Becoming a Stonemason: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a stonemason career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a stonemason is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Stonemason Career

Stonemasons work with natural and artificial stone to build exterior walls, paths and floors. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a stonemason is the right career choice for you:

Pros of a Stonemason Career
Skills often learned on-the-job*
4,100 new jobs projected for the 2012-2022 decade*
May work on projects from design to completion*
Self-employment opportunities*

Cons of a Stonemason Career
High potential for work-related accident or injury*
Work is performed outside in all weather*
Physical strength is required*
Employment growth depends on construction activity*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Whether working as a self-employed contractor or for a larger construction company, a stonemason's work begins with reading a blueprint and creating a design that details the structure's dimensions and the size of the stone to be used. After the stone is cut to proper proportions, it is laid out in an orderly manner with mortar in between layers. The work can be physically demanding, involving lifting heavy stone and kneeling to fill in mortar. Most stonemasons work a traditional 40-hour week, although the hours can vary based on construction demands and weather.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 29% increase in employment for stonemasons in the decade from 2012-2022, which was much faster than average. This anticipated growth was largely attributed to a population increase, which often leads to the construction of more buildings. There may also be work in restoring older stone structures that are beginning to decay and turning existing buildings into more energy-efficient versions of their original plans. Many stonemasons are employed by foundation, structure, building exterior and building finishing contractors, and about one fifth are self-employed. The BLS reported that stonemasons earned a median salary of approximately $37,880 as of May 2014.

Education and Training Requirements

There are both education and training pathways to become a stonemason. Most stonemasons learn the trade by entering a formal apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs generally last 3-4 years and include 144 hours of classroom learning. Through these programs, apprentices learn essential skills, such as building code requirements, blueprint reading, safety practices and mathematics. They're also paid for their time, with salaries ranging from 50%-90% of a journeyman's salary. Unions, training committees and trade associations often sponsor the programs.

You could also choose to enroll in a formal training program offered by a community college or vocational school in your area. These programs are sometimes taken in conjunction with an apprenticeship program and usually result in a certificate after approximately one year of classes and training. Hands-on coursework is generally emphasized, and students have the opportunity to learn skills such as aligning, cutting, notching and repairing stones. A formal training program may teach you basics of brickmasonary and blockmasonry, in addition to stonemasonry.

What Employers are Looking For

Employers are typically looking for employees with some experience in stonemasonry. Specialized expertise or a willingness to travel might also be sought. Check out these summaries of job postings listed on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com in March 2012 to get an idea of what employers are looking for:

  • A restoration contractor in Kansas was looking to hire a mason with three years of commercial experience who was willing to travel within a 5-state service area. The company requested expertise in some or all of a variety of areas, including historic masonry restoration, stone repair, structural repairs and caulking.
  • A contractor in Massachusetts was seeking a talented and experienced stonemason to create landscapes and stone hardscapes.
  • A contractor in New Jersey was searching for a stonemason with two years of experience to work full-time. The job would include following specifications to set stone for curbs, walls and stone decorations using a variety of tools.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Whether you enter a training program, apprenticeship or entry-level job, you'll need to know some mathematics, design basics and fundamental construction skills. According to the BLS, enrolling in math, physics, shop, mechanical drawing and related courses in high school can give you a head start in learning the masonry trade. You may also want to take some art classes to learn about design and aesthetics. If you're interested in starting a contracting company, taking some introductory business classes may benefit you when you're ready to set up your own stonemasonry company.

Join the Trade Association

The Mason Contractors of America is currently the only nationwide trade association that represents masons. By joining this trade association, you'll have access a large peer network, as well as the opportunity to share knowledge with fellow tradespeople. According to the organization, members have the opportunity to enroll in continuing education, be part of an organization that lobbies in their best interests and save thousands of dollars using knowledge gained as a member.

Other Careers to Consider

If you like the idea of setting stone in a certain design but would rather work indoors, consider a career as a tile or marble setter. This work is similar to that of a stonemason, but it is performed on a smaller scale in bathrooms and kitchens and on other household surfaces. Tile setters usually learn the skills they need on the job. The BLS reported that tile and marble setters made a median annual wage of around $37,000 as of May 2011.

Individuals interested in working in construction, but who would rather work with wood than stone, could consider becoming carpenters. Carpenters follow a blueprint to build the frame of a building out of wood and other materials. Similar to stonemasons, carpenters typically learn their craft through on-the-job training, at a vocational school or through an apprenticeship. The BLS reported that carpenters made a median annual wage of roughly $40,000 as of May 2011.

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