Learn About Being a Construction Worker
What does a construction worker do?
A construction worker is a manual labor professional responsible for preparing equipment, operating machinery and taking apart and building structures. Construction workers follow their clients’ instructions by using blueprints that determine the type of structure, necessary rooms and spaces, proper measurements and other construction elements.
Other duties construction workers may perform include:
- Testing machinery and equipment to confirm they work properly
- Transporting supplies and materials from suppliers and vehicles to the job site
- Closely following safety protocols and procedures to maintain the integrity of the project and team
- Measuring and cutting lumber, plaster and other building materials to exact specifications
- Using hand tools and mechanical tools, such as hammers, saws, screwdrivers, drills and many others
- Learning electrical work, plumbing and carpentry to improve skills on the job site
The typical salary for a construction worker depends on their experience level, the industry and the job location. You may be able to ask for a higher salary if you have more experience.
- Common salary in the U.S.: $15.08 per hour
- Some salaries range from $7.25 to $33.30 per hour
Construction worker requirements
Construction workers must have the appropriate training and skills before applying.
Most employers require construction workers to have a high school diploma. They can improve their skills by taking classes in welding, woodshop and mathematics while still in high school. There is no further education needed, as employers train these professionals on the job.
Most employers train construction workers once they begin the job. New hires often work under supervision by an experienced team leader or manager who teaches them how to use the equipment and complete necessary tasks. They also learn safety procedures and practice general handiness skills necessary for the job.
Some people choose to complete apprenticeships to further their education and develop more specialized skills. Apprenticeships are often two to four years long and combine classroom instruction with on-the-job experience. Students learn a variety of topics, including how to follow safety protocols, the correct ways to use tools and how to read blueprints. These programs are often necessary for those who want to work in building construction, highway construction and environmental remediation and can better prepare a candidate to feel comfortable with minimal supervision when they begin working.
Some employers may require employees to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general understanding of the field. Some of these certifications may include the following:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Construction Certificate: This certification is hosted by national safety organization OSHA and assesses a candidate’s knowledge of hazard recognition, how and when to file a complaint and nationally mandated safety protocols. Entry-level construction workers can take a 10-hour course, while those with more experience can take a 30-hour course.
- Silica in Construction Certificate: Construction workers can take this course online to learn how to decrease their exposure to silica on the job and stay safe. It is a common course required for labor professionals who use mechanical tools, such as drills, saws and sanding machines that release particles identified by OSHA as potentially harmful. There are a variety of resources that host a certification, but an employer may have a preference.
- National Association of Safety Professionals Certifications: This resource provides more in-depth policies that keep labor professionals safe on the job. There is a variety of safety courses construction workers can take depending on their career goals, including Certified Environmental Manager and Safety Auditor Certificate.
A construction worker will need many skills to perform their job, including:
- Math skills: Most construction workers calculate math equations while working, including converting measurements and pricing materials.
- Communication skills: Construction workers often work with others on a team to complete a project. They may use verbal communication to ask others for help or assist their coworker. They often use written communication to provide instructions in addition to using active listening to best understand how to complete tasks.
- Physical endurance: A construction worker spends most of their shift on their feet performing a variety of physical tasks. They may need to squat, crawl or stand for long periods and often need to lift heavy materials. Staying in physical shape can help these labor professionals stay productive on projects.
- Self-starter: Many construction crews work on a worksite with minimal instruction. This means they should understand how to follow orders from their employer on their own. Construction workers must also motivate themselves to complete projects on time.
- Time management: These professionals often need to set and maintain realistic timelines to ensure each step of a project is completed so other tasks can begin. Time management allows these professionals to work efficiently and stay on schedule to best utilize the time and resources of their clients.
Construction worker work environment
Construction workers may work on a variety of projects, including those for businesses, schools, on highways, in private homes and many other sites. A construction worker can spend long hours outdoors, sometimes in inclement weather. They may also work in small indoor areas for a prolonged time. A construction worker often works in physically strenuous conditions and might stand, walk, crawl or squat for multiple hours at a time. Their jobs may involve some physical risk, which is why proper usage and maintenance of heavy machinery and tools is vital.
Construction workers work various schedules and may need to be available during the day, at night and on the weekend. They usually work full-time hours and may work overtime if they need to finish a project on time. A construction worker might also work seasonally depending on their job site, as it may be too cold to work outdoors in certain areas during the winter.
How to become a construction worker
If you are considering becoming a construction worker, consider following these steps:
- Earn a secondary education. Candidates often need a high school diploma or GED before applying to be a construction worker. They can improve their skills while in school by taking advanced math classes.
- Complete an apprenticeship. Those who want to start working as a construction worker can finish an apprenticeship first. This will allow them to gain training on the job and learn under an experienced construction worker.
- Take the OSHA certification. Candidates can prepare themselves for a job by taking the 10-hour OSHA class before they apply to a job. This certification can provide safety knowledge to entry-level candidates new to the career.
- Finish specialty certifications. Those who know they want to work in a specific industry or area can take certifications to prepare themselves for the duties of the work sites. Some of these can be taken online, while others require the candidate to practice their skills in person.
- Improve their resume. Anyone who wants to be a construction worker should consider updating their resume to fit the job they are applying for. They can list any apprenticeships or experience they have that relates to construction.
Construction worker job description example
We are looking for an experienced candidate to work as a construction worker at Crater Construction. This is for a position that is 40 hours a week with a varying schedule, including evenings and weekends. We require that the candidate has a high school diploma and strongly prefer a completed apprenticeship, but are also willing to train the right person. Our staff works in building private homes and will spend varying times indoors and outdoors. The candidate should be physically fit, capable of standing for long periods and able to lift to 100 pounds.
The candidate should have excellent communication and math skills, as we require these daily. They will be responsible for communicating any needs they have to follow the client’s goals. They should be willing to learn all safety protocols and follow them closely. Our company offers educational training in addition to advancement opportunities. If you think you are a good fit for the job, please send us your cover letter and resume.
If you’re interested in becoming a construction worker, here are some related careers you might also want to consider: