Digital Builder

How to Start a Career in Construction

Construction careers

Picture this: employees working alongside advanced robotic technology, workers incentivized and rewarded based on productivity and a collaborative team environment powered by cloud-based project management software. From this description, you might think of a company in Silicon Valley or another fast-growth technology company in a major metropolitan area, but in actuality, this could easily describe construction jobs anywhere from New York to North Dakota. 

But, according to a survey of young people from NAHB, only 3% were interested in a construction trade for a career. But to hire a new generation of employees, the problem isn’t with the industry or the quality of jobs, but it’s with the perception of those roles in general. As an example, the survey cited the desire to have a less physically-demanding role (48%) and the idea that construction work is difficult (32%), as the two major factors why they didn’t want to enter the industry. But no longer the grueling manual labor-intensive industry that it used to be, making a career in construction is a great choice for young and aging workers alike. 

Today, with over 9 million employees, the construction industry is a growing industry with a vibrant workforce. 

Nonetheless, the labor shortage remains a massive problem for those actually hiring with over 80% of contractors reporting they can’t find the skilled workers they need. With such a large percentage of young professionals refusing even to consider a career in the industry, the future of the labor shortage continues to look bleak. But the good news is, with the right research and skills, there’s a construction job waiting for you to fill.  

But, why really should you consider a construction job? Construction offers tons of opportunities for workers at many stages in their careers. Below, we’ll discuss five reasons why construction is absolutely worth considering as a competitive career path, as well as provide tips on how you can begin to find your role in the industry.

Why You Should Consider a Career in Construction

1. No More Job Hopping: Career Stability

Despite the massive labor shortage, construction needs are on the rise around the world. As just one example of the growth of the industry, data collected by Sageworks found that seven of the top 10 industries with the highest sales growth rates are related to construction including building finishing contractors, residential and nonresidential builders, mechanical systems contractors and civil engineering construction companies. Even better, the firm found growth in all related sub-construction categories that they were tracking. Simply said, construction needs and jobs are growing steadily, and if you’re looking to enter a new industry with untapped potential, construction could be your answer.

Additionally, although some industries fear that advanced and emerging technology will make their jobs obsolete, robotics do not pose a threat to the building industry. In fact, construction companies are embracing innovation and actually need more workers to operate advanced machinery so they can build faster and more efficiently. It’s safe to safe, for those entering construction jobs in the near future, you can most likely anticipate job security for many years.

2. Pay Your Bills: Salaries Are on the Rise

A large reason many millennials aren’t entering the construction workforce is due to the idea that it involves extremely hard work for very little pay. Contrary to this myth construction salaries are on the rise. And as a whole, construction worker’s salaries are expected to continue to steadily rise in future years.

Just in the last year, staff wages were expected to rise by 3.4%, another increase from the previous year.

As one of the highest-paid trade workers in the nation, at an average salary of nearly $95,000 a year, construction managers can even make as much as some engineers and computer programmers. More food for thought, if you’re considering a construction manager job in a large metropolitan area or at a larger company, your salary could even soar upwards to around $150,000 annually.

Of course, for those with a university degree and seeking a job in an area like project management or civil engineering, salary trajectory is solid, even right after graduation. However, unexpectedly, construction workers without a college degree can benefit from income security with industry median salaries up to around $80,000 a year for certain jobs. Some of the highest-paid careers with no four-year degree required include:

  • Elevator installers and repairers
  • Boilermakers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Roofers

Of course, the pay is also a factor of the market you’re located in. While a construction professional might make a decent salary in a city like Seattle, it could vary significantly for a similar role in a city on the east coast. 

If a salary is an employment concern for you, construction offers more stability than many other industries with the opportunity to excel, with and without a four-year degree. 

