From watching Bob the Builder as a child to seeing all the construction happening around town, the construction industry has always contained a certain mystique. Despite the mystery, however, this exciting, fast-paced career path is extremely rewarding.
It’s time to end the mystique. Here are 17 of the best construction jobs and how you can get involved:
Carpenters have some of the most versatile jobs in the construction field. While each specialty of carpentry has its own responsibilities, a carpenter generally deals mostly with forming and repairing a building’s framework and structures. This includes tasks like measuring, cutting, and framing wood, glass, and drywall.
Most carpenters nowadays are self-employed; therefore, they get to choose their own clients and hours. There also isn’t a lot of formal training required; most learn on the job, through an apprenticeship, or start out as a helper.
Most electricians are contractors who get to work either in industrial, commercial, or residential settings. Often, they are working in cramped spaces and handling dangerous electrical tools, making this one of the most skilled construction jobs.
The job of an electrician generally includes installing and inspecting wiring and lighting systems according to a building’s blueprints or technical diagrams. Therefore, most electricians need to obtain certification from an electrical licensing board and attend technical school before they can work.
We’ve all called a plumber to deal with that clogged toilet or those pesky bathroom pipes that just won’t work. While plumbers do require some training to deal with those complicated water lines, training is easily accessible from a trade school or through an apprenticeship. Once you’ve received training, you’re pretty much set to work for an average of $20 an hour.
These aren’t the Picassos or Van Gogh’s of the world (though they may have the artistic skill). These are the people who give the walls of a building their finished look. Not only do painters clean and smooth the walls and other surfaces, but also decorate them with paint and spray guns. It’s intricate and physically-demanding work at times, but these people are up to the task.
Most painters learn their trade on-the-job or through an apprenticeship, so it’s very easy to make money quickly with this career path. Painters also have the opportunity to work full time and be self-employed.
5. Drywall Installer
These are the guys that actually install the walls of a building. Training is required for this job, and can be obtained through an apprenticeship program or through on-the-job training. Drywall installers do have a lot of physical demands, and often the sites they work on can be dangerous thanks to the sharp tools and heavy equipment they work with.
However, the job market isn't extremely competitive. If you’ve got the grit and strength, this could be the job for you.
Glaziers deal specifically with any and all types of glass, including installing windows in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. This job requires the knowledge and experience with multiple power tools and small glass-cutting tools, which can be learned through an apprenticeship with an experienced glazier.
If this sounds like an appealing job, then go out and find an apprenticeship. It’s a relatively easy career path to get into.
7. Tile Contractor
A Tile Contractor install tiles on floors, walls, and ceilings in private and public buildings. This job requires long hours of heavy lifting, bending down, and reaching for heavy objects, with specific duties including surface preparation, grouting, and sealing.
8. Mason & Concrete Finisher
If you’ve been to a construction site, you may have seen the giant cement truck pouring cement onto a street or building. The Mason and Concrete Finishers are the ones who come to the construction site to smooth out and level the concrete after it's poured. This includes fixing high spots and filling depressions in the concrete, finish the corners of the concrete by hand, and wash away excess concrete.
Like most construction jobs, Mason and Concrete Finishers get their start through apprenticeships or training programs. Once one’s training is completed, it's a relatively easily field to get into.
Photo Credit: Timothy Krause
Brickmasons, in general, are responsible for constructing a brick wall or other wall surface. The specific job that a Brickmason does, however, depends on his level of experience. A skilled Brickmason will lay the patterns and foundations for the apprentice to learn from while the apprentices do the heavy duty physical task of constructing the wall.
Formal training is not required to become a brick mason — you simply start off as a Mason Helper and then, with more experience, work your way up.
10. Construction Worker
The general construction worker is the jack-of-all-trades of the industry. Always ready to open a toolbox, these are the guys who do the nitty gritty and more general work on a construction site. Generally, their hours are fairly long, but outdoor construction workers can usually get a break during the winter time.
There are peak months and times when construction workers need to be available, so this is definitely not a 9-5 job. However, the pay is good and you’re generally working with other construction workers who offer good company.
11. Crane Operator
This is the job that every toddler who plays with construction-related toys wants: operating the large crane at construction sites. It demands a lot of responsibility, but is also a really cool experience.
The amount of training required to be a crane operator varies, but it is definitely necessary. Once they are trained, though, their skills will be in high demand so finding employment should be relatively easy.
12. Cost Estimator
Cost Estimators are the ones who deliver the bad news: the cost of the construction project. They typically go to a construction site, assess the materials, equipment, and labor needed, and then figure out approximately how much the project is going to take to finance.
In order to become a cost estimator, you need to have a knack for numbers and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. Some on-the-job training may be necessary, but it mostly involves learning a company’s cost estimating software.
13. Project Manager
Construction Project Managers are responsible for scheduling and organizing an entire construction project. Depending on the size of the project, there can either be one project manager overseeing the entire construction site or multiple managers that are each responsible for a specific part of the project.
In addition to having industry experience, most project managers need to have a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field such as civil engineering or building science. They are also expected to work as an intern for several years to gain knowledge and experience, so for those looking for a high-ranking construction position and willing to put in the work, this is the job for you!
The Surveyor comes in before the foundation of a building has even been laid. They inspect and gather data on a potential site — elevation, contour, location, and property lines, among others — and then compile this information and present it for construction and other purposes.
Generally, Surveyors need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a related construction field or some other form of post-graduate qualification. On average, they also need about two-years of experience before they can become an independent contractor.
15. Site Safety Manager
The Site Safety Managers act almost like inspectors, but their main concern isn’t whether a site is following the rules, but rather whether a site is safe to enter and work in. For this reason, they are primarily responsible for each injury or accident that occurs at a construction site.
Site Safety Managers are increasingly obtaining bachelor’s degrees or receiving training from a 3-4 year program, indicating the importance of their job. A college degree is required to obtain certification to work as a Site Safety Manager, which is not necessarily required, but will make it significantly easier to find employment.
16. Construction Inspector
Construction Inspectors are there through each phase of the building process and periodically after a project is completed to ensure that each building, highway, dam, or other piece of infrastructure, is built according to the specified regulations and building codes.
In addition to having advanced knowledge of all building codes and ordinances, a growing number of construction inspectors are obtaining bachelor’s degrees or at least participating in a 3-4 year training program, as well as gaining certification.
Construction Inspectors often work in a competitive business, but those that are licensed to inspect a wide variety of architectural structures nationally will have better prospects and the best salaries.
17. Civil Engineer
Civil Engineers are generally concerned with the feasibility of proposed construction process. They analyze factors such as soil composition and government regulations in order to determine whether projects meet the mandated and general safety requirements.
There is much more work required to become a civil engineer than other construction positions. They need at least a Bachelor’s Degree and a license in all states and the District of Columbia, in addition to Civil Engineer in Training certification. In return for the extra education and licensing requirements, however, Civil Engineers are often paid high salaries and are given far more opportunity for advancement.
Photo Credit: Sheila in Moonducks
There you have it — the most common to the most rewarding jobs in the construction industry. While some are more managerial and some require less training, each one is vital to the safety and execution of every construction project. You can’t go wrong with any of them, so find one that interests you and apply now!