What Does a General Contractor Do?

This individual does all the hiring and organizing for a construction job. They also provide building materials, arrange the building permits, organize and schedule the inspection(s), make sure all the building codes are followed and see the project through to completion. General contractors get jobs by giving competitive estimates of the overall cost of a project and presenting that estimate as a bid to the potential client. A client will often get different general contractors to bid on a job and compare those bids to decide who gets the job. Contractors who work on large projects such as skyscrapers, apartment buildings and civil or governmental projects often manage or oversee the project instead of working directly as a laborer. Likewise, a general contractor working on a smaller, residential building or renovation may also provide hands-on labor.

Fast Facts About Being a General Contractor

  • No formal education is required.
  • The ability to understand drawings/blueprints, the basic principles of construction, financial and team management and ethics are a must.
  • Median Salary: $90,000. *US Government Statistics.

Celebrities Who Used to Be Contractors

Seldom does fame and fortune just come knocking. It is usually preceded by years of blood, sweat and tears. When we see celebrities we often forget about their past and the sacrifices they had to make to get where they are today. Many well-known actors and actresses had blue-collar careers, some in the construction industry breaking rocks, laying bricks, painting houses or toiling on a hot roof instead of lounging by the pool. If you think an honest, working-class job can’t springboard you to a life of champagne and caviar, private jets and summers on the riviera,- don’t be uninspired, you never know when you might get your big break!

Sean Connery

Before James Bond’s life of luxury, he was a frequent laborer picking up odd jobs laying bricks, painting houses and even working as a coffin polisher. His strong work ethic helped him climb the ladder up to some of the top-grossing roles in Hollywood.


Whoopi Goldberg

Actress Whoopi Goldberg is tough as nails and she likely got that way in part by being a bricklayer. Whoopi helped build her strong image and big personality working alongside sweaty guys while building the wall around The San Diego Zoo.


Arnold Schwarzenegger

“The Governator” didn’t always hang out in his hot tub smoking cigars. Once upon a time he was a struggling bodybuilder laying bricks. He even started his own business back in 1968 with friend and fellow bodybuilder, Franco Columbu called “Specialty European Bricklayers.”

Joe Manganiello

Before becoming a Hollywood sex symbol as the star of “Magic Mike”, Joe had a full-blown career in the construction industry. Before stardom, Joe shoveled gravel and sand to pay his bills. While labor-intensive and hard on his body, Joe’s career in the construction industry gave him a fit and lean body that women love and men envy.


Ozzy Osbourne

Long before he was inducted to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ozzy had a working-class life in a small English town. After a brief stint at petty crime, Ozzy got on the straight and narrow… breaking rocks, working in a slaughterhouse and earning his street cred while collecting the stories that he would weave into hard rock classics with his band Black Sabbath.

Education Backgrounds to Become a General Contractor

A general contractor may have a degree in the “science of construction” but it is not a necessity. Many contractors begin as skilled laborers such as carpenters, framers, plumbers, electricians and use their knowledge of a number of trades to move into general contracting. Because the health and safety of laborers and clients depend on good practices, a license is required in most states. Regulations vary state to state but typically the applicant must be at least 18 years of age, hold a valid business license and has passed a contracting exam.

Skills for General Contracting

A general contractor should be able to effectively read blueprints and understand the fundamentals of construction. A rudimentary understanding of business management and the ability to oversee and effectively manage subcontractors is necessary. Basic math skills are needed to estimate time and the cost of materials. General Contractors are often hired by word of mouth or reputation, so honesty, reliability, good business practices and ethics are essential.

Search through the resources below to begin your journey into your dream job.

General Contractor

Looking for smaller jobs, check out career options as a Handyman.

Specialized Contractor Careers: