Construction workers have a number of career opportunities, including jobs at a variety of residential and commercial sites and a chance for advancement to positions such as supervisor or superintendent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says construction workers do not need formal schooling and that most learn their trade through on-the-job training. Some jobs may require that applicants have at least a high school diploma.
Those who are interested in a formal training program can earn a diploma, certificate or degree at a community college or a four-year college or university. Community college programs may be better suited for those who are already working or who cannot commit to a full-time program. Degree programs are available for carpentry and construction technology. Many programs, such as the one at Ranken Technical College, offer options for evening and online classes. An associate degree can typically be completed in two years, but those who enroll in the program part-time may take longer to finish. A bachelor's degree can be completed in four years, and it provides more extensive training in engineering technology, which can prepare you for advanced positions as a superintendent. Though formal degree programs are not necessary to work in construction, they can help you to be more competitive for jobs, command a higher salary and be eligible for more opportunities.
An apprenticeship is a formal training program that construction workers can use to break into the field. Some apprenticeships are offered through government programs, but others are offered by construction companies themselves. The Illinois Department of Employment Security offers a number of apprenticeships related to construction. The carpentry apprenticeship lasts four years and includes an average of 144 hours per year in classroom instruction. Other programs may be shorter, depending on the scope of the program and who offers them.
Certification is available for those who have started working but who want an additional professional credential that will provide more job opportunities. The California Department of Public Health provides a certification program that includes a 24- to 32-hour course, and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers certification that requires passing a comprehensive examination. Certification typically shows that workers are trained in health and safety issues, and it can qualify them for additional roles such as supervisor or quality control.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for construction laborers and helpers are expected to grow by 25 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average for other industries. The BLS says that those with the best skills will have the best job opportunities. Average pay for construction laborers and helpers was $28,410 in 2010. Average pay for carpenters was $39,530 in 2010. Additional training, certification and education can increase construction workers' pay. The BLS says that the top 10 percent of carpenters earned $71,660 or more in 2010 while the bottom 10 percent earned $24,650.