3. Futuristic Feels: The Industry is Getting Technical

Even if construction salaries are appealing, you might be concerned with the tools of the trade. For instance, if you’re thinking massive reels of blueprints, hammers, and nails, aren’t items you’d like to deal with on a day to day basis, you’d be mistaken in your mindset. The manual construction tools and processes of yesterday are very different from the highly-technical applications and devices emerging on job sites today. As construction projects get more advanced and more stakeholders are involved, technology has become a necessity on job sites and gives workers the opportunity to learn and apply new skills.

Just look at the construction technology ecosystem mapped out by thought leader, McKinsey & Company:

construction careers

Image Source: McKinsey & Company

For construction jobs, this means that workers will have new opportunities to work with advanced technology firsthand. Some of the standard “tools” of construction now include mobile construction software and document management systems and disruptive technology like BIM and drones.

Furthermore, skilled field workers are now operating some of the most sophisticated machines in the market making construction sites look more like a futuristic scene than a job site. The good news is that the future will continue to get bright with technology use on job sites. The industry is just finally making the digital transition and construction professionals are wising up on the improvements to their bottom lines that they can only achieve with the help of technology. Even if you’re not committed to a long-term career in the building industry, a solid construction job in the short-term could provide you with the skills and competitive edge to take with you to your dream career later.

4. Not Your Grandfather’s Workforce: A Changing Labor Market

Due to the influx of technology and career opportunities that construction offers, the workforce is evolving. As a result, more women and minorities are choosing to take jobs in construction. The industry currently has a large Hispanic representation and companies are already rethinking their strategies to recruit and retain more women talent. Although the industry still has ways to go to make significant improvements in training and recruiting to create a more balanced workplace, they are surely making changes for the better.

In addition to the industry getting more diverse, it’s also getting younger. With more Boomers on the verge of retirement, companies are actively recruiting more Millennials for construction jobs to fill their roles. For a Millennial looking to start a career right after high school, construction is one of the few industries where it’s possible to begin without four years of college. Even for those finishing up a degree, there are plenty of apprenticeships and internships available to give younger generations a taste for what construction jobs are really like.

5. No Desk Required: Non-Traditional Jobs with High Worker Satisfaction

Let’s face it, the 9 to 5 work cubicle environment simply isn’t for everyone—but the idea of it might be so ingrained in your mind (or your parents’), that it’s hard to think about a career where a desk isn’t your main station. Although some construction professionals still have a steady desk job, many construction jobs are done outside the office and trailer. Whether you’re in the field or meeting with other project stakeholders, careers in construction are more often than not very active and involve engaging in many face-to-face conversations to solve problems.

Even better, construction workers find a certain job satisfaction not many other works can say the same—the chance to see their work put into physical motion. Imagine driving by a skyscraper or massive hospital and knowing you played a role in making that structure a reality. To watch your plans be built or to be the worker doing the actual construction, can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. As a matter of fact, it may just be one of the reasons why construction workers are among the happiest employees.

Overall, construction is far from a traditional job, and depending on your trade or role, you can find a job that’s extremely mentally and physically fulfilling.

Tips for Finding Construction Jobs

If you’re interested is peaked from these top benefits of working in construction, you might want to start exploring how to break into the industry. Whether or not you believe a construction job is in your future, it also never hurts to explore your options. Below, here’s how you can start to explore or find a job in construction with or without a college degree.

With No Degree

  1. Brush up your resume: Before you begin, make sure you have your resume in order. Draw on any relevant work experience from the past. Have you ever volunteered? Consider all of the work and projects you’ve contributed to beyond jobs you were just paid for.
  2. Search smarter: If you’re searching for jobs online, look for construction jobs that advertise little to no experience required. You might even want to start searching for terms like “general labor” or “construction labor” to get started in an unskilled position. You can also look for short-term or seasonal jobs. Even short experiences can help you determine if you like the industry without a long-term commitment, or at least get your foot in the door.
  3.  Contact a temp agency: Not all jobs are advertised online, and temporary staffing agencies might have other opportunities available you’re not aware of.

