(5.2 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||50,100|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Construction Jobs||#5|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#86|
Cement masons and concrete finishers perform specialized masonry work dealing with finished concrete (cement masons) and poured concrete (concrete finishers). The jobs are usually outdoors on construction sites and may be physically demanding. Seasonal work is common in colder climates. Required skills are similar across the country, but building codes and weather-related working conditions have an impact on local job conditions. Knowledge of the properties of cement is essential, including how variable weather conditions may affect the pouring, leveling, setting, and finishing processes. Cement masons doing decorative finished work employ design, color, and visual skills. Commercial projects can last for years and demand more specialized skills, while residential projects may take only a few days. Cement masons tend to work with finished cement forms and mortar to erect walls and other above-ground structures.
Concrete finishers pour wet cement into various forms and tend to work on foundation slabs, sidewalks, roads, curbs, and other ground-level projects. "The cement mason's work begins where the finisher leaves off," observes Al Herndon, who oversees masonry training in Florida for the Florida Masonry Apprentice and Education Foundation. Some masonry projects, particularly on smaller residential jobs, require one mason to do both cement and concrete work. But at larger, commercial jobs, there is more likely to be separate masons for each job. "A cement mason will tell you he has more skills than a concrete finisher, and a concrete finisher will tell you he has more skills than a cement mason," Herndon jokes. Cement masons need to be able to follow detailed directions to make complex building components. Concrete finishers, on the other hand, must know how to work quickly and effectively to pour and shape concrete. "You have to do it correctly the first time," Herndon says. "You don't get a second chance with cement."
Job opportunities are directly linked with economic growth and building activity. After several very lean years, the pace of both residential and commercial building work is picking up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment growth of about 35 percent between 2010 and 2020. That's a projected 50,100 new jobs and 22,800 replacement jobs. There were 135,330 employed cement masons and concrete finishers in 2011; this excludes self-employed contractors, who accounted for 6 percent of cement masons and concrete finishers in 2010.
According to the BLS, cement masons and concrete finishers had median earnings of $35,600 in 2011, or $17.11 an hour. The best-paid earned about $62,600, while the lowest-paid earned $23,180. Experienced journeymen can earn top dollars if they're able to perform multiple masonry skills. Apprentices earn about half the salaries of basic journeymen. Employment sectors that pay well include federal and local government, as well as architectural and engineering firms. Top-paying markets include Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska.
Entry-level masons often enter the industry after high school and receive on-the-job training. As they gather experience and perspective, they tend to seek apprenticeship training in their early 20s after deciding to make a career in masonry, Herndon says A free, two-year, 144-hour apprenticeship program is available for craftsmen in both union and non-union contractors. Roughly half of all cement masons and concrete finishers complete apprenticeship programs, entitling them to higher pay and more advancement opportunities.
Masons can expect to work for both union and non-union contractors and can access job opportunities through either employment channel. Personal contacts and word-of-mouth are common entry points into the profession, usually after high school. Increasingly, specialized construction trades programs at high schools seek to interest future masons and provide them some of the employable skills they will need. Willingness to travel also may help, as some masonry contractors bid on work projects across a large geographic area. Better math skills are a growing priority for the industry.
|Stress Level||Above Average|
Last updated by Philip Moeller.