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Become a Construction Laborer: Career Guide

Learn about the requirements to become a construction laborer. You'll learn about the job description and see the step-by-step process to start a career in construction labor. View article »

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  • 0:00 Construction Laborers
  • 0:54 The Career
  • 1:40 On-The-Job Training &…
  • 3:05 Certification

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Video Transcript

Construction Laborers

Degree Level None
Licensure/Certification Hazardous materials handling requires licensure; certification may be required
Experience Apprenticeships available; advancement commensurate with experience
Key Skills Math skills; knowledge of construction equipment; color vision, physical strength, and stamina
Salary $14.00 per hour (2016 median for construction laborers)

Source: Payscale.com (July 2015)

Construction laborers perform a variety of manual labor tasks at construction sites, including preparation, building, dismantling, and the operation of machines. Most construction laborers are generalists, meaning they can work in several areas or aspects of construction. However, some choose to specialize in areas such as hazardous materials, digging tunnels, or building homes. The work is physically demanding, and safety precautions must be taken to prevent injury. PayScale.com reports that the median pay for construction laborers is $14.00 an hour as of October 2016.

There are three main steps to becoming a construction laborer:

  1. Learn about the career
  2. Complete on-the-job training or an apprenticeship
  3. Consider earning certification

Step 1: Learn About the Career

Some of the types of construction that construction laborers perform include residential, commercial, highway, and tunnel. They may work on demolition sites as well. Typical job duties can include cleaning and preparing construction sites, assembling and disassembling scaffolding and other temporary structures, removing trees and debris, laying out building materials, and preparing materials.

Construction laborers must be familiar with reading plans to determine each day's activities and assignments. Job duties during construction can include controlling traffic, directing equipment operators, digging trenches, installing drainpipes, polishing surfaces, setting explosives, and marking measurements.

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Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training or an Apprenticeship Program

Construction laborers generally learn all the skills needed to do their jobs by completing on-the-job training. However, apprenticeship programs are also available and may provide more thorough training. Those who choose to learn through on-the-job training usually start by assisting the more experienced workers. They perform routine tasks, such as unloading materials and cleaning the construction sites. Trainees gradually learn to operate equipment and perform more complicated tasks.

Apprenticeship programs typically combine classroom and on-the-job training, and most last two to four years. Apprentices are taught health and safety procedures, how to read blueprints, and how to operate equipment. Those who plan to work with dangerous equipment or toxic chemicals receive in-depth training regarding safety.

Success Tips:

  • Check the requirements: Apprenticeship programs may have specific requirements for incoming applicants to meet. Aspiring construction laborers should be sure that they meet all requirements before applying for the program.
  • Hone related skills: Some characteristics that can help construction laborers perform their jobs include good hand-eye coordination, physical fitness, a good sense of balance, manual dexterity, and teamwork skills. They should be able to read and follow directions and have basic math skills as well.

Step 3: Consider Earning Certification

Construction laborers who would like to perform complex tasks may choose to earn certification in a number of different areas. For example, the American Welding Society (AWS) offers certification in welding, and the American Concrete Institute (ACI) offers certification in concrete finishing. The AWS' Certified Welder (CW) designation has no formal prerequisites. To earn certification, a person must demonstrate that he or she can deposit a sound weld. Certification remains valid as long as the welder provides written documentation signed by an employer that he or she still performs the type of welding covered by the certification exam.

To earn Concrete Flatwork Finisher/Technician certification from the ACI, a person must have approved work experience. Those who have 1,500 hours of experience must pass the ACI performance evaluation, while those who have at least 4,500 hours of experience must complete the Alternative Performance Affidavit. All certification candidates must pass an examination. Certification must be renewed every five years by passing a written exam.

Remember, to become a construction laborer, prospective workers should familiarize themselves with the job, complete on-the-job training or an apprenticeship program, and consider earning certification in a particular specialty area, such as concrete or welding.

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