How Much Does a Contractor Get Paid?

Rose Morrison

Jul 7, 2023

A photo of a construction worker

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Do you have the building skills and want to know how much you’d get paid to work as a contractor? Independent contractors trade their building, repair and installation expertise for good money. If you’re new in the field, find out how much a contractor takes home for pay. 

Responsibilities of a Contractor

Contractors carry out different tasks in construction projects. These projects may include residential and commercial buildings, infrastructures and industrial projects. Their roles may vary from one project to another, but overall, they plan, implement and oversee the completion of a project. Here are some of the general duties of a contractor.

1. Plan the project

They plan how to develop the project. They list the materials needed, estimate the time for completion and think of solutions for potential issues.

2. Manage the project

They manage the budget, equipment and generated waste and hire subcontractors to finish the project.

3. Monitor progress

A contractor ensures that the project is on schedule and that the quality of work is maintained. They review, modify and update the project details based on feedback.

4. Comply with legal responsibilities

The contractor secures building permits and other legal and regulatory requirements. 

5. Oversee safety

They make sure that everyone working on the project adheres to the safety policy, like the use of safety equipment. 

Types of Contractors

Different types of contractors work together to complete a building construction project from start to finish. Some of these people have specialization. 

  1. General Contractors

These are workers who don’t specialize in one area. They’re generalists with extensive building skills and know home systems at a broad level. More often, they assume the responsibilities of a project manager and lead the subcontractors. 

  1. Design-Build Contractors

These are a team of specialists consisting of a designer, contractor and subcontractors. With design-build contractors, you have access to various talents from the start to the end of the project. Instead of individually hiring a designer and a tile installer, the home-building process becomes seamless if an entire team works together. 

  1. Specialist Contractors

Contractors with specialty only focus on one area of the construction process, like plumbing, painting or tile installation. A plumber works on pipes while the electrician installs the light fixtures. The work they do is limited to their field of focus.

Per Hour Pay for Contractors

The pay varies since contractors have different job descriptions. Some are engineers and others are carpenters. The location also affects the hourly rate. Nationwide, the mean wage per hour for construction workers is $22.29 or $46,350 annually. 

States With the Highest Employment Level for Construction Jobs

Texas, California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania are the top five states that employ the highest number of construction workers.  

State Employment  Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Texas 112,760 $ 18.08 $ 37,600
California 95,900 $ 27.03 $ 56,210
Florida 68,150 $ 18.12 $ 37,690
New York 48,320 $ 28.50 $ 59,280
Pennsylvania 37,970 $ 24.11 $ 50,150

States With the Highest Pay For Construction Jobs

Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York are the five top-paying states for construction jobs.

State Employment  Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Hawaii 4,320 $ 32.04 $ 66,650
Illinois 27,680 $ 31.53 $ 65,590
New Jersey 20,120 $ 31.53 $ 65,590
Massachusetts 20,490 $ 31.22 $ 64,940
New York 48,320 $ 28.50 $ 59,280

Among the metropolitan areas, Trenton, New Jersey, pays the highest mean wage for construction workers at $33.19 per hour. North northeastern Ohio pays the most within non-metropolitan areas at $22.69 per hour. 

The compensation for construction jobs continues to increase nationwide from $34.53 per hour in May 2022 to $36.29 in May 2023.

Highest-Paying Construction Jobs

The earning ability of independent contractors is based on their expertise, specialization and role. Some contractors will manage and oversee the project, while others will install, repair and do hands-on work. Here are the top-paying construction workers and their estimated annual wages. 

1. Site Safety Manager

Annual salary: $66,500 to $92,500 

2. Civil Engineer

Annual salary: $65,000 to $89,500 

3. Construction Superintendent

Annual salary: $60,000 to $89,500 

4. Elevator Mechanic

Annual salary: $52,500 to $88,000 

5. Cost Estimator

Annual salary: $47,000 to $86,000 

6. Safety Manager

Annual salary: $56,000 to $81,000 

7. Construction Inspector

Annual salary: $46,000 to $71,000 

8. Electrical Contractor

Annual salary: $30,500 to $70,000 

9. Surveyor

Annual salary: $37,500 to $69,000 

10. Elevator Supervisor

Annual salary: $32,500 to $66,000 

11. Building Inspector

Annual salary: $45,000 to $63,500 

12. Boilermaker

Annual salary: $43,500 to $63,500 

13. Sheet Metal Foreman

Annual salary: $46,500 to $62,500 

14. Solar Installation Foreman

Annual salary: $52,000 to $60,000 

15. Crane Operator

Annual salary: $33,500 to $58,500 

General Contractor Rate per House

For projects from scratch, general contractors typically charge 10% to 20% of the entire project cost. If a house costs $300,000 to build, the contractor will take between $30,000 to $60,000. 

For repairs, installations and small- to large-scale home upgrades, the general contractor’s fee may be as little as $20 per hour to over $10,000. 

Factors That Affect a Contractor’s Hourly Rates

General contractors may change their rates depending on several factors. 

  • Scope of work: Large-scale and complex home improvement projects will cost more. 
  • Location: Contractors in states with high costs of living will charge more. 
  • Materials: They also add the cost of siding supplies, lumber and other construction materials to the final rate.
  • Timeline: Rush projects will incur more money since the staff will need to work overtime.
  • Overhead: Contractors add the equipment rental, utility bills and insurance to the labor cost.  
  • Change order fee: Contractors charge a fee if clients decide to change the project scope.

Making Money as a General Contractor

Many factors influence the compensation of contractors, including the size of the project, timeline, materials and location. Skills, reputation and experience can make you earn an excellent living as a general contractor. Depending on the local regulations, you may get a job as a contractor with or without needing a license. If you plan to break into the field, make sure you check the state laws for independent contractors. 

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