Masons are skilled artisans in the construction trade. They may work with concrete, stone or brick, and are accordingly referred to as block masons, stone masons, or brick masons. Masons build everything from retaining walls and bridges, to fireplaces, to commercial buildings and even roads. Masons often begin their careers as unskilled construction laborers, then advance themselves through some combination of formal education and on-the-job training.
Choosing a School
There are lots of things to think about when you're choosing a school. Masonry is a job requiring manual skill, so it's important to choose a program that gives you plenty of hands-on experience. Most masons work for contractors, and contractors value versatility, so it's an advantage if your school teaches all three forms of masonry. Apprenticeships and certificate or diploma programs will teach you the basics of the trade. If you are ambitious, degree programs often teach more advanced techniques and management skills.
Pennsylvania College of Technology
The Pennsylvania College of Technology is an affiliate of Penn State. The school offers an associate degree in building construction technology, with a masonry emphasis. Graduates of the program will have hands-on skills in brick, block, stone, and structural masonry. The course also includes estimating, drafting, scheduling, and blueprint reading. Credits earned in this associate degree program can be applied toward a baccalaureate through other institutions.
Central Pennsylvania Institute of Technology
The CPI offers two programs in masonry, one at the high school level and one for adult learners. The high school program, masonry and building construction technology, teaches teens the fundamentals of the trade and provides opportunities to work in the field during the senior year. The adult program is designed to graduate working tradespeople and covers all major aspects of the trade as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration job safety practices.
Apprenticeship is the traditional avenue for the teaching of skilled trades. In fact, until the last couple of centuries it was the only way to learn a trade. Apprenticeships are formalized on-the-job training, in which you're mentored by one or more skilled tradespeople. The length of an apprenticeship varies by trade, but four years is not unusual. For an example of an apprenticeship program in Pennsylvania, see the website of the Masonry Contractors Association of Central Pennsylvania.
Fred Decker is a prolific freelance writer based in Atlantic Canada, where he grew from the kind of kid who read his encyclopedia for fun to the kind of adult who reads academic papers for fun. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles on science and food science have appeared on major sites including eHow, Livestrong, Sciencing, TheNest, Leaf.TV and SFGate.com.