Consider a trade school or applying for an apprentice job: If you absolutely know you want to be in the construction industry, you should think about entering a trade school or applying for an apprenticeship. With specialized classes and training, you’re more likely to get your career off on the right foot.

With a Degree or Working to Get One

  1.  Choose your major and classes wisely: If you know exactly what kind of job you would like to have in construction, make sure you’re on track in your program. Find a mentor in a professor if you don’t already have one. If you haven’t chosen your major but know construction is where you want to be, try to talk to recent graduates in the field and listen to their thoughts and experiences.
  2. Become an intern: Internships are some of the most valuable work experiences you can get as a young professional—in or out of college. The best part is that since most internships are short term, you don’t have to feel like you’re committing to a major career path.
  3. Attend a job fair: If you’re a recent college graduate or graduating soon, attend a job fair. You’ll be able to see what kind of jobs are in the market and what your odds are of landing certain gigs right with just a degree.

Top Careers in Construction

1. Construction Project Managers

If you like the view from the top, this is one of the best careers in construction for you. Project managers (PMs) are responsible for overseeing various aspects of a project from startup to closeout, including planning, coordination, and budgets. In order to succeed in this role, PMs need excellent problem-solving skills, the ability to handle high-pressure situations, solid organizational and budgeting skills, and strong leadership qualities.

 To position yourself as a PM, it’s helpful to have a degree in construction management, surveying, civil engineering or construction engineering. Before they become PMs, many people start their careers as project engineers (PEs) so it may take a few years of experience as an engineer plus some fieldwork to achieve your goal.

The good news: The role compensates well and offers excellent growth potential. The median salary for project managers is $95,260 annually. Additionally, the job is anticipated to grow at a rate of 10% from 2018 to 2028 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

2. Plumbers

Believe it or not, plumbing was ranked as the #1 best construction job by U.S. News & World Report. The market for plumbers is growing quite quickly right now, at a rate of 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is considerably faster than the market average. That translates to an additional 68,200 jobs in the next eight years, says the BLS, which makes investing in this role a very good idea. With a median salary of $55,160 annually, this is one of the most lucrative careers to pursue without a degree.

So what do they do? In the construction industry, typically, plumbers install and repair water supply lines, waste disposal systems, appliances, and fixtures for residential, commercial, and even industrial projects. A significant portion of their work in construction also involves service maintenance, after a project is complete. These contracts are usually long-term and add a steady and consistent stream of income.

Successful plumbers have a strong mechanical aptitude, coordination, and a problem-solving skillset. They are also excellent in planning, people- and client-first focused roles and have an interest in continuing education, since technology in this field changes and is becoming more cutting-edge all the time. To work as a plumber, you must be licensed and certified. Before that, in addition to earning a diploma or GED, plumbers must undergo vocational training and then a 4-5 year apprenticeship. The work is worth getting into one of the best careers in construction. If you’re looking to learn more about the specifics of the opportunities and challenges that plumbers face, check out our ebook

3. Electricians

Closely following plumbers, electricians are ranked as the #3 best careers in construction by U.S. News & World Report, electricians follow quickly on the heels of plumbers for a more desirable role. With a job growth rate of 10% between 2018 and 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s bound to be plenty of opportunity for anyone who leverages the possibilities now. The median salary is $56,180 annually, and keep in mind: that’s just average. Once you have years in the field under your belt, salaries can range much higher.

Electricians are responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining the wiring and equipment through which electricity flows in all types of facilities. Similar to plumbers, a big segment of their work is maintenance related. To succeed as an electrician, you need to be highly mechanical, possess high standards for safety and quality, have customer-interfacing skills, be a natural problem-solver, and enjoy the puzzle often presented by this role.

