Construction Subcontractor: Job Description & Career Info

Jan 16, 2020

A construction subcontractor is hired by a general contractor to finish a specific job within a construction project. Plumbers, painters, electricians and other specialists may be considered construction subcontractors. Due to the range of different trades, there is no single educational track leading to a career as a construction subcontractor, but licensing may be required.

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What Is a Construction Subcontractor?

The building of any structure requires a number of laborers, artisans and professionals to complete the specific tasks in which they specialize. A general contractor estimates the total cost for building a project and places a bid or estimate on the entire project. In turn, construction subcontractors offer bids for their services and are hired by the general contractor based on those bids and their professional reputation. A construction subcontractor may supervise a crew of his or her own or work alone, depending on the scale of the project.

Required Education and Skills

Required Education No specific education is required
Job Duties Include offering bids for professional, laborer and artisan services; supervising a crew or working alone, depending on project size
Median Salary (2018)* $35,800 (all construction laborers)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 11% growth (all construction laborers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Because the occupation title of construction subcontractor includes a wide variety of skilled workers, there is no specific educational requirement. Plumbers may learn their trade through a vocational program or an apprenticeship, for example, or painters may receive on-the-job training. However, construction subcontractors holding a license in their specialty field may ask for and receive higher payment because licensing implies more hours of training and experience. There are many general contractors who will only accept bids from licensed subcontractors. Licensing requirements vary not only state-to-state, but city-to-city.

A construction subcontractor should be able to read blueprints and understand the basics of construction outside of their specialty. A general understanding of business management will be necessary to work as a construction subcontractor. Maintaining professional relationships with other laborers and general contractors is important, as is maintaining a reputation of reliability and honesty.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that job opportunities for construction laborers in general would grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. As of May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for construction laborers was $35,800. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that those with military experience may have better opportunities, but notes that the construction trade fluctuates with the economy.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

First, we have grounds maintenance worker. These workers usually learn their skills while on the job. Those who apply pesticides normally need licensing. Keeping the grounds of homes and businesses healthy and attractive, grounds maintenance workers mow, fertilize, weed, trim and water, in addition to planting new shrubs, trees and flowers. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported their annual median wages as $29,400 and predicted an average 9% growth for these positions from 2018 to 2028.

Another career option is material moving machine operator. These operators use machinery in transporting objects around construction sites or mines. Often needing at least a high school diploma, many of these workers then learn their skills through related occupations and on-the-job training. Very little growth was anticipated in this career, with only a 4% increase expected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2018 to 2028. According to that same source's records, the annual median salary for these operators in 2018 was $35,850.

A construction subcontractor is the person hired by the general contract to complete a project. There are many different types of work and, therefore, many different requirements for these jobs, though someone with a license in their specialty will generally make more money than someone without one.

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