Starting a construction company can be a lucrative and rewarding endeavor, but it can be difficult to decide what type of construction firm you should pursue. While there are several different ways to get involved in the construction industry, the most common types of construction companies are general contractors and specialty contractors.

While there are key things needed to make any construction business successful, knowing the difference between these two types of construction careers can help you, as a construction business owner, decide what kind of education and licensing you and your future employees should pursue based on whether your firm performs general or specialty tasks.

General Contractors

General contractors oversee the project as a whole and hire specialty contractors to complete specific jobs on the construction site. This means they may need to rent a fleet of ½-ton pickup trucks for the crew to transport materials and order the necessary amount of materials needed to ensure the entire project runs as smoothly as possible to completion.

In order to become a general contractor, you will need to have one, obtained your high school diploma. Two, started an apprenticeship with a licensed professional. Or three, earned a bachelor’s degree, preferably in either civil engineering or construction management, and pass a licensing exam. This education will take about three to five years to complete. If you are just starting your business; it will benefit you to also have several years’ worth of experience working in the industry so that you have first-hand knowledge regarding the work and how things operate.

Specialty Contractors

Specialty contractors are skilled in trade areas such as plumbing, lighting, and heating and cooling, to name a few.

To become a specialty contractor, you will need to obtain the same amount of education as a general contractor, as well as obtain licenses in the areas you specialize in. Just like starting a general contracting business, you should obtain work experience in your particular field in order to familiarize yourself with everyday business responsibilities and procedures. These contractors are hired for their specialty area, so it is imperative that you maintain your education and licensing if you choose to build a specialty contract business, as well as work towards becoming one of the best in your field in whatever location you choose to work in.

Relationships Between General and Specialty Contractors

General and specialty contractors need each other in order for each business to thrive. Specialty contractors are hired by general contractors to perform specific tasks on site, so building a good relationship with general contractors helps you build your specialty contract business. As you create working relationships with general contractors, your client list will increase as will your profit.

If you are a general contractor, you are often hired by companies or individuals to oversee their construction projects, so it is imperative that you hire trustworthy and reliable specialty contractors that produce quality work in an efficient manner. By establishing good working relationships with your preferred specialty contractors, you can ensure that your clients will be happy with their results.

Good reviews and satisfied customers are some of the surest ways to grow your business, so both types of contractors need each other in order to create profitable businesses and rewarding careers.

It is also worth noting that, while specialty contractors require several years in their particular craft, as well as special licensing, both general and specialty contractors have the option to switch up their careers if they find themselves or their businesses stuck in a rut. For example, a general contractor can obtain licenses in other specialty areas and become what is known as a self-performing general contractor. Likewise, a specialty contractor can become a dual-licensed contractor by obtaining and maintaining more than one specialty area license.

Because this career can be a versatile one, it lends itself to be an even more lucrative business venture, as you can expand your business by simply going further in your education and experience. This particular attribute of creating a construction business can be very attractive to those who enjoy being lifelong learners.


Whether you decide to pursue a career or build a business in either general or specialty contracting, it is imperative to understand the kind of education you are going to need to pursue in order to obtain your goals, as well as understand how each business differs and interacts with the other. Building a construction business can be a very rewarding and mentally stimulating venture, and, with just a little education and gumption, you may find that it is the perfect career for you.