Similar to plumbers, electricians must be licensed and certified. Before that, in addition to a diploma or GED, electricians must undergo technical school to get hands-on training and then a 4-5 year apprenticeship program. We break down a little more of the specific hurdles electricians need to overcome in a recent ebook, here

4. Civil Engineers

If you love the concepts of construction but don’t love being out on the job site, civil engineering is a great career path to explore, as people in this role spend a lot of time inside a trailer or office. Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of our world’s infrastructure which includes roads, tunnels, bridges, sewage systems, and more.

With an expected 6% job growth from through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as a median salary of $87,060 annually, you can’t go wrong in this field. So long as you possess strong math abilities, good and decisive decision-making skills, strong organizational traits, and a capacity for leadership, you’ll do well.

To begin their careers, civil engineers generally have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related specialty, such as mechanical engineering or urban planning. Many in higher positions also have a graduate degree. To learn more about this role, check out this in-depth exploration.

5. Solar Photovoltaic Installers

You may not know that solar photovoltaic installers assemble, install, and maintain solar panels and systems on the rooftops of a variety of facilities. You also may not know that as the world grows more dependent on renewable resources, the need for solar photovoltaic installers has been increasing exponentially.

It’s not only one of the fastest growing careers in construction; it’s one of the fastest in general. According to the BLS, it is skyrocketing at a staggering rate of 63% between 2018 and 2028. The median salary is $44,890 annually, but people who enter the field and establish expertise can quickly outstrip this. Anyone with an interest in energy production and electricity, as well as the propensity for continually improving their skills, will love and succeed in this field.

If you’d like to start a career in this fascinating field, you should head to a technical school or community college for a 2-year program and subsequent apprenticeship. However, some may be able to get their start with a diploma or GED, followed by on-the-job-training of a year or so. Either way, there’s no time to lose.

6. Wind Turbine Technicians

Wind turbine technicians are also predicted to be one of the fastest growing careers in construction and of all jobs given the growth of renewable energy. The career path is expected to grow 57% between 2018 and 2028, says the BLS, making them among the best jobs in any field, not just construction. With a median salary of $52,910annually, they’re also quite appealing for the money you can get as a young professional.

Wind turbine technicians are also known as wind techs. Their job duties include installing, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines. The work is generally done outdoors, in confined spaces, and at great heights. So in addition to mechanical and troubleshooting skills, as well as strong documentation abilities, you’ll need a lot of physical stamina and a significant tolerance of heights.

After getting a high school diploma or GED, most wind techs go to technical school to get certificates in wind energy technology. Some choose to earn an associate’s degree. After schooling, they usually receive one year of on-the-job training related to the specific wind turbines they will maintain and service. While not necessary, internships and professional certification improve job marketability.

7. Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers specialize in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems (HVAC). They work both in shops and on job sites and are currently seeing job growth of 8% between 2018 and 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a median salary of $50,400 annually, you’ve got good prospects for earning a living and supporting others early on.

Plus, sheet metal workers have some of the most interesting and challenging careers in construction. Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems. If you possess mechanical skills, math skills, critical thinking skills, and good coordination, chances are you will excel in this cutting-edge but surprisingly artistic field.

Once you get a high school diploma or GEO, expect to do a 4- to 5-year apprenticeship to learn your trade. While optional, certifications like one from the American Welding Society can help job prospects.

8. Glaziers

If you’re looking for careers in construction that are more physical in nature, glaziers have a promising path ahead of them. Glaziers install glass in windows, storefronts, and other displays, often using their technical knowledge and creative skills to fit panes to unique spaces or design solutions for specific specs.

Job prospects are very good. As the BLS points out, the role is growing at a rate of 11% between 2018 and 2028, with a median salary of $44,630 annually. If you have physical stamina and strength, material knowledge, and mathematical skills, you’ll do well.

To get started, all you need is a high school diploma, followed by an apprenticeship and on-the-job training.

9. Elevator Installers and Repairers

If you don’t have fears of closed spaces and heights and don’t mind being on call in emergency situations, becoming an elevator installer or repairer can prove a lucrative and rewarding career. With 10% job growth predicted between 2018 and 2028, according to (who else?) the BLS, you won’t have trouble finding a job. Additionally, with a median salary of $84,990 annually, you’ll make a very comfortable living.

