What Is the Role of a Main Contractor?

Main contractors, sometimes known as general contractors or construction managers, have overall responsibility for planning, coordinating and supervising the work of specialists, laborers and other personnel on a large-scale construction project. Main contractors may work on multiple projects at once.

Many main contractors specialize in a particular sector of the building industry, such as residential homebuilding, commercial or industrial construction, or public infrastructure projects. Regardless of the sector, main contractors typically see projects through from the design phase to the final inspection phase, delivering the finished product to the customer.

Main contractors prepare initial budgets and work schedules. They hire architects, engineers, building specialists and other subcontractors as needed to carry out the project. Main contractors are responsible for making sure that a given project adheres to all local regulations, including safety and building codes. They are responsible for responding to emergencies and incidental work problems and delays as work on the project is carried out. Unusually large projects are typically overseen by a team of construction managers who work under the supervision of the main contractor.

Many states require main contractors to obtain a license to oversee certain types of construction work. Basic requirements for a general contracting license vary widely by state. Most states do not require an academic degree. However, according to an occupational survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of construction management is becoming more professionalized and main contractors increasingly require a bachelor’s degree in construction management or a related field to qualify for employment.