How to Become a Construction Worker: Job Description, Duties & Training


Excuse us for a moment while we try to shake loose both the image of the construction worker from the Village People and their song, “YMCA” out of our head. How about we get down to business today and construct a new career guide for you today…Especially now that you probably have the Village People and a construction worker in cowboy chaps floating around in your gray matter.

Today, we are super excited to give you the dirt on all you need to know about how to become a construction worker. We are going to hit the nail on the head, lay the bricks and saw away at all the finer points of this career path. We also promise to limit our use of bad construction puns as much as possible because we wouldn’t want you to think we’ve taken one too many trips to the paint store to smell the samples. Alright, kids – let’s put on our hard hats and get to work!

How to Become a Construction Worker

The majority of construction workers learn a trade from hands-on experience rather than going to college like some other professions require. You can start out in the industry with little to know experience and gain most of your knowledge and skill from an apprenticeship. You can’t really beat learning from someone that has been doing the very job you want to do for long enough to have mad skills.

There are certain areas of the construction industry that require more training than can be offered through watching and assisting a pro, however. These specialized areas of the field may require you to enter into a program or take a few certification classes in order to gain the knowledge needed. In these cases, a state license is required to work with an official title, such as an electrician or a plumber.

Once you’ve studied a trade closely and/or gone through the paces of a program/courses, you are ready to head out into the wide world of construction. Scoring a job can be easy if you are in the right location, have the right skills and aren’t afraid to work up a sweet.

One of the great things about becoming a construction worker, is the awesome ability to move into other areas and jobs once you reach a certain skill level. You’re not relegated to swinging a hammer or laying shingles forever if you’d like to advance on to other opportunities. The sky really is the limit in this industry and with the right go-getter attitude and some solid skills you can move up the ladder in no time.

Construction Worker Salary

As interesting as we’re sure you find the things that we are telling you about, we know that you’re really interested in the paycheck you’re going to bring home. Hey, we get it. Money does indeed make the world go ’round, so we’ll go ahead and tell you what kind of duckets may be headed your way.

Our pals over at the ever so helpful, Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported as of May 2013 an annual median salary of $30,460. This is just a general salary expectation and obviously doesn’t cover specialized ares of the industry, location of employment or any impact that unions may have upon your wages. There is quite a scope in this industry, though. Some green construction workers that are new on the scene may earn 10% of the nation median, which is $19,670. Those that have been swinging a hammer or wielding a jackhammer for a while may earn as much as $58,900 a year give or take a few clams. We’ll go into some of the more specific job opportunities in the industry as well as the potential wages coming up next, so hold tight and don’t go anywhere just yet!

Construction Worker Salary

Construction Worker Jobs

As we’ve mentioned, there are many different types of construction to specialize in and some of them are more lucrative in the paycheck department. So, how about we talk about some of those money making jobs in construction!

  • Cost Estimator: Cost estimators are reported to make an average yearly salary of $62,670 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This specialized area of construction will require you to both get on a job site and work in an office hunched over a calculator. The main function of a cost estimator is to manage the budget of projects from start to finish from nails to construction worker wages.
  • Construction Manager: This is a totally viable option for construction workers that would like to make some extra cheddar without the need to pick up a hammer or drill. The BLS comes in handy again here as they report that a yearly annual salary of $93,900 is possibly on the horizon for those that enter into a construction manager position. Your main tasks in this position are going to be managing hiccups that are bound to occur during a project, manage stuff both on the job site and in the office (if applicable), writing up job proposals and creating budget plans for materials and labor costs.
  • Plumber: Yep, you read that right! Plumbers are totally considered part of the construction trade and can earn a wage that makes playing in toilet water something worth considering. The BLS reports that plumbers can earn $51,830 a year or more depending on various circumstances. You don’t have to limit yourself in the plumbing profession to unclogging toilets, though. There is ample room to expand your trade into areas of new construction, installing newer, more efficient and low flow systems along with laying all the water and drainage pipes.
  • Glazier: You definitely don’t want to have a fear of heights if you are considering joining the construction world as a glazier. These are are the guys and gals that cut, install, fasten, seal and remove glass windows of skyscrapers and storefronts. Get ready to get harnessed up for a reported $41,620 according to the BLS. We’re not sure about you, but no amount of money could get us as high as some glaziers are willing to brave. If heights don’t bother you, go for it! All we have to say is good luck and better you than us!
  • Cement Mason and Concrete Finisher: The majority of buildings are built upon concrete and it certainly isn’t going to poor itself, so cement masons and concrete finishers step in at this point to take care of the job. There’s more to it than just mixing up some good old cement, however. There is work to be done installing rebar (along with other forms of reinforcing materials), spreading and leveling the cement mixture, monitoring said mixture for proper hardening, applying the appropriate sealants and any other cement/concrete-esque tasks. The BLS didn’t let us down here and has a reported annual salary of $39,370 listed on their website for this construction worker specialized field.
  • Painter: You don’t have to wear a tool belt and hard hat to be considered a construction worker as is evidence by the specific job as a painter being listed as one of the higher paying jobs in the industry. If you’re handy with a brush and don’t mind forever finding paint in the oddest of places on your body, then grab a brush and sign up with a union. Painters don’t “have” to have a specific amount of experience to find work, but it is helpful to your future if you find an apprenticeship or similar style of on the job training. You will likely learn some pretty important things that would take much longer to learn otherwise. We’re all about having a leg up on the job and that seems the way to gain one. The BLS reports that the average salary for a painter comes in at around $38,830, but there are some states, namely California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas, that are said to employ more painters and pay them a higher wage.
  • Brick Mason and Block Mason: Bricks and stone exteriors are pricey and require someone with super star skills to tackle, which is where brick and block masons come in. You can spend time laying new materials when new construction pops up and you can utilize your skills repairing and maintaining existing structures. The job outlook for brick and block masons is on the upswing and is expected to inflate to around 40% by 2020. When you couple the average yearly salary of $50,760 with the sweet job growth, it sounds like a nice slice of construction worker pie to us.
  • Electrician: We’d be lost with electricians in the construction industry for sure and the average yearly wage of $52,910 reflects that. There is a bit more work involved that there is in some other areas of construction, but once you lock that education in, you’re looking at a job that’s not going anywhere any time soon. You can work on new projects or old wiring, whichever strikes your fancy because as long as we are still flipping electrical switches, we will need electricians to connect us to the volts.
  • Carpenter: Well, it worked for Jesus, so why not you?! We’re kidding…Well, mostly kidding because the sandal footed Messiah sure was on to something way back when! Carpentry is one of the oldest professions and also allows skilled craftsman a good deal of versatility. You can work on small scale projects, specializing in fine details of homes or buildings. You can also go big or go home, working on massive projects that define the structures you work on. No matter what projects you opt for, you have high chances of employment and an average yearly salary of $44,330 if not more.

