Construction and Building Trade Careers
The Construction Sector
If you like to work with your hands and the satisfaction building things, construction could be the career for you. The field of construction is huge, and so are the number and types of construction work that people do.
The range of construction employment runs from individual tradespeople like carpenters and plumbers who offer services directly to home owners, to giant construction companies that build large office towers, bridges, dams, and stadiums. In addition, there are many businesses that make and supply material and equipment used in the building process.
Some people in the construction industry work administrative roles, including project managers and safety managers. Allied professions including engineering and architecture. Some of these professions are employed directly by construction companies, and some work in the role of sub-contractors at separate businesses.
Paths to Employment in Construction and Building Trades
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Types of construction employers
Specialty Trade Contractors
Corporations and Institutions that employ their own construction and building maintenance staff
Other related Suppliers and Professions
There are many ways to start a career in the construction field, they include summer jobs, internships and paid apprenticeships with general contractor builders, or with companies in the specialty trades like plumbing, carpentry, and heating.
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Concrete Foundation, Structure, and Building Exterior Contractors
Concrete pouring and finishing
Gunite (stucco) contractors
Concrete pumping (i.e., placement) and cement mixer service
Concrete work (except paving)
Footing and foundation concrete contractors
Structural Steel and Precast Concrete Contractors
Concrete product (e.g., structural precast, structural prestressed) installation
Erecting structural steel and iron work contractors
Reinforcing steel contractors
Placing and tying reinforcing rod at a construction site
Structural steel contractors
Precast concrete panel, slab, or form installation
Woodworkers / Cabinetmakers
Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids or gases.
Boilermakers must have the technical skills to read blueprints and other plan documents. They may install premade boilers or assemble new ones, and the assembly process often involves the use of technologies such as robotic welders. Boilermakers inspect boilers for leaks or other weaknesses and repair these defects upon finding them, using power tools, handheld tools, welding equipment, or gas torches. These workers also may clean boilers or vats if necessary.
Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and other structures, working with wood and other materials.
Carpenters not only build the large structures which constitute buildings, such as walls and floors, but also smaller components, such as windows and molding, and may even construct furnishings. Many carpenters specialize in a particular area of carpentry. These areas include framing carpentry, which refers to the construction of the wooden framework of a structure; finishing carpentry, which refers to the installation of finishing wood and plastic trim and includes the construction of finishing elements like staircases and molding; rough carpentry, which refers to the construction of temporary support structures like scaffolding; and cabinet-making. Carpenters may also work to craft furniture and ornamental woodworking—for more on that career subset, see artisans and craftworkers.
Construction and Building Inspectors
Construction and building inspectors inspect and evaluate construction projects to ensure that they meet local and national building code ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
Construction and building instructors are responsible for ensuring that newly constructed buildings are safe and functional, per a series of methodical requirements. These inspectors participate in every step of the construction process, verifying that building plans and blueprints represent safe potential buildings, monitoring construction sites for the fulfillment of safety regulations, and evaluating completed construction projects for their adherence to codes and ordinances; throughout this entire process, they meticulously document their findings. They inspect the exterior structure of buildings, building systems such as electrical and plumbing, and other non-building structures including highways and streets, dams, and bridges. If an inspector finds aspects of a building, project, or structure that are not up to code, they are responsible for holding those in charge accountable by issuing warnings or levying fines.
Construction Laborers and Helpers
Construction laborers and helpers perform physical labor on construction sites.
The job of construction laborers and helpers is physically demanding, requiring great physical strength and endurance, as well as a number of other skills. They execute construction-related tasks, which range from very easy to very difficult, during every step of the construction process. These tasks include clearing future construction sites of debris, loading and unloading building materials, assembling or disassembling temporary structures such as scaffolding, digging trenches, compacting earth, and at times, operating heavy machinery. These workers must follow the construction plans and guidelines laid out by their supervisors or superiors, and perform work that rigorously complies with codified safety standards. They may work with or learn how to use tools such as shovels, pavement breakers, jackhammers, or lasers.
Construction managers plan and oversee every step of construction projects.
Construction managers, also called general contractors or project managers, coordinate the labor and resources needed for constructions projects (which include the building of any and all residential, commercial, industrial, or institutional structures as well as that of roads and bridges) and direct the timing and budgeting of these projects. They consult with clients and direct workflow in order to ensure that construction projects meet design specifications in a timely and cost-effective manner. For major projects such as office buildings and apartment complexes, a high-level construction manager will likely higher several other construction managers to manage specific aspects of the endeavor.
Construction millwrights install, assemble, repair, and/or disassemble construction machinery and equipment.
A millwright is a worker who deals with the installation, repair, and disassembly of equipment, and a construction millwright is one who performs this work specifically in the context of construction work. Putting together or taking apart a machine can be a time-consuming process lasting days or even weeks, and it requires a great deal of skill. Construction millwrights may repair or replace malfunctioning or old machine parts, and must meticulously organize and store machine parts when disassembling them. They use tools such as hammers, welding and cutting equipment, and measuring tapes; on major projects involving large equipment, they operate heavy machinery such as cranes and forklifts.
Concrete Pouring and Finishing
Concrete pouring and finishing contractors pour and finish concrete foundations and structural elements.
These contractors may pour concrete into molds to form blocks or slabs, or finishing concrete to ensure its durability and smooth appearance; these workers may also repair concrete elements as necessary. Their work can include concrete pumping and placement, mud-jacking (pumping concrete underneath a building or other object in order to lift it), working with gunite (also known as shotcrete, this is a sprayed concrete mixture used for building), and more.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technicians
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians install and repair the heating, cooling, and ventilating systems in buildings.
HVAC technicians are responsible for working on the systems that moderate and control the temperature of a building, as well as those which keep air circulating properly and maintain air quality. There are different types of HVAC systems, such as radiant heating systems and solar panels, and many of these technicians specialize in one particular area. HVAC technicians install various components of HVAC systems such as wiring, test these components for functionality, and clean, repair, and maintain these systems as necessary.
Refrigeration technicians work on refrigeration systems in buildings.
Refrigeration provide a climate-controlled environment in which to preserve food, medicine, and other perishable items, and many buildings require large refrigeration facilities. Refrigeration technicians are responsible for ensuring that these systems function appropriately and smoothly. They install various components of these systems, inspect the systems for defects or malfunctions, and perform repairs as necessary in order to maintain the functionality of refrigeration systems.
Process Piping Technicians
Process piping technicians work with those pipes which convert liquids, gases, and other raw materials into functional resources.
Although the term plumbing broadly refers to work which involves pipes, process piping is a particular kind of plumbing work, in that rather than merely transporting liquids or gases, process pipes convert the material that passes through them into a distinct end product. Process piping technicians construct, install, repair, and maintain these process pipes so that their processing runs smoothly.
Drywall Installers and Tapers
Drywall installers hang wallboard in buildings, while tapers prepare this material for painting and other finishing procedures.
Many people perform both drywall installing and taping work. Drywall or wallboard is a popular material used to construct and cover interior walls, and drywall installers measure, cut, hang, and fasten panels of drywall. In addition to installing new drywall, they may also repair damaged drywall. Tapers, also called finishers, handle the next step of the process, finishing the drywall in preparation for painting; they patch and smooth rough spots, apply sealing compound, sand down joints and holes, and employ paper and fiberglass mesh tape to cover the seams of drywall. Overall, the job of drywall installers and tapers is to create functional and smooth, visually appealing interior walls.
Acoustic Tile and Lathing Applicators
Acoustic tile and lathing applicators install and apply acoustic tile and lath.
Acoustic ceiling panels and tiles are a specific kind of tile which is designed to absorb sound and provide noise control; lath is backing material for plaster, usually a thin, narrow strip of wood. Although the career of installing acoustic tile and lath is related to the career of drywall installation, it requires a specialized set of skills for working with specific material. These workers must select material, measure and cut it to the appropriate specifications, and apply and install the tile and lath using both hand and power tools.
Hoisting engineers are responsible for operating hoists in order to move both materials and workers for construction work.
Construction work requires the movement of heavy materials and even, at times, people, in ways that human strength alone cannot manage. Therefore, many construction projects employ hoisting engineers, who are knowledgeable and skilled in operating compressed gas or liquid hoists. They use these hoists to manipulate cages, cableways, loaders, railcars, and other items with the intention of moving heavy materials or workers from one place to another in order to facilitate construction work. In addition to operating hoists, hoisting engineers may repair, maintain, and/or adjust their equipment.
Riggers or rig technicians control and operate rigs for construction work.
A rig is a machine which drills a hole in the earth’s surface, frequently used for gas and oil extraction or mining. A rigger manages the rig throughout every step of the process of its use—the rigger sets up and assembles the rig, attaching and securing pieces of machinery, controls the movement of the rig during drilling, and disassembles the machine at the end of the project. He or she is responsible for monitoring the safe usage of the rig, ensuring that the pressure of oil or gas remains at a safe level. Furthermore, in the field of construction, riggers also often work with cranes. Like with rigs, these riggers are responsible for setting up the machines, putting in place the pulleys and cable systems needed to move heavy materials. Then, these riggers communicate with and guide crane operators using hand signals or radios.
Heavy Equipment Operators
Heavy equipment operators maneuver and manipulate the heavy machinery and equipment used in construction work.
Construction projects such as the erection of buildings and the production of roads and bridges require the use of heavy machinery, and this machinery requires skilled workers to operate it effectively and safely. These workers deftly operate heavy machinery and equipment to move construction materials, large amounts of earth, or other heavy items, and to clear land in preparation for construction. Examples of heavy equipment which these workers operate include cranes, bulldozers, excavation and loading machines, pavers, and pile drivers. In addition to driving and controlling these machines, heavy equipment operators must perform cleaning and minor repairs and communicate with other crew members in order to complete work efficiently and safely.
Reinforcing Road Workers
Reinforcing road workers install the reinforcing pieces in the construction of roads.
When roads are constructed, they must be reinforced to maintain their strength and durability. A reinforcing road worker is a particular type of road worker and ironworker who installs reinforcing steel (known as rebar) during the construction of roads to strengthen the concrete. These workers measure and cut rebar to design and blueprint specifications and use a variety of tools to secure and install the rebar.
Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power systems in private, commercial, and industrial buildings.
The electrical systems which run our world may include electrical communications, lighting, and control structures, and they power the lights, appliances, and equipment within buildings; electricians are responsible for both initially assembling these systems and ensuring that they continue to function through maintenance and repairs. They both incorporate electrical systems into newly constructed buildings and maintain these systems in older buildings. They install electrical wiring and lighting systems, and examine electrical components such as transformers and circuit breakers, inspect systems for defects or malfunctions, and repair these problems as necessary using hand and power tools. The field of electrical work encompasses numerous specializations depending on the context in which one works; these contexts include private homes, businesses, factories, highway electrical systems, and more.
Elevator Installers and Repairers
Elevator installers and repairers install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, chairlifts, and other mechanical lifts.
Many buildings and operations require the use of various kinds of mechanical lifts to transport people, objects, and materials, and elevator installers and repairers are responsible for installing this machinery and keeping it operating smoothly. Some of these workers specialize in either installation or maintenance and repair of electrical lifts, while others perform both types of work. Elevator installers and repairers assemble elevator cars, connect elevator wiring to electrical sources and control panels, test equipment for its adherence to safety specifications, repair defects in components such as brakes, motors, and switches, and perform scheduled preventive maintenance in order to keep elevators up and running.
Carpet installers place and secure lengths of carpet over floors.
