Becoming a Builder: Career, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a builder? Get real job descriptions, educational and training requirements and salary details to see if becoming a builder is right for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Career as a Builder?

As a builder you will see projects through from start to finish; your work starts on paper then transforms into a tangible building upon completion. Review the following pros and cons to decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Career as a Builder
High job growth field for construction laborers (24% from 2012-2022)*
High school diploma is often enough to begin a career in building or construction*
Training is usually performed on the job or through an apprenticeship*
Management and supervisory potential with additional education and training*

Cons of a Career as a Builder
High exposure to elements*
Strong possibility of injury on the job*
Demanding work*
Low starting average pay for laborers ($35,000 in May 2014)*

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

Essential Career Information

Builders can work in a wide variety of settings, such as in a factory or at a construction job site. Job duties will vary depending on your experience and areas of expertise. For example, you could specialize in metal or woodwork. Furthermore, with advanced training, you may move into a role as a supervisor and oversee the operations. Other builders may find that they spend most of their time developing and drawing plans, working with clients and ordering supplies.

Job Growth and Salary Information

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job prospects for construction laborers were strong (with a 24% growth projected between 2012-2022), the job growth for construction managers was only average (16% between 2012-2022). Additionally, keep in mind that new construction usually halts in a rough economy.

The beginning salary for a building laborer averaged around $35,000, according to the BLS in May 2014. However, the BLS also reported that if you want to advance to a construction manager position, you could make around $94,000.

Education and Training Requirements

While a bachelor's degree in construction services or a related field is not always required, some employers may prefer some level of education for management or supervisory roles. For building laborers, you may want to complete a certification program. Although training is usually completed on the job, additional training can be completed in various areas of specialty, like electrical work or structural maintenance. Many builders need to be familiar with not only the handiwork that construction involves, but also the business side of it, such as client relations, paperwork completion and staff management.

Beyond training, builders require physical stamina because they will likely be standing and working outside all day. Additionally, they must be strong enough to use the tools and lift heavy objects.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Depending on the type of job where a builder is needed, an employer might require applicants to hold certain certifications, such as a hazmat license. Beyond specific educational requirements, most employers look for builders who have experience in their given field. The following job postings from April 2012 can give you an idea of what to expect:

  • A construction company in Michigan is seeking a professional construction carpenter that is skilled in woodworking, and has at least three years of professional residential construction experience.
  • A company in Arizona is looking to add a construction project manager to their team that has at least a bachelor's degree in a related field or a minimum of three years of professional experience. A successful candidate will be able to manage both the work site and the construction staff.
  • In North Dakota, a company is looking for a construction superintendent who is capable of managing safety, customer relations and meetings. This candidate will have a four-year degree and at least ten years of work experience.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

To make your skills stand out as a builder, you will adhere to codes, regulations, safety and general building practices. Employers typically prefer working with motivated and precise builders, especially those who communicate well with others. In a builder role, you'll also need to work independently and also as part of a team. The BLS reports that if you work as a laborer and are seeking a role as a supervisor or manager, you typically need to attend college and/or work for over three years in the field in order to move up. Advancement is possible in the construction industry, but first you'll demonstrate your ability to manage projects, time and others.

Laborers can also gain the upper hand by becoming certified to work with certain materials, like asbestos and lead. Similarly, aspiring construction managers may benefit from becoming a Certified Construction Manager, which is offered by the Construction Management Association of America; however, there are experience and education requirements to qualify for this certification.

Other Career Paths to Consider

Grounds Maintenance Worker Career Information

A career as a grounds maintenance worker is similar to a construction laborer/builder career. No college education is required and much of the career is learned through on-the-job training. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the job growth for the career was expected to be faster than the national average (20% between 2010-2020). Also according to the BLS, this career had a mean average salary of around $29,000 in May 2011, which was less than the salary of a building laborer. Many of these jobs are seasonal, which can be a deterrent for those looking for full-time employment. These workers also have a frequent exposure to the elements like workers in construction.

Machine Operator Career Information

You might also consider a career as a machine operator. Training usually occurs on the job and usually only a high school diploma is required. These requirements are similar to that of a builder and this field can also involve the construction industry if you choose to learn how to operate construction vehicles. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the salary for this profession was similar to that of construction laborer at around $39,000 in May 2011. Job growth for the field was expected to grow as fast as the national average at around 12% between 2010-2020. However, available jobs in warehouses may become scarce if companies choose to switch to more automated machine operating systems.

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