Understanding the Training Needed to Become a Commercial Contractor

A career in the construction industry can be very exciting and rewarding. Still, it requires specific skills, knowledge, and training to succeed, especially as a commercial contractor. Commercial contractors oversee and manage construction projects for businesses, government agencies, and organizations. These projects can range from office buildings and retail spaces to schools and hospitals. To become a commercial contractor, you’ll need to acquire a combination of education, practical experience, and industry-specific training. 

In this blog, our Division 9 Commercial Construction expert team breaks down some of the top skills and advice needed to enter the commercial construction industry.

Educational Requirements:

Many successful individuals in the construction industry meet the minimum of a high school degree. However, those looking to become project managers, supervisors, foremen, etc., pursue advanced degrees. Others may choose a specialty and attend a trade school, advancing their careers with a more specific focus within the construction industry.

  • High School Diploma: The first step toward becoming a commercial contractor is to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. This provides the foundational education necessary to pursue further training in the construction field.
  • Bachelor’s Degree (Optional): While not always required, some commercial contractors choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in construction management, civil engineering, or a related field. A degree can provide a more comprehensive understanding of construction principles, project management, and business aspects.
  • Trade School: Trade schools for HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and related trades offer short, hands-on programs (several months to two years) that teach practical skills in these fields. Graduates often earn certifications or licenses, enabling them to start careers in these in-demand industries.

Practical Experience:

Regardless of a niche trade or general commercial construction, an individual must gain hands-on experience in the construction industry. This journey takes time to “master” and usually involves a rigorous program. Below is more about the required experience:

  • Apprenticeship: Many aspiring commercial contractors start their careers as construction laborers or apprentices. An apprenticeship program provides hands-on training in various aspects of construction, such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and masonry. Apprenticeships typically last 2-4 years and offer the opportunity to earn while learning.
  • On-the-Job Experience: Gaining practical experience by working on construction sites is essential. This experience helps you understand the intricacies of construction processes, safety protocols, and project management firsthand. It also allows you to build a network of industry contacts.

Licensing and Certification:

Achieving the right credentials is essential for success in the construction industry. Here’s a breakdown of key licenses and certifications to consider as you pursue a career as a commercial contractor.

  • Licensing Requirements: In many regions, commercial contractors are required to obtain a contractor’s license. Licensing requirements vary by state and locality, so it’s crucial to research and comply with the specific regulations in your area. You’ll need to pass an exam and meet certain experience and financial requirements.
  • Certifications: While not always mandatory, obtaining certifications can enhance your credibility and marketability as a commercial contractor. Some relevant certifications include Certified Construction Manager (CCM), Project Management Professional (PMP), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications.

Business and Management Training:

Beyond construction expertise, effective business and project management skills are crucial for a commercial contractor. These are essential areas of training to help you excel in both the construction and business aspects of your career:

  • Business Skills: Being a successful commercial contractor involves more than just construction expertise. You’ll need strong business skills, including budgeting, accounting, marketing, and contract negotiation. Consider taking courses or workshops in business management to develop these skills.
  • Project Management: Commercial contractors must effectively manage construction projects from start to finish. Courses in project management can teach you essential skills like scheduling, cost estimation, risk management, and communication.

Safety Training:

Job site safety and continuous training are extremely important in construction. Effective leaders conduct regular on and off-site training and daily inspections. You’ll need to stay up-to-date with safety regulations and best practices. OSHA offers various safety training programs and resources to help you maintain a safe work environment.

Networking and Industry Involvement:

Building a strong professional network is crucial for commercial contractors. Joining industry associations and attending trade shows can help you connect with potential clients, subcontractors, and suppliers. Organizations like the Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are excellent resources for networking.

Continuing Education:

The construction industry is continually evolving, with new technologies and techniques emerging. To stay competitive, consider participating in ongoing education and training programs to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date.

Successful commercial contractors combine education, experience, and ongoing training. A career in construction requires a strong work ethic, attention to detail, and the ability to manage complex projects efficiently. By investing in the right education and training, staying current with industry trends, and continuously improving your skills, you can build a rewarding career as a commercial contractor.