So what do they do, you’re wondering? In a nutshell, people in this field help to install, repair, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and more. You’ll need good mechanical skills, troubleshooting skills, dependability, analytical thinking, and independence to succeed in this role.

Starting your career typically requires an apprenticeship, in addition to ongoing training throughout a career. It is a challenging field, with significant repercussions for consumer safety, so it’s essential you stay up to date on all training.

10. Masonry Workers

Masonry is one of the oldest careers in construction. Masons have a refined craft that requires hand-eye coordination and other physical skills, with thousands of years of history backing up the trade. Masonry workers use bricks, concrete, and stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other structures. Successful traits include color vision, physical stamina, and strength, coordination, precision, and attention to detail.

They’ve never been in higher demand than now, with 11% job growth predicted between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS, and a median salary of $46,500 annually. 

If you’d like to start in this field, you’ll need a diploma or GED, followed by an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Many technical schools also offer a masonry track.

11. Ironworkers

While a career as an ironworker can be dangerous and full of risks, there are plenty of positive benefits that make it a fulfilling career for many. Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings and other infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. They require a calm nature, physical strength, and stamina, determination, and tolerance of heights.

If you have those skills, you’ll find that ironworking is quite rewarding. It offers significant job security, with roles growing at a rate of 11% between 2018 and 2028, says the BLS, and a median salary of $53,650. The vast majority of ironworkers do an apprenticeship, but some do learn on the job.

12. Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators are genuinely in the thick of things on the job site, but good career opportunities and salary with little educational requirements make this an enticing job market for many. The market is growing at a rate of 10% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a median salary of $46,10 annually, you’ll make a comfortable living as well.

In this role, you can expect to drive, maneuver, and control the heavy equipment and machinery used in a variety of construction environments. Successful traits include hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, and mechanical skills.

To start a career as a construction equipment operator, you’ll need a high school diploma and GED, and possibly some vocational training. However, many learn on the job and can hit the ground running.

13. Boilermaker

According to CareerExplorer, boilermakers, “assemble, install, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.” In addition to assembling and installing boilers on new builds, many boilermakers spend significant time inspecting and repairing the machinery and replacing parts.

While working as a boilermaker is physically demanding, the pay is good. The latest median annual wage for boilermakers was $63,100. Getting started as a boilermaker involves a GED and most learn the trade through a formal apprenticeship program.

14. Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Removal Worker

Removing hazardous materials is a common activity on a construction project. These workers identify and dispose of dangerous materials like lead, asbestos, radioactive waste, and more, especially common on renovations and demolitions.

As careers in construction go, this can be a dangerous job. However, these workers always wear full, protective suits for long periods of time. That being said, the job can be demanding mentally. Workers often have to work overtime and nights and weekends. Nevertheless, the career path is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, according to BLS. Typically, hazmat workers complete an apprenticeship and the median annual wage for the role is $43,900.

15. Construction Technologist

Haven’t heard of the career construction technologist? It’s a rising job role in many companies, especially as technology becomes ever more important in the industry. While the job role is so new that there’s not solid salary data on it at this moment, it’s influence and importance is rising in construction companies.

In general, it’s helpful to have an IT background to succeed in this role as they are generally responsible for research, technology management, and implementation. JBKnowledge released a helpful guide for anyone interested in learning more about the role.

Why Not Consider a Career in Construction

So, why consider a job in construction? More like, why are you not considering construction jobs right now? With opportunities and salaries on the rise, a chance to gain valuable cross-industry technical skills, and to be part of an active and diverse workforce, what’s not to love? Construction could become the dream job you never knew you were looking for; so start your research and explore a career in the industry for your future today.

Grace Ellis

Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Autodesk Construction Cloud Blog

Newsletter
Construction trends, tips, and news – delivered straight to your inbox