Construction Schools

Get a hands-on education at Lincoln Tech. Designed for today’s tough job market, our in-depth programs cover many fields including: Health Sciences, Business and Information Technology, Hospitality, Automotive Technology, HVAC Technology and Electrical Systems Technology. Financial Aid is available for those who qualify. Programs vary by campus.

Programs:

  • Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Electronic Systems Technician (EST)
Locations: Columbia

Aviation Institute of Maintenance schools are distinguished institutes committed to the education and personal enrichment of each student interested in the Aviation Industry. Students can succeed in our collegiate environment when properly motivated and taught to set goals in furthering their education. All aspects of our mechanic school are enriched with creating an atmosphere conducive to learning, while instilling a high degree of business ethics and professionalism.

Programs:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technician
  • Aviation Maintenance Technical Engineer
Locations: Manassas

Top States for Construction Workers to Find Work In

Sure, the economy took a nose dive in 2008 and is still working its way back up, which has left many construction projects at a stand still. Things are looking up in the industry though and there are some states that are seeing a lot of new projects take off finally. So, if you are considering a career as a construction worker and are up for relocating, here are the top states to find a construction jobs in right now!

Oklahoma

Get ready for tumble weeds and tornadoes if you decide to head to the Sooner State for construction work! Oklahoma wasn’t hit as badly by the recession as some other states, which is allowing them to continue adding construction jobs with an expected 48% expansion coming down the pike in the near future. The cost of living is low and the opportunities high with a new $777 million development package in the works too. It just might be worth braving the twisters in order to snag a good job with a bit of security.

Illinois

Illinois has some pretty high paying construction jobs according to the Illinois Department of Labor with an average worker earning roughly $35.20 an hour with many receiving health and retirement benefits too. The building has certainly slowed since 2009, but there are still jobs to be had. Some of the construction sites in this state are known to be a bit on the dangerous side due to the large nature of some building projects, but if you’re not afraid of heights, harnesses and other job hazards, then pack your bags and head on over to the Prairie State!

Florida

Things are definitely starting to look up for Florida with a 2% increase in new construction compared to last year and a big boost in residential contracts with an increase of a whopping 47%. That’s quite a spike even though the construction industry in the Sunshine State is still about 5% behind where it was in 2009. There is a high rate of pay for construction workers in our home state and the opportunity to work on your tan is hard to resist.

Texas

The Lone Star State or Texas if you’d rather, is good for more than just football, cowboy hats and good steaks! They are actually ranked pretty high on the list of states with new building. Some cities are experiencing more growth than others, but it seems that the state in general is seeing a nice boost in renovation and new construction. So, get your cowboy boots and ten gallon ready to go and mosey on down to Texas for some work and a good steak.

California

California isn’t called the Golden State for nothing, folks! According to Payscale.com it is tied with Florida for the highest hourly wage for construction workers. This is very good news and even better news keeps coming when we learn that the industry experienced a 22% growth in just one year. The California state government also looks out for construction workers and really support the workers in the state.

Did You Know They Used to Be Construction Workers?

