Construction is a massive industry that employs a wide variety of workers from general laborers -- who move materials or set up barricades -- to skilled workers like carpenters, electricians and crane operators to construction managers who oversee the entire process. As such, educational needs can vary substantially between jobs. Some jobs require little-to-no education while construction managers usually have college degrees. Classes that are useful across the industry tend to deal with topics that affect all workers, such as communication and drafting.
No formal education beyond high school is needed for much of the work in the construction field. These are positions like general helpers, roofers, painters and carpet installers. Most people in these positions receive their training by working under the guidance of more experienced professionals. Some specialized construction workers, such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers, gain the skills and professional connections needed for their work through apprenticeship programs, which are paid and can take up to four years to complete.
People who want to work in construction management or administration can benefit more from formal education than can other construction workers. Many universities offer degrees with majors like construction management, construction science and construction engineering. Curricula for these degrees typically read as part business, part engineering. On the business side are classes such as small business management, accounting, business law, human resource management, cost control and scheduling. On the engineering side are classes such as drafting and plan reading, materials and construction methods, construction equipment applications and construction structural analysis and design.
Lines of Communication
Some skills are valuable for everyone who works in construction from general laborers to independent contractors to managers. The most basic such skill is the ability to communicate. To this end, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish. Spanish is especially important because it is often the main language used on construction sites. Some schools even offer Spanish classes just for the construction industry.
A Common Goal
Another binding and universal skill for construction workers is the ability to draft, or at least read, construction plans. Many high schools, and most technical schools and universities, offer classes in drafting. Plans provide a common goal for all construction workers, showing them what they're working toward. General laborers can look at drafts and figure out where they need to take certain materials. Carpenters and electricians can figure out what to build and where to run wires. Managers can allocate workers and plan material purchases.
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: Construction and Extraction Occupations
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Construction Laborer or Helper
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Carpenter
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Construction Manager
- Pennsylvania College of Technology: Construction Management Bachelor of Science Degree
- University of Texas at San Antonio: Construction Spanish for the English Speaker
Steve Foster is an educator with a Master of Arts in English. As a writing instructor, Foster shows students the deep, repeatable logic behind grammar rules and the psychology behind document composition, working from the theory that students engage with and absorb ideas best when those ideas are wrapped in strong context.