|Number of Jobs:||212,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Construction Jobs||#10|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#98|
A construction site is a massive production where jobs can be split into three groups. There are those in skilled trades: the carpenters, engineers, and architects who design and implement the project. There are those in management: the managers and surveyors who perform the administrative tasks necessary to get the project started and keep it running, then oversee its completion. And then there are the general workers: the personnel tasked with assisting tradespeople to perform the labor required to finish the project. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that there were 998,800 general construction workers in 2010, assisting with an essential and exhaustive catalog of duties.
Construction work is usually a progressive occupation. Many laborers start out as generalists who attend to tasks like digging ditches, cleaning highways, knocking down walls, and unloading equipment. But as they gain experience, they begin providing assistance in a specific trade, for example, helping with roofing, pipefitting, electrical work, and carpentry. Some also receive certification to handle hazardous construction materials and waste. Over time, general construction workers typically choose a specific trade and undergo the formal training and certification necessary to ascend to a journey worker position. They might also decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree to enter construction management.
Employment for construction laborers should balloon in the coming years. By 2020, the BLS predicts employment will have surpassed one million workers. Carpenters’ helpers are expected to have the best job prospects, while laborers working in painting, plastering, and roofing will have fewer opportunities.
Construction workers perform the important task of building our infrastructure. So their median salary—one that’s below $30,000—may seem surprising. In 2011, they made an average salary of $29,730. The highest-paid earned approximately $58,250, while the lowest-paid didn’t eclipse $20,000. Jobs on the East Coast tend to pay the best—the five top-paying cities for construction workers dot the Eastern Seaboard.
If you’re unsure about which type of construction most interests you, then working as a general construction worker might be a good introduction into the field. There isn’t any rigorous, formal training, and you’ll get your feet wet performing simple tasks while shadowing more experienced workers on a job site. General laborers usually find a preference for a specific type of trade, and at that time might choose to enter a formal apprenticeship program to begin the process for receiving certification.
The absence of formal training might make someone think that entering general construction is a cake walk. It’s not. Unions frequently recruit construction workers from high schools and technical schools. Those who have served in the military have great prospects in this line of work, because unions are always seeking applicants who are in excellent physical shape, have strong math skills, and who can work well with people.
General laborers are often exposed to many types of construction work, and often find a niche they prefer. Their experience within a particular trade will help them advance to more complex activities, gain admittance into a specific apprenticeship, and attain the certification necessary to perform certain craft occupations (such as bricklaying, electrical wiring, and carpentry).