Many private and public buildings have carpeted floors, and carpet installers are responsible for laying these floors and making sure they are aesthetically pleasing. Although an interior designer generally chooses the material, color, and pattern, carpet installers must ensure that the carpet they apply fits appropriately and has a smooth appearance. They lay lengths of carpet over floors, use tools to stretch the carpet to fit the floor appropriately, and join and seam the edges of the carpet. A subset of this profession is a carpet tile installer; these workers lay smaller squares of carpet side by side to cover floors and to be glued into place.
Wood Flooring Installers
Wood flooring installers place, seal, and finish wooden flooring.
Wood, particularly hardwood, is a very popular and resilient material for floors, and wood flooring installers both lay this material in place and ensure its aesthetic appeal and durability. They measure, place, and secure the wood, and then finish it by sanding down the wood to make it smooth, applying sealant, and/or applying stain for a pleasing finished look. Wood flooring installers may need to remove previously installed or existing floor coverings to make way for new and improved flooring, and then prepare the surface to be covered by cleaning and leveling it.
Vinyl and Linoleum Installers
Vinyl and linoleum installers lay floors using the synthetic materials vinyl and linoleum.
Vinyl and linoleum are commonly used synthetic, durable flooring materials—vinyl is a plastic-based flooring compound, while linoleum is a hard, washable flooring material. The installers of these materials must cut portions of them to size and secure these panels in place using glue or other adhesive products. They ensure that the finished linoleum or vinyl floors are smooth and pleasing in appearance.
Tile and Marble Setters
Tile and marble setters install and finish floors made of ceramic and marble tile.
Tiles made of ceramic and marble are an attractive and popular flooring material, and tile and marble setters are responsible for crafting and laying these materials. They cut, place, polish, and finish them using tools such as wet saws or handheld tile cutters, trowels and mortar, and hand or power sanders. They spread mortar evenly on the flooring surface, place spacers between tiles to ensure that they are straight and even, apply grout between the tiles, and finally, when the tiles are set, wipe or polish them for a clean, smooth appearance.
Glaziers work with glass, installing windows, skylights, and other fixtures in stores, homes, and other buildings.
Glass has a variety of uses and comes in a variety of different types, including insulated glass, tempered or laminated glass, or even bulletproof glass, and glaziers install these glass products. They must remove old or broken glass before installing new glass, cut and measure glass to precise standards in order to ensure that it fits properly, fasten glass into place, and seal the edges of panels of glass. Glaziers may work in homes, installing or repairing glass in places ranging from windows to mirrors to shower doors to tabletops, or in commercial contexts, installing glass items such as room dividers, storefronts, and security windows. In major construction projects, glaziers place and secure large, heavy, pre-cut panels of glass, using cranes or hoists to lift and position them.
Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of dangerous materials including lead, asbestos, and radioactive waste; they also neutralize and dispose of combustible, corrosive, or poisonous materials.
Human activity such as construction and power generation at times uses or produces toxic or dangerous materials which can be harmful to human beings and the environment, and hazmat removal workers are responsible for mitigating or eliminating these threats. Given that these workers handle hazardous materials every day, following safety protocols and procedures is paramount to this profession. Hazmat removal workers test materials to figure out the best way to deal with them, construct containment areas as necessary, eliminate or clean up hazardous materials, and transport or store these materials in order to remove them from areas in which they may cause harm.
Highway Construction Crew Members
Highway construction crew members work to construct highways and roads and perform the duties associated with this construction.
The construction of roads and highways is an essential component of the infrastructure of human life and activity, and highway construction workers are specialized construction laborers who complete this important work. These workers clean and prepare construction sites, transport and manage building materials, and set up additional construction elements such as scaffolding, road signs, and barricades. They may use tools such as jackhammers and operate machinery such as cement mixers. Additionally, these workers are often in charge of directing and managing the flow of traffic around worksites to ensure the safety
Other Careers Related to Construction
Construction and Building Supply