Most actors didn’t come into this world the a foot in the movie world and had to have ordinary jobs. We stumbled upon some interesting finds when researching construction workers Take a look at these surprise former construction workers!

Harrison Ford

Long before his days as Hans Solo and Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford was a self taught carpenter. He worked hard as a carpenter to take care of his wife and two sons. He was still a young chap of about 30 so spending long hours working away at his wood became a rather lucrative endeavor. It didn’t take him long to build up a star studded client list that held the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Sergio Mendes and rock and roll legends, The Doors. He eventually struck gold when he built an awesome office cabinet for George Lucas. It wasn’t too long after that fateful meeting that he traded in his saw for a light saber.

Whoopi Goldberg

Yes, we really meant to type her name! Whoopi had a career as a bricklayer before her days cracking jokes on The View. As an aspiring actor and comedian, she would lay bricks and even built the walls that surround the San Diego Zoo. She is also a member of the bricklayer’s union. She said of her time slaving away over bricks and mortar, “I needed money and I needed to work. I figured I would rather lay bricks than lay men for money.”

George Clooney

We know George Clooney as an Academy Award winning actor, former self-proclaimed bachelor for life and humanitarian. Before the early days in his career when he played Joe the construction worker on the sitcom Baby Talk, he actually was a construction worker. He used his earnings from his job to pay for acting classes and it seems to us that all of that hard work paid off in the end!

Kathryn Bigelow

Famed Hurt Locker and Academy Award winning director, Kathryn Bigelow, used to renovate run-down apartments in New York. During the early 1970’s, Bigelow would buy fixer upper’s and do all of the work herself then flip the properties for a profit. She had a real knack for it too because it paid her way through Columbia University as a film student.

Joe Manganiello

Before he was making ladies drool as a male stripper in Magic Mike or as a bad to the bone werewolf on True Blood, Joe Manganiello was a real deal construction worker. He eventually tied up his work boots for greener pastures, but we are going to remember his in a flannel and tool belt forever…You’re welcome, ladies!

Break Out the Popcorn!

We found a great video about working in construction and it was short and sweet – just how we like it! It’s totally worth the watch and will be over before your popcorn is even done popping, which will leave you plenty of time to watch the new X-Men movie!

One Final Thought…

Before we wrap up our thoughts on the career of a construction worker, we’d like to make a couple of quick suggestions! There are a few other careers out there that jive with construction and can be possible future career choices for you once you’re ready to hang up your tool belt. Take a look into future careers as a project manager, bounty hunter, technical writer, parole officer or an architect.

Final Grade

We’ll take it easy on you here because we actually got our first major job in the construction work. Granted it wasn’t as an actual construction worker, but we love the field all the same. So, let’s get down to business and hammer out the last few details before we send you offer to pursue a new career.

Degree vs. Debt: A

Well, for starters and as we have already mentioned, most areas of construction don’t require any sort of actually education in order to get started. For the most part, positions are gained by having skills that fit into the particular job you are looking to earn in the industry. There are areas that may require you to take some certification classes or enroll into a training program, but neither of these is too expensive and won’t likely put you into the student debt club. If you do require some financial aid, it likely won’t be enough to really hurt you in the long run, therefore we feel that a nice shiny “A” is appropriate when considering the degree to debt ratio.

Difficulty of Degree: A

We are grading this section in a similar fashion to what we just referenced in the degree vs. debt area. A degree can’t be too difficult if you aren’t enrolled in one, right? For those in the industry that are required to take courses or enroll in a program – you won’t have it too bad and we’re sure that you will master the skills necessary without many brain cells being killed off in the process.

Happiness Quotient: B

We’ve known quite a few construction workers in our day and for the most part they seem to really like their jobs. There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with seeing your work right in front of you and know that you did a good job. Sure, it’s tiring on your body, you have to deal with a certain amount of job hazards and your totally going to get hat hair from wearing a hard hat all day – but it’s not a bad profession and your hard hat hair can be tamed with a comb and some gel!

Job Outlook: A+

We are very happy to report that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has some good news about the future job growth for construction workers. There is a projected to be a growth of about 25% from 2012 to 2022. This is great and much faster than the national average for all other professions.

Amazing Construction Organizations

Winter Construction

Winter Construction is a general contractor built on trust that is ranked as one of the ENR Top 400 contractors in the United States. Winter Construction’s awards include Healthiest Employer and Best Places to Work by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Georgia Safety Excellence Reward, and the Project Achievement Award from the Construction Management Association of America.

Alston Construction

Alston Construction, with offices all over the United States, can trace its operations back to 1986. Alston has built every kind of structure under the sun, with millions of square feet of experience. Alston recruits nationally, and has a very strong retention record, so they must be treating their employees right.

McGough

McGough’s history goes back to 19th Century Ireland, with six generations of the family in construction. McGough is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, with many other locations around the US. McGough’s strategy includes Remarkable People (and a low turnover rate), a Passion for Partnering and Thought Leadership.

Sources and Recommended Reading

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