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The Construction Connection - California Contractor News, Notes & Legislation

California Contractors License Requirements: Application & Exam Prep

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Prospective California contractors looking to become licensed for the first time, or existing contractors looking to add a new classification are often overwhelmed by a complicated process that can include lengthy applications and processing times, state administered examinations and background checks just to name a few. To help simplify the process, this guide will consolidate many of the resources a new contractor may need while navigating the CSLB license process.

California State License Board Contact Information & Office Locations

Prospective applicants thinking of getting their contractors license can begin the licensing process by visiting the Contractors State License Board website and reviewing the steps and requirements needed to become licensed. After reviewing this information, it may be a good idea to contact the license board directly with any follow up questions.  Their information is below.

Contractors State License Board

CSLB Phone Number:  Dial 1-800-321-2752 and then choose option 1, then option 2, and then option 9 to speak with a live person and bypass the automated system.

CSLB Office Locations

Northern California

Contractors State License Board
9821 Business Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95827

Southern California

Contractors State License Board
12501 East Imperial Hwy.
Suite 600
Norwalk, CA 90650

Where Can I Get an Original CSLB Application?

Prospective new contractors can obtain a new license application by visiting a local CSLB office or by printing an application directly from the CSLB website.

How Long Does The CSLB Take To Process an Application?

Processing times vary based on the type of application submitted.  As mentioned, mistakes or omissions made on an application are one of the most common forms of delay, so it pays to get things right the first time.  When in doubt, contact a license board representative to get any questions answered before submitting your application.  The CSLB regularly updates processing times for most of their services. Once an original application has posted, the CSLB will send the applicant a letter with their application fee number as well as a secure pin. The website includes a CSLB application check feature that can be used to periodically check on the processing status as well as pending requirements.

What Type of Entity Should I Form for My New Construction Business?

One of the first questions new contractors will need to decide upon is the type of entity to form for their new business such as a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or LLC.  Many new contractors may already know which type of entity best suites their needs, while others may want to consult with an attorney before they get too far down the line with their license application to prevent delays or having to start over.  Below are some legal resources that may be helpful for California construction professionals.

As a side note, contractors thinking of becoming an LLC should be aware of additional California contractor license requirements, including a 100k LLC bond, which is unique to this entity type. Find out more information pertaining to LLC requirements for California contractors.

Burnett & Associates
9441 Double Diamond Parkway, Suite #11
Reno, Nevada 89521
Phone:  775-853-6999

Where Can I Find A Local or Online Contractors Exam Prep School?

Many new contractors will find that after their application has been posted, they will begin receiving solicitations by mail for various services they may need. These include California contractor licensing schools, study materials, and license bonding. Also, many resources can be found online. Another great resource is the Contractors State License Board, which also may be able to provide helpful materials including practice exams.

Contractors State License Schools

6222 Sepulveda Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91411
(800) 481-0310

Contractors Intelligence Schools

3301 Sunrise Blvd Ste D 
Rancho Cordova CA 95742 
Tel. (800)425-7570 
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30AM-6:00PM

California Contractor License Exam Requirements

Licensure applicants must take and pass two examinations: Law and Business and Trade. Trade examinations are not required for the C-61 Limited Specialty classification, however.

To take a California contractors’ exam, you must be at least 18 years old and have the experience and skills necessary to manage the daily activities of a construction business, including field supervision. Or, you must be represented by someone else with the necessary experience and skills, who serves as your qualifying individual.

You must also have four years of experience in the class you are applying for to qualify for the examination. Experience claims must be verified by a qualified person, such as an employer or supervisor. Experience must be at a journey level or as a foreman, supervising employee, contractor, or owner-builder.

Upon qualifying, complete and submit the Application for Original Contractor’s License. Your application must be approved prior to testing.

Pursuant to California law, all applicants for a contractor license are required to submit a full set of fingerprints subject to a criminal background check. Fingerprints are compared to the records of the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine whether a criminal history exists.

How to Prepare for Testing

To prepare for your examination(s), you may want to purchase a copy of the California Contractors License Law & Reference book or download a free copy from the California State License Board. While you are free to attend a California contractor licensing school, this is not a requirement and training schools are not affiliated with the CSLB. Examination study guides are available on the CSLB website at no cost.

Do note that if you will need a translator on testing day, you will need to contact the CSLB in advance of your testing date to make arrangements.

What to Expect on Testing Day

Plan to arrive no less than 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled testing time. Until further notice, a mask must be worn and you should not be showing symptoms of illness. Depending on your testing center, you may be required to check in upon entering the building, which will require a government issued ID.

Once you’re checked in, a CSLB employee will show you to your testing station. Each station includes a touchscreen computer and headphones. You’ll be shown how to use this equipment and will be provided with a calculator, scaled ruler, whiteboard, marker, and eraser. If you’re taking the Trade examination, you’ll also be given a booklet.

You’ll have three and a half hours to take each examination. You may be excused for restroom breaks, and if taking multiple examinations in one day, you will have an intermission in between.

All questions are multiple choice. A passing score depends on the examination you’re taking. Once finished, your results will be provided immediately. If you do not pass, you may schedule a second attempt and retake the exam as many times as needed for 18 months after your CSLB application has been posted.

Do not bring weapons, phones or other electronic devices, earbuds, calculators, watches, writing utensils, food, or a purse or backpack of any kind with you into the testing center.

Where Can I Complete My Live Scan Finger Prints?

A background check including fingerprinting is generally required for new contractors.  Below is a link to a State of California Justice Department website listing local finger print locations throughout California.  Just click the link below and choose your county for local live scan locations.

California Live Scan Locations


Please be advised that each resource provided has not been individually vetted by us nor are they specifically endorsed.  We are NOT financially compensated in exchange for listing each resource above.  Rather, our goal is simply to provide a starting point of potentially helpful resources for prospective contractors to explore and evaluate themselves.

About the Author:

Shortly after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelors degree in economics, Jeremy founded Surety First Insurance Services (formerly Schaedler Insurance), a Northern California based insurance agency specializing in surety bonds for California construction professionals. Jeremy is happily married and the proud father of two young boys. In his free time, he enjoys camping, fishing and shooting the breeze with friends and family.


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