The average construction project utilizes the efforts of anywhere from dozens to hundreds of workers. The general contractor is the person responsible for overseeing the work of those workers and making sure the project is completed on time and on budget. General contractors work on small projects such as residential construction, as well as large projects such as bridges, malls and public buildings.
General contractors hire and schedule specialized crews of subcontractors--skilled workers such as electricians, framers, roofers and plumbers. Many general contractors have some experience in construction labor, which gives them the ability to supervise and analyze the work of his subcontractors. He coordinates the sequence of workers to ensure the project runs smoothly. General contractors meet with local building inspectors, as well as prepare and submit all necessary forms and permit applications. General contractors are responsible for keeping track of all financial transactions and for making sure his workers are paid accurately and promptly. Many states require general contractors to hold a license, but not all states do.
General contractor salaries suffered after the real estate meltdown of 2007, yet as of 2011, general contractors earn an above average salary. According to Pay Scale, the average annual salary range for general contractors as of January 2011 was between $41,105 and $84,133, with a median of $57,288. SimplyHired reported a similar January 2011 median salary of $58,000. For those general contractors who are paid by the hour, PayScale reported an average hourly rate of $28.03. Many general contractors are also paid bonuses and benefits, which increases their total compensation amount.
Experience plays a large part in the salary level of a general contractor. The January 2011 average starting salary range for general contractors was $25,000 to $49,495 per year, according to PayScale. After 10 years, the average annual salary range sits between $44,849 and $98,294.
Not all general contractors have a degree, but a degree in construction does allow for greater earning potential. Graduates of some of the more prominent schools earn better than average salaries. In January 2011, PayScale reported general contractor graduates of Virginia Tech earned between $56,066 and $103,593 on average, while graduates of Texas A&M University earned from $51,206 to $87,643.
General contractors working on the east and west coasts earned higher than average salaries. Those in New Jersey and California earned from $50,000 to over $100,000 on average per year as of January 2011. Southern general contractors such as those in North Carolina and Texas earned less on average, from $40,000 to $80,000 annually.