The state of California requires anyone who is bidding on a construction trade project that is $500 or more (including labor and materials) to have a contractors license. This industry is regulated by the California Contractors State License Board (or CSLB) which is part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. There are 43 different classifications including General Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Painting, Roofing, etc.
State Experience Requirements: You must have at least 4 years of experience in your trade. This must be “journey” level experience (or higher) which does not mean that you went through a union apprenticeship, but simply that you were doing the work at a level considered journey person, that is, you are not a trainee and are capable of doing your trade competently.
If you do not have enough experience you can use education for up to three years of the four required. College degrees or vocational certifications can count depending on the major or trade class. Notice I said “up to”. It is not one year of education equals one year of experience. Some subjects count more than others. An example would be that a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management would count for three years where a Bachelor’s degree in Business might count for two. College subjects that may apply are Accounting, Architecture, Business, Construction Technology, Drafting, Economics, Mathematics, Physics or a subject that directly applies to your trade. For example, Horticulture (the science of growing plants) can count a lot for someone applying for a landscaping license. The more relevant the trade, the more it will count in lieu of experience. A completed union apprenticeship can count up to three years as well.
You will have to take a test on the laws of contracting in the state of California and you must take an exam on your trade. There is no trade test for those applying for a C-61 (Limited Specialty). The C-61 is a “catch-all” classification for very specialized trades that not a lot of people do. Examples are concrete dyers, gutter installers, garage door opener installers, etc. The exams are about 100 questions and are multiple-choice, that is you choose A, B, C or D. Passing scores vary from 63% to 76% depending on the exam.
I am the Director of a school that prepares people for the exam and have 31 years of experience in contractors exam preparation and application processing.