The construction industry employs almost 6 million workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) notes, and mainly entails civil engineering and building construction projects. Construction trade schools may be of interest to those interested in the building side of construction for a number of professions including carpentry, roofing and construction management.
Construction Education Requirements and Specializations
Education requirements for construction workers vary depending on the type of career you want. For example, the BLS states that prospective construction laborers may attend a trade or vocational school or a community college. Apprenticeship programs are common for carpenters, and construction and building inspectors may need an associate degree with relevant coursework.
Available career specializations differ by construction profession. Below are potential specializations for a few construction-related professions:
- Construction laborers: Build roads and highways, build homes and businesses, remove hazardous substances, demolish buildings, dig mine shafts and tunnels
- Carpenters: Residential work, industrial and commercial buildings
- Construction and building inspectors: Building, electrical, mechanical, planning, plumbing, public works, elevators
Construction Certification and Licensing Options
Depending on the type of construction work students decide to pursue, they may need to earn licensing or certification. According to the BLS, construction laborers may need certification in specialty work areas such as:
- Radiological work
- Energy auditing
- Asbestos removal
- Work zone safety
There are many certifying institutions, and the certification that you choose may depend on requirements for your job or whatever specialization you're looking to get into. Here are a few suggestions:
- Construction Management Association of America -- offers a Certified Construction Manager designation
- American Institute of Constructors -- offers a manager certification
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) -- offers courses focused on safety training
- Project Management Professional -- Earn certification through online courses
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) -- Earn certification through online courses
How to Become a Construction Worker
There are a huge number of jobs in the construction industry, and many paths to take to get there. Here are a few steps to take if you're thinking about becoming a construction worker.
- Earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent. This is the standard requirement to most entry-level jobs in construction, and is usually a good thing to have if you're considering any type of skilled trade.
- Gain experience in construction. The BLS recommends getting into the business as early as possible, as many of the important skills you learn will be on the job. While education is important, experience is a huge factor when construction businesses are looking to hire.
- Take classes in architecture and engineering. Some related classes may be available to high schoolers, such as algebra, geometry, and writing, but community colleges may also offer programs in building inspection technology. The BLS also recommends taking courses in blueprint reading, vocational subjects, and business management if possible.
- (optional) Earn an associate degree in building inspection, home inspection, construction technology, and drafting. While not required at the entry-level, some higher positions may require an associate degree. This is also just a great way to gain more skills in your field or specialization.
- (optional) Earn a bachelor's degree. Those interested in upper-level management can earn a bachelor's degree in their field. Those who are looking to start their own business may consider a business degree, while others may want to earn a degree in architecture, engineering, building inspection or construction technology.
Expert Advice for Students in Construction Training
To find out more about what it takes to become a construction worker, and to get expert advice about the industry, we spoke with Caitlyn Roddy, who's been in the construction and real estate industry for five years. Though she fell into the industry by chance, she has fallen in love with it and all of the opportunity available, especially at her company Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers.
Caitlyn Roddy is a project manager for Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers.
RWM: Why would you encourage someone to pursue a career in construction?
Roddy: If you enjoy this type of work, the field can be incredibly rewarding as you get to have a hands-on experience in building something new. The work can be physically demanding, depending on the field. Hours are fairly standard across the industry: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Night and weekend work is often required, depending on the project, but can be quite lucrative when overtime is necessary. For me, being able to be a resource to our clients is very rewarding. Real estate and construction are complicated fields that many people do not have experience in, so experts in both fields are very much in demand.
RWM: Do you have any advice for young people who are just starting out in this career?
Roddy: It is a great time to get started in the construction industry, especially for women. The combination of a large percentage of the existing labor force reaching the age of retirement and the surge in development projects around the country means that the demand for new talent is high. I am thrilled to see that there is an increased focus on hiring women for construction work. However, this is a great time to get started in the industry for anyone who has new talent to offer.
RWM: What are the different job expectations for the field?
Roddy: Job expectations are as varied as the type of jobs in the industry. In my role, I manage real estate and construction projects from concept to completion. This involves coordination of all vendors, consultants, project team members, etc., all to ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget. I am available at all times for our clients to answer any and all questions, to provide solutions to problems of all nature and to anticipate potential issues that might cause a delay or a snag in the project.
However, job expectations really depend on the type of work you are doing and the client for which you are working. When construction timelines are short, expectations can be very high.
Construction Worker Salary and Career Info
According to the BLS, demand for construction laborers and carpenters may stem from ongoing projects to replace and repair infrastructure. While growth for various types of construction helpers can vary, population growth and construction of office buildings, power plants, schools, and factories may drive overall demand for these professionals.
|Career||Annual Median Wage||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Construction and Building Inspectors||57,340||8,100||8|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||42,280||659,000||10.1|
|Construction and Related Workers, All Other||36,300||2,400||6.9|
|Construction Trades Workers||41,020||514,000||10.3|
|First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers||62,070||57,700||10|
|Helpers, Construction Trades||28,380||32,700||14.4|
|Helpers, Construction Trades, All Other||28,510||2,000||10.2|
|Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators||44,600||37,200||10.2|
|Other Construction and Related Workers||41,930||31,300||7.5|
|Painters, Construction and Maintenance||36,580||26,500||7.4|
|Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers||62,070||57,700||10|
As for inspectors, the BLS predicts especially strong growth in government services and in businesses that specialize in engineering, architectural and related services. Concern for public safety and construction quality can help increase demand for this occupation.
- Carpenters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/carpenters.htm
- Construction and Building Inspectors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/construction-and-building-inspectors.htm
- Construction Laborers and Helpers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/construction-laborers-and-helpers.htm
- Construction: NAICS 23, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industries at a Glance, April 10, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag23.htm
- National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm