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Construction is a high-demand industry; even when COVID-19 and widespread economic slowdowns put most of the world on hold, building work continued. Still, the construction industry struggles with a worker shortage. Getting into a career in construction is viable for just about anyone, and there are several ways to get your new job.

Laborers can generally join projects without experience and as little education as a G.E.D. However, other positions require further preparation, including a degree in construction or related fields.

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Skills Needed for a Career in Construction

Those interested in working in construction must have diverse skills that may seem basic but are essential for getting the job done. Construction isn’t about swinging a hammer; the most successful artisans must leverage their entire skillset.

  • Physical strength and stamina: Construction jobs are physically demanding and require more strength and stamina than most others. Physical tasks are unavoidable, so having a foundation for strength is an asset. You don’t have to be the strongest person in the world, but you must be able to handle the long days.
  • Communication and coordination: Succeeding in a career in construction requires communicating and working well with others. People prefer to work with strong leaders with proven track records of teamwork skills. Furthermore, you’ll have access to more career opportunities if you can coordinate your suppliers, crewmembers, and equipment operators.
  • Basic language and math literacy: Basic language and math skills play into your ability to coordinate and communicate with others. Knowing algebra also helps you estimate how much material a certain task might require. There’s much more math in construction than you might expect; for example, it’s essential to measure and cut materials precisely to reduce waste.
  • Openness to new ideas: Technology continues to grow at an accelerated pace, so it’s crucial to adapt to new methods and techniques to complete projects more efficiently. The most skilled construction workers learn new ideas and skills to position themselves as leaders; after all, if you’re the only one in the crew who knows how to do something, you’ll stand out to supervisors.
  • Cleanliness and organization: Knowing where you put your equipment, tools, and materials prevents you from spending too much time on the day’s preparation. Having the skills to maintain a clean and organized workspace is an underappreciated skill with tremendous value.
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking: Construction projects can be unpredictable; the weather can damage materials, tools may go missing, and any number of things can otherwise delay tasks. How you handle these scenarios will help you stand out as a leader.

The more specialized you are in a trade, the more money you can earn throughout your career. Combine these skills with years of knowledge, and you’ll be rewarded with a multitude of career opportunities.

Construction Technology

Whether you want to be a kitchen and bath remodeler, a hands-on carpenter, or a project manager, a construction technology degree provides the foundation you need to build a promising career in construction.

A bachelor’s program in construction technology teaches students various construction management methods, building planning, and cost estimating. While you can often easily find entry-level employment in construction after graduating, you can also pursue a master’s degree. First, however, the four-year degree program educates you on plenty of technical engineering and standard construction procedures.

Students enrolled in these programs learn to follow blueprints, create cost estimates, purchase and handle building materials, implement schedules, and manage construction crews. Some examples of courses you might complete include:

  • Computer-aided drafting
  • Programming and engineering
  • Surveying
  • Soil mechanics
  • Construction practices
  • Construction materials

After graduating with a degree in construction technology, you can apply for several different positions in the construction industry, including:

  • Construction manager or superintendent
  • Contractor
  • Estimator
  • Field supervisor
  • Building planner
  • Construction safety specialist

Graduates interested in pursuing continuing education options in construction can pursue advanced degrees in construction technology, industrial technology, or construction management, all of which would result in a Master of Science. Each degree program traditionally takes two years to finish, providing the leadership skills necessary to build a better career in construction.

Engineering

Earning an engineering major involves studying science, math, and business principles. In addition, most engineering programs teach students how to identify and solve problems, design and conduct experiments, communicate effectively, and understand ethical and professional responsibility.

Your first years will likely include a range of natural science, social science, math, and humanities; these classes prepare you for the many fields that teach various skills, including teamwork, leadership, analysis, and problem-solving. Engineering applies to several work areas, so the coursework starts with foundational, introductory courses before moving onto advanced topics in later years; seniors often conclude with computer systems, electrical engineering, applied mechanics, or management classes.

Engineering course requirements vary by school, but the most common include taking foundational math, science, and engineering courses. For example, these courses might consist of statistics, calculus, linear algebra, biology, physics, geology, chemistry, circuits, engineering analysis, fundamentals of programming and problem-solving, introductory electronics, engineering of systems, introduction to materials science, or engineering economics and sustainability.

