After the Exam; email us your feedback on any additional course questions you may have or we didn’t’t cover in our classes to: …, or fax them to (xxx-xxx-xxxx), or call us at (xxx-xxx-xxxx).

If you fail the state exams for any reason; FAX your State Exam Failure Notice to us at (xxx-xxx-xxxx) and continue to study. Call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx to discuss any additional study materials or answers to questions you may have.

Do not Re-Schedule your Exam until advised; we will stay in contact with you until you get the additional study materials you need to pass. It is best to re-schedule your Exam Date only after you are ready for the Exam. We will review each of your questions; our editors will review your feedback and send you additional study materials and updates.

When you receive your updates; replace any old questions and answers with the new ones and study any additional questions, answers and explanations.

Re-Schedule your Exam Date; re-schedule your exam date ONLY after you have received your updates, studied your materials and feel you are ready for the Exam.

If you do not pass the second time; repeat the above instructions and send us your additional feedback regarding the study questions.

If you fail a third time; repeat the above instructions and send us your additional feedback regarding the study questions. send your third exam feed back questions.

You will receive a 200% course Refund; after completing the above tasks and have actively participated in the Contractors Circle we will refund 200% of your original course purchase price. If you passed one of your exams but failed to pass the other we will refund you for only the exam you failed three times.

To receive your 200% Refund; just return all your course materials and comply with the above tasks. 200% Refund, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

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As I’ve discussed before, the Contractors State License Board CSLB has begun a very progressive approach to verifying trade experience.

It’s come to my attention that the licensing exam unit at the CSLB has been instructed to begin calling employers and certifiers to verify experience. The exam unit was told this last Friday, 4/5/13.

What does this mean? You better have your ducks in a row and have back up verification of your experience.

Per the CSLB rules: They do not visit worksites, they won’t accept photos of your work, the burden of proof is on you, the applicant… and here’s my favorite part…The CSLB states that the exam tells them if you know your trade.


So, if they call you or your employer or your certifier, you have to be able to provide verifiable evidence of your experience. Here’s the fun part…the CSLB states: “All experience claims must be verified by a qualified and responsible person, such as a homeowner, an employer, fellow employee, other journeymen, contractor, union representative, building inspector, architect, or engineer. The person verifying your claim must have firsthand knowledge of your experience during the time period covered—that is, he or she must have observed the work that you have completed and must complete the Certification of Work Experience form included with the application.​

Even if you provide a Certification of Work Experience form, be prepared to furnish documentation of any experience you claim on the form when such documentation is requested. Failure to provide this documentation will result in rejection of your application or denial of the license.”

What they are not telling you is that, even if you follow the certifier instructions, and even though that certifier is signing under the penalty of perjury, they (the cslb) are still going to call your employer or certifier to verify your experience. My question is… why bother having someone certify your experience in the first place? If daddy is going to check up on you anyway, what’s the point? And if the exam tells them whether or not you know your trade, why have certifiers and why call them?

What is the down side for some of you? You may be applying without your employer knowing that you are applying. Why, because your employer may not appreciate the fact that you are trying to obtain your own license. And when the CSLB comes calling, the employer is going to find out about your application and your job could be in jeopardy. Thanks CSLB.

Does the CSLB care about this little fact? Of course not. Their concern is not your livelihood, your well being, or your ability to earn a living and to feed your family. It never has been. Their “prime directive” if you will, is to ensure that licenses are issued to qualified persons.

Do I agree with their unpublished, unannounced ruling to begin calling employers and certifiers? No! Their own rule states that the exam tells them if you know the trade. So what they are doing basically cutting off the hand that feeds them. If they allow you to take the test and issue you a license, the CSLB will be earning renewal fees for years. By finding ways to keep you from getting your license, they are limiting their ability to generate funds.

Typical CSLB, they make up stupid rules without thinking about the consequences.

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