With CSLB test centers reopening after months of closures, CCIS felt a review of the testing and application process would be beneficial. 

There are seven steps, as outlined by the CSLB to become a licensed contractor. The most crucial step in the process to obtain a license with the Contractors State License Board is to take and pass a Law and Business exam and a Trade exam. 

Contractors are required to take the examinations if they have not passed one of the above exams or have not served as a qualifying individual in their trade within the past five years. Contractors required to take examinations may apply for only one license classification at a time. 

Upon an original license being issued, contractors may apply for additional classifications. CSLB licensing classifications. Contractors can add any classification to existing licenses for which they have qualifying experience or passed an applicable examination. Applications for additional classifications should be mailed to the CSLB with a $150 fee. 

As outlined by Business and Professions Code section 7065, contractors may apply to have the examination requirement waived, via the Waiver Provision

What is Required for Testing: To take an examination, contractors must have a minimum of four years of experience in the license class being applied for. All experience claims must be verified by a qualifying person such as an employer, contractor, supervisor, fellow employee, journeyman, building inspector, union representative or homeowner.

There are no formal education requirements, such as a college degree, to qualify for a contractor license and take an exam. You do need professional experience at the journey level or as a foreman, supervising employee, contractor or owner-builder.    

Contractors must submit an application for an original contractor license to the CSLB when exams are required. Applications should be mailed to the CSLB with a $330 fee. 

Accepted Exam Applications: If the CSLB accepts an exam application, the applicant will receive a Fingerprinting Live Scan packet and a notice to appear for an examination. Examinations are administered at CSLB sites in San Diego, San Bernardino, Norwalk, Oxnard, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno. The CSLB uses an applicant’s business zip codes to determine the most conveniently located testing centers.  

Returned Exam Applications: If a submitted exam application is incomplete or insufficient, the CSLB will return the application via mail to the contractor. Contractors have 90 days from the date of return to resubmit the application with the missing information and corrections. Failure to resubmit an application within the 90-day period will result in a voided application and a new application will need to be submitted. 

Exam Application Status: Contractors can check their exam application status here: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckApplicationII/SecuredApplicantRequest.aspx

Examination Preparation: The CSLB provides the following study guides for contractors looking to do exam preparation. 

  • Study guide for the Law and Business exam. 
    • The Law and Business exam consists of multiple-choice questions related to business management and construction law.
  • Study guides for specific trade certification exams. 
    • Trade examinations consist of multiple-choice questions.

What to Expect on Test Day: To be admitted into the test center, applicants must bring their notice to appear for examination. Applicants must also bring picture identification, such as a valid driver license, DMV identification card or military identification card. Pencils, calculators, and scale rulers are provided by the test center. Cell phones, personal calculators or other electronic devices are not permitted in the testing area. Personal items must be placed in a common storage area at the applicant’s own risk.

Applicants are given three and a half hours to complete each exam. 

Applicants are informed of their score before leaving the testing center, although those that pass the exam will only be informed they have passed, and are not given detailed score information while on site. 

Failure to appear on test day will result in a $60 rescheduling fee. 

Applicants unable to make their scheduled exam date are expected to notify the CSLB before the scheduled date. To cancel an examination, call the CSLB at 1-800-321-2752. 

Next Steps: Once a contractor passes the exams, the CSLB will provide the contractor with a form that outlines what needs to be submitted to meet insurance requirements. 

Contractors License Bond: Contractors must file a Contractor's License Bond with the CSLB Registrar for the amount of $15,000. A CLB is required for the issuance of an active license, reactivation of a license, and for the maintenance of an actively renewed license. The bond is filed to protect consumers and employees from unfair and unethical practices by a contractor. CCIS can help you obtain your CLB: https://www.ccisbonds.com/contractor-bond-california/

Letter of Bondability: When a contractor obtains their $15,000 Contractor’s License Bond from a Surety company, CCIS recommends obtaining a Letter of Bondability as well. The no-cost letter informs commercial companies and public works offices of the bonding capacity of the contractor they plan to award projects to. Setting up a contract account with the surety broker ahead of project bidding and awarding allows the future bonding process to be efficient and stream-lined.  

A Letter of Bondability can be required to be an approved contractor for Federal and Public Works projects, as they provide these Government agencies with an assurance of the contractor’s capacity, character and collateral. It also confirms that the Surety company is on the U.S. Treasury approved list and provides its A.M. Best rating. 

For more information on applying for a contractors license and testing information, visit: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/contractors/applicants/contractors_license/exam_application/