How to Become a
Construction Worker

Construction worker hammering nails with a crane in the background

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

  • Detail-orientated

  • 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.

Insights from a Construction Worker

A construction worker is generally very nice to talk to. So we decided to get some insight from a group of senior construction workers and here is what they had to say.

What is the common career path for a Construction Worker?

Workers in this industry typically gain their experience by participating in jobs under the guidance of more experienced Construction Worker. All you need to get started is a high school degree. After 18 you're eligible to participate in apprenticeship programs. Depending on your specific sub-discipline, you may need some certifications that demonstrate your capability to actually get the job done.

What should someone consider before becoming a Construction Worker?

If you have family or have other activities going on in your life, a job in construction can limit your time because workdays are not necessarily scheduled. You may have to work at night or even travel at spontaneous times. Another important aspect to consider is the job environment. In construction, you are probably not ever going to be in a safe environment. It can get dirty and dangerous.

What type of person excels in this job?

Good time management and an organized mindset are important traits for a Construction Worker. People who enjoy hands-on work on construction sites in general and getting their hands dirty who are not scared of dangerous environmental conditions can succeed in this career.

What are some of the most important skills for Construction Workers to have?

Physical Strength and stamina. Construction workers are often required to operate heavy machinery for long periods and if you are not physically prepared this will be a major problem. Beyond good physical condition construction workers must have building and mechanical knowledge as well as a general understanding of basic math concepts to enable them to read blueprints and other related documents.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Construction Worker?

Lets put it like this: suits and ties are not required, meaning you have the liberty of wearing whatever you want. Also, there have been some reports that workers often have higher job satisfaction because they are contributing to something that might last a lifetime and is actually manual labor. Construction workers are moving most of the time so your health tends to be in better shape than someone working in a cubicle all day.

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.

    Professional Groups

    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.

    Web Resources

    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.