How to Become a Construction Worker
Do you love working with your hands and dread the idea of spending your days at a desk? If so, then a career as a Construction Worker might be for you. This guide will cover what a Construction Worker does and the skills required to become a Construction Worker. It will also include plenty of salary information and a list of resources to enhance your exploration of a career as a Construction Worker.
What Does a Construction Worker Do?
The simple answer is that a construction worker does whatever else needs to be done on a construction site that is not handled by a tradesman. For example, Electricians are responsible for wiring a building, and Construction Workers are responsible for everything that needs to be done to get each room ready for wiring. Construction Workers used to be referred to as “unskilled” labor, but the reality is that they’re generalists who have a wide set of skills.
Being a Construction Worker requires one to be good working with their hands. It also requires solid teamwork, as the number of workers on a given site can range between a handful and hundreds. The following are some typical Construction Worker responsibilities:
- Physical tasks, such as repeatedly lifting and transporting construction materials
- Heavy equipment tasks, such as operating forklifts and other construction vehicles
- Custodial tasks, such as sweeping a site upon completion of carpentry work
- Roadwork tasks, such as filling potholes and paving roads
Construction Worker Skills
As we mentioned before, it is a misconception that Construction Workers used to be referred to as “ unskilled laborers”. The reason this label came to be is simply because Construction Workers have no specific trade. They aren’t Carpenters or Plumbers, yet they often possess similar skillsets to these tradesmen. In addition to the vast array of technical skills, Construction Workers also possess several soft skills required for success. Construction workers have to have excellent verbal communication skills, as good communication is integral to both the completion of the project and the safety of the workers. Construction Workers also have to be able to work in a fast-paced environment. Virtually all construction projects operate under a strict timeline and budget, so the work environment can get pretty hectic as deadline approaches.
Some other key Construction Worker skills include:
- Proficiency with math and measurements
- Physical strength and stamina
- Decision-making skills
- Working knowledge of hand tools and power tools
How Do You Become a Construction Worker?
Education and Training
One plus side of becoming a Construction Worker is that one does not have to amass thousands of dollars of student loan debt earning a Bachelor’s degree in order to get an entry-level position. Most entry level Construction Worker jobs only require a High School diploma or G.E.D. It is this low barrier for entry that has spawned the misconception of Construction Work being a “dead end job”. The reality is Construction Workers have several career development avenues available to them. There are several ways Construction Workers can earn to build their skills portfolio. Here are some examples.
OSHA Outreach Training Program: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency responsible for maintaining safe work environments for employees. Given the hazardous nature of construction sites, virtually all employers require entry-level workers to have completed the OSHA Outreach Training Program for Construction Workers.
The OSHA Outreach Training Program is a “ Construction Safety 101” survey class that teaches students how to work safely on construction sites. There are two versions of this certification: the 10-hour and 30-hour. The 10-hour is designed for entry-level workers, while the 30-hour is designed for those with supervisory responsibilities. Those looking to earn this certification can use OutreachTrainers.org to find certified trainers in their area.
Apprenticeship: Most of a Construction Worker’s education comes through on-the-job training. Experienced workers take new hires under their wing and supervise their work for the first few weeks. While a version of this informal training exists on every construction site, there are formal apprenticeship programs one can complete. These programs are offered by either trade unions or contractor’s associations.
An Apprentice program can last up to five years, although they typically range from two to four years long. The program is a blend of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Roughly 20% of an apprenticeship is spent in classroom, while the other 80% is spent on-site putting what was learned in the classroom into action. The exact number can vary from program to program, but most require around 400 classroom hours and 4000 supervised work hours in order to progress from Apprentice to Journeyman.
The initial 200 hours focuses on the basics of the construction field. Most content is focused on correct use of tools and how to read blueprints, as well as health and safety standards. The remaining classroom hours will depend upon your chosen specialization. Construction Workers can specialize in three main areas:
- Environmental Remediation
- Building Construction
- Heavy and Highway Construction
As a Construction Worker progresses through his or her career, the opportunity will arise to earn specialized certifications. The certification one pursues depends upon their desired specialization. For example, those who have a preference for driving forklifts have to earn a heavy equipment certification. Those who prefer to work in hazardous waste removal would have to earn a federal hazardous waste removal license.
Finding a Job
No matter how many industries come and go, the Construction industry will always be in demand. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for Construction Workers is predicted to rise 13% through 2024. This faster-than-average rise is based on the ever-present need for infrastructure repair and labor for new construction.
Given this forecasted growth, Construction Workers will have jobs available in a variety of settings. Roads and bridges will be popular work environments, as well as towns and cities which are experiencing rapid development.
If you’re ready to pursue a career as a Construction Worker, then you’re going to need a resume that highlights your skills most-relevant to the construction field. Browse JobHero’s library of Construction Worker resume samples for inspiration.
Next, you are ready to search online for job opportunities. Pay attention to the key skills in the job descriptions, because these will help you write your cover letter.
The cover letter is where you highlight proof that you have the skills it takes to become a Construction Worker. Check out JobHero’s Construction Worker Cover Letter samples to get you going.
How Much Does a Construction Worker Get Paid?
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a Construction Worker is $30,890. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $20,400, while those in the top 10 percent make over $58,070.
Top 10 States for Construction Worker Salary
- Hawaii: $50,000
- Illinois: $49,800
- Massachusetts: $49,200
- Alaska: $46,600
- New Jersey: $45,700
- Connecticut: $41,500
- Minnesota: $39,700
- Washington: $39,400
- New York: $38,900
- Indiana: $38,400
Construction Worker Resources
We’ve put together the following list of resources to aid your exploration into a career as a Construction Worker.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the government institution responsible for workplace safety. They provide the 10 hour outreach training program that many employers require from entry-level Construction Workers.
Laborer’s International Union of North America – This organization runs the general Construction Worker’s unions in North America. The website will show you your local chapter, as well as provide information on internship programs.
OutreachTrainers.org – This website provides visitors with their closest trainer for the OHSA outreach training program.
KhanAcademy.org – Khan Academy is a free online educational hub that covers a variety of subjects. It is a great place to brush up on the basic arithmetic a Construction Worker uses on the job.
The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.