Types of Construction Workers: Career Overviews by Specialization

Construction is generally the industry of building or improving structures. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for professionals.

There are many career options in construction. Construction managers need a bachelor's degree, while carpenters, structural iron and steel workers, painters, carpet installers and tile installers may all learn their trade through apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

Essential Information

Jobs in the construction field require workers to hold various skills, from construction managers to floor installers. These workers generally learn their trade on the job, but may require a more formal education through college classes or apprenticeships. Additionally, some high schools offer vocational programs in construction that create a solid background for future employment in the field.

Career Construction Manager Carpenter Structural Iron and Steel Worker Painter
Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree High School Diploma; Apprenticeship High School Diploma or equivalent High School Diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements N/A N/A Completion of classes in mathematics and welding N/A
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% 6% 4% 7%
Median Salary (2015)* $87,400 annually $42,090 annually $50,490 annually $36,580 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

A number of career paths are open to professionals interested in construction, such as a construction manager, carpenter, iron and steel worker, painter or floor installer. All of these careers require different levels of education and training, and are detailed below.

Construction Manager

Construction managers generally need a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management or related field. These 4-year degree programs focus on management skills, building materials and methods, cost estimation, scheduling, purchasing and successful business operation. However, workers with enough work experience in construction, in addition to some required class work, may be considered for management positions. Additionally, the Construction Management Association of America offers the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) exam for those looking to advance their careers in the construction field.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a construction manager as of May 2015 was $87,400 per year. The BLS predicts that employment prospects for construction managers will grow by 5% between the years 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Carpenter

Aspiring carpenters should take preliminary high school classes such as math and shop. While taking vocational or trade classes in high school or community college, students can often assist carpenters on worksites. Some employers or associations such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters also offer apprenticeships to those looking for experience in carpentry.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

As of May 2015, the BLS approximated the carpenter's median annual salary to be $42,090. It also estimated that the employment prospects for carpenters would increase by 6% from 2014-2024. This projected growth is largely due to an increasing population's needing housing.

Structural Iron and Steel Worker

A high school diploma along with classes in mathematics and welding will help a person find a job or apprenticeship in structural iron and steel working. While some workers receive on-the-job training directly out of high school, several organizations offer apprenticeships. For example, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers offers certification programs and apprenticeships, including some specifically oriented to veterans of the Armed Forces.

These workers must also be physically capable of maneuvering the metal beams and other heavy materials used in this trade. Additionally, metal structural reinforcement workers often must work at great heights, making this an inappropriate job for those with vertigo.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The BLS projects that the job growth rate for structural iron and steel workers will be 4% between 2014 and 2024. It additionally estimated the median annual salary of these workers to be $50,490 in May 2015.

Painter

Painters generally need to be 18 years old and hold a high school diploma. On-the-job training is often offered by employers, but higher pay and more job opportunities are available for those with previous experience. Organizations and unions such as the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) offer apprenticeship programs for painters. This training and experience help painters understand which paints and finishes are appropriate for the job sites on which they are working.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The BLS estimated the annual median salary of a painter to be $36,580 as of May 2015. According to BLS projections, the job growth for painters is expected to increase at a rate of 7% during the 2014-2024 decade. Due to a high employee turnover rate, job prospects in this field will likely be good.

Floor Installer

Flooring installers generally learn their trade on the job, advancing from assistant positions to working on all aspects of installation. Contractors also typically offer apprenticeship programs for the tile setters whom they employ. These positions often lead to supervisory and management roles.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The BLS predicts that the number of jobs will decrease 1% for carpet installers between the years 2014 and 2024, while tile and marble setters are expected to see a 5% employment increase during that period. The BLS listed the annual median salary for carpet installers at $37,220 in May 2015; tile and marble setters at that time earned a median wage of $39,400 per year.

Construction workers typically require good physical strength and stamina. They may be required to work long hours in varying work conditions, depending on their specific responsibilities. Many careers can be pursued with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, although a degree is required for construction management positions.


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