Be a Heavy Construction Contractor: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a heavy construction contractor. Learn about the job duties and go over the step-by-step process to start a career in heavy construction. View article »

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  • 0:00 Career Info
  • 1:19 Get Construction Experience
  • 2:12 Get a Degree
  • 2:45 Get Certified

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Video Transcript

Career Info

Education Level High school diploma; postsecondary training helpful
Certification and Licensure Voluntary certification; licensure varies by state for heavy equipment operation
Key Skills Communication, problem-solving, time-management, interpersonal, and administration skills; familiarity with related software for time accounting and facilities management; understanding safety standards, equipment repair, building codes, and estimation procedures; use of field-specific tools such as hoists, drilling rigs, jacks, and loading equipment
Salary $87,400 (2015 median for construction managers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, iSEEK

Heavy construction contractors usually supervise public works projects, such as the building of bypasses and the relocation of sewer lines. Contractors hire construction crews and give crewmembers directions on which tasks need to be completed. Many contractors also deal with the pre-construction process, including budget projections, site surveys, and the necessary permits.

Many construction contractors are self-employed. Those that are self-employed must generate their own business and lulls between contracts can cause financial stress. Construction contractors and managers usually work in an office setting, either a main office or a field office, as well as on the construction site. Though most positions are full-time, longer hours to meet deadlines are not uncommon. These professionals should have strong problem-solving, time management and communication skills, as well as familiarity with time accounting and facilities management software and an understanding of safety standards, equipment repair, building codes and equipment. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that construction managers working in the United States earned a median annual salary of $87,400 in that year.

Get Construction Experience

Most contractors gain experience by first working entry-level positions in the heavy construction trade. In these positions, new employees are trained by experienced workers on simpler tasks, such as digging trenches for sewer lines or cleaning up job sites. Over time, workers learn to use heavy equipment, including jackhammers, pipe cutters and bulldozers.

Prospective contractors can also gain paid experience by completing an apprenticeship. These programs typically take at least three years and include classroom training. Apprentices can learn skills in areas that include operating procedures and how to pour concrete.

Some states require licensure to operate heavy machinery, and requirements can vary by state. The International Union of Operating Engineers offers information on licensure, apprenticeship, training and certification in the profession.

Earn a Degree

Although not required for all contracting positions, employers may look for applicants who have an undergraduate degree. Applicable majors include civil engineering, construction science and construction management. Coursework in construction science programs covers building materials and construction technologies, as well as the skills for designing structures, reading blueprints and estimating costs. Contractors who want to work in heavy construction may consider taking civil engineering electives that discuss construction for roads, bridges and utilities.

Get Certified

Contractors can earn voluntary certification within their specific fields, which requires meeting initial requirements, such as experience in construction management and the appropriate level of education. Upon meeting eligibility requirements, applicants may be required to pass one or more exams covering topics such as project management, cost estimation, quality control, contract negotiation, communication and planning. These credentials can be found through organizations that include the American Institute of Constructors & Constructor Certification Commission and Construction Management Association of America.

Once more, individuals who want to become construction contractors should seriously consider building experience in the construction industry and possibly completing a degree program and earning certification.

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