Depending on the field you choose in your junior year, you’ll move on to more advanced civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering branches. Because engineers can wear many hats, engineering students learn technical, academic, and professional lessons throughout their four years.

Construction engineering primarily focuses on planning, designing, and managing infrastructure projects like bridges, highways, railroads, airports, buildings, industrial plants, dams, and reservoirs. An engineering degree prepares you to build a promising career in this field.

Architecture

Studying architecture involves the art and science of designing and constructing large buildings and engineering projects. Getting a degree in architecture requires enthusiasm for both the arts and the sciences, and admissions requirements usually consider both mathematical proficiency and artistic ability.

Architects are responsible for the safety and reliability of large structures designed for regular human use, so these programs prepare students for long study before graduates can become licensed architects. However, unless you plan to become a licensed architect, you won’t need to go through the entire five-year study to apply what you’ve learned for a career in construction.

Most people know that architects design buildings, but working in architecture involves a considerably more significant set of responsibilities. Much of the time, practicing architects at small-to-medium-sized firms also handle budgeting, keeping financial accounts, ensuring compliances with safety and health regulations, negotiating with contractors, planning design, and preparing material and artistry specifications.

Architectural engineering is a subset of this type of degree in which you study the application of engineering technology and principles into building design and construction. These engineers work together with civil engineers and architects, but each is unique in skillset and team function.

Studying architectural engineering educates you in a range of engineering sciences and systems, including:

  • electrical and lighting systems
  • structural systems
  • construction engineering and management
  • heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems

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Physical Fitness

Physical fitness programs traditionally prepare graduates for careers as exercise instructors, team managers, coaches, athletic trainers, or health club facility directors. Most of these degrees are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. You’ll typically learn about kinesiology, exercise physiology, nutrition, and biomechanics for undergraduate study.

You can obtain an associate degree in exercise science within two years; these programs prepare you for an entry-level career in physical fitness, teaching you what you need to know to get stronger and become a better athlete. Ultimately, students will receive a strong foundation in physical fitness and learn how to promote health through physical activity. You may take classes in:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Injury prevention
  • Health and wellness

Several tasks you must perform in construction require strength, but the work itself is not ideal for building muscle. Construction is too repetitive; you spend too much time completing the same jobs in the same way using the same equipment each day. Once you’re used to using the 16-ounce hammer, you don’t get a heavier one to get better with.

In other words, it’s best to bring physical strength and stamina to the job rather than expect to develop it there. To that end, a physical fitness degree can teach you the foundations.

Communications

Earning a communications degree is about studying how to communicate information effectively. You need good communication skills no matter what industry you want to build a career in; you need to maintain strong relationships with clients and investors, sell products or designs, and ensure everyone in and outside of the business is on the same page.

Getting a communications degree will help you build awareness of ways to communicate information to a diverse audience within the boundaries of your specific business goals. Strong communications skills are essential to provide meaning to company goals and to present the business and its services in the best possible way to clients.

If a construction worker isn’t clear about their directive, he needs to interpret it quickly and ask the appropriate questions to clarify what he needs to complete the job. Countless construction terms are essential to know in this industry; a promising worker has a deep knowledge of the vocabulary associated with his discipline. For construction workers, that means knowing the names of processes, techniques, tools, and methods used in the trade.

Modern construction workers also often require strong written communication skills due to the rapid evolution of communication technology. You might receive your information through texts or email while you’re in the field; the most successful construction workers have mastered written communication skills, including accurate spelling and punctuation, to communicate ideas to clients or supervisors clearly and concisely.

Finally, giving and taking orders on a job site requires effective communication with others. When you speak, others must understand what you’re saying and apply the information provided to their specific work.

Public Relations

Businesses often collaborate internally and use outside help to maintain a good relationship and positive image with their consumer base.

Public relations programs are similar to other undergraduate degrees, especially in communications and business. Most of these courses begin with general education classes in core subjects like English and math before moving to public relations in later years. Public relations students often focus on studies in communication and writing, and those classes may specifically focus on skills needed to be successful in a PR career.

