Balfour Beatty, Galliford Try and Vinci Education have been shortlisted for the £220 million Derby Building Schools for the Future contract.
The three contractors will battle it out for the right to work on 14 schools for the East Midlands council.
After a three month period of competitive dialogue, the three bidders will submit initial bids in September.
The list will then go down to two and the second phase of the tendering process will run from November 2009 to February 2010.
Final bids will then be submitted in March 2010, and a preferred bidder selected.
The first phase of building work is likely to be completed by September 2012 for the first phase of schools, and the final phase will be completed by September 2014.