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Building Construction Careers: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed have a career in building construction. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

The requirements for a career in building construction vary depending on the specific job. Construction workers usually need to be 18 years old with good English and math skills and may opt to pursue a trade certificate, or learn through on-the-job training. Construction managers need a degree in civil engineering or a related field.

Essential Information

Building construction is one of the nation's largest industries and includes a variety of professional occupations. Entry-level work is available to those who complete a training program or trade apprenticeship. Completion of a bachelor's degree program is common for managers.

Required Education Training program completion for entry-level
Other Requirements Civil engineering degree or related area for managers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 13% for construction laborers
Median Salary (2015)* $31,910 annually for construction laborers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options in Building Construction

Construction Workers

Building construction involves the organization of materials and equipment, preparation of the construction site, assembly of scaffolding and clean up after completion of the project. Construction work encompasses a variety of trades, in which workers specialize with a particular type of material or equipment, such as metal workers or heavy equipment operators. There can also be specialty crafts within a trade. For example, a carpenter can erect the frame of a house, install siding, install doors or construct cabinets.

Construction Management

Construction managers, also known as foremen or contractors, coordinate the building process. They provide job estimates to clients, work with architects, and direct construction workers. Duties include preparation of project contracts, selection of building materials, acquisition of construction permits and coordinating the progress of craftsmen.

Salary and Job Outlook

Because there are many types of construction careers, the actual salary and job outlook may depend on several factors, including location, regional demand and skills of the employee. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that construction workers made a median hourly wage of $15.34, or a median annual salary of $31,910. This job sector is expected to grow 13% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average of all occupations for that time period.

The BLS also reported that construction managers made a median hourly wage of $42.02 or a median annual salary of $87,400 in 2015. Additionally, construction manager positions are expected to grow at an average pace of 5% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Requirements for Building Construction Careers

Construction workers typically need to be 18 years old and have good reading and math skills. Technical and vocational schools offer certificate programs for different trades; however, training is often provided by a company or via a trade union's apprenticeship program.

Educational Requirements for Construction Workers

According to the BLS, while there are some jobs in the construction industry that demand specific training or skills, other jobs don't require any particular educational prerequisites for a starting position. However, a high school diploma is usually needed for most apprenticeship programs. Good high school preparation for a career in construction includes classes in math, English, science, shop, and if available, blueprint reading and welding.

Apprenticeships often involve both classroom sessions and on-the-job training under the supervision of more experienced workers. Apprenticeships can last between 2-5 years. Some specialty occupations, such as electricians and equipment operators, also require a state license.

Professional organizations and unions offer continuing education programs, which allow trade workers to learn different crafts and stay current with safety and construction regulations. Some of these organizations and unions also offer certification programs. Certification can increase career opportunities, but is not required for employment.

Educational Requirements for Construction Managers

Most construction managers complete a bachelor's degree program, though workers who don't have a bachelor's degree but do have sufficient experience or other training can also advance to manager positions. Degree programs for construction managers include construction science, civil engineering and architecture. Contractors must also be licensed to work in their state.

The Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors offer certifications for those who have completed a relevant degree program or accrued enough professional experience.

Construction workers set up scaffolding, prepare and organize materials and equipment and clean up after a job is finished. They may specialize in a specific trade, such as plumbing or carpentry. Construction managers oversee the entire construction project to ensure they have the money and manpower to complete the project on schedule.


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