When construction companies add public relations to the mix, they can improve their exposure and credibility, leading to more profits and a stronger market position.

In the same way that a construction project starts at the drawing board, so too does public relations. After all, customers come back because of a strong reputation; with education in public relations, you can help a construction company speak on industry topics with authority and highlight relevant news to increase credibility, making you a valuable asset to the team.

PR is a vehicle to highlight company accomplishments and gain exposure through several channels. Awards and accolades are an excellent way to be recognized for quality work and other essential contributions to the construction field. Winning an industry award can do wonders for a brand when it knows how to leverage it; people want to know when your business is qualified to speak on specific topics. The easiest way to do that is to merchandise success.

Philosophy

Earning a philosophy degree involves studying the nature of existence, truth, knowledge, and ethics. This course of study requires considering the most fundamental questions about who we are while examining philosophical thought across all known history. In addition, you’ll learn to reason effectively, improve your logical and critical thinking, and write persuasively.

Studying philosophy will help you see the connection between ideas and develop a relationship logically. For example, an ethicist might argue that humans should live a certain way based on facts in behavioral psychology. This argument could further imply that the government should legislate to ensure people can live their lives how they want. On the other hand, a philosopher of science might provide conceptual clarity using competing quantum mechanical theories. In other words, the philosopher can refine all fields of inquiry.

Developing good products and designing safe buildings requires a critical eye and checking for faults. Critical thinkers constantly think about a final product, even when the work is done. This degree of thinking is essential to sustaining high standards for any company, including construction; without critical thinkers, a construction crew would be stuck in mediocrity.

Finally, thinking on your feet also teaches you to innovate on the job; critical thinkers are aware of flaws and issues and think about creative ways to solve them. Sometimes, this method leads to a new system, new technology, or some other kind of idea that ends up succeeding. Critical thinking is vital for long-term success, and a philosophy degree can teach you how.

Project Management

Project management courses are business-focused curriculums that teach fundamental knowledge to improve management outcomes, including time, cost, scope, risk, communications, human resources, quality control, procurement, and project integration.

Studying project management will teach you how to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of leadership and management functions, theories and models, and effectively serve as a leader
  • Function as a self-directed learner who engages in continuous professional growth with experiential learning practices
  • Apply the principles of organizational design, systems, and improve operations and strategy
  • Apply the appropriate methods and demonstrate the behavioral and ethical competencies needed to successfully organize projects for optimal performance using operational and strategic goals
  • Utilize management tools, research skills, and analytical methods needed to identify problems in the organization and come up with effective solutions
  • Exhibit effective leadership communication skills
  • Understand organizational communication methods and strategies

As a project manager, your goal is to ensure the whole construction process goes according to plan. You would be responsible for maintaining the schedule and budget while allocating resources and providing quality while avoiding scope creep. In addition, construction project managers assess risks and inform stakeholders of progress updates. By streamlining communication and centralizing all information, you create an efficient process that would not otherwise be possible.

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Math

Getting a degree in math is an unconventional way to get started with a career in construction. However, it’s a degree that people interested in solutions and solving real-world problems study. Moreover, it’s an essential discipline because so many roles require at least a basic understanding of several mathematical concepts.

Mathematics involves studying quantity, space, structure, and change. Though these concepts may seem abstract, math is, at the core, a quest for definitive answers and complete solutions. Most people think of math as a string of numeric chains filled with fractions or spreadsheets of figures, but math’s complex equations are actually a means of simplifying real-world applications. As a result, believers in better, more intelligent solutions often find themselves drawn to studying math.

Taking a construction management program usually does not require you to study a specific math unit, but there is still plenty of math underlying the work in this field. From determining floor space ratios and ordering materials to settling on a building and calculating costs and quantities, construction involves lots of everyday practical arithmetic. If you’re already proficient with critical thinking and physical strength but lack much mathematical ability, then getting a degree in math could help you change that.

Construction workers often find themselves using a variety of math in the field, including:

  • Basic algebra
  • Area and volume
  • Fractions and decimals
  • Trigonometry
  • Measurement and conversion
  • Area formulas
  • Cost calculations
  • Tolerance and error
  • Ratio, scale, and proportions
  • Volume formulas
  • Right angle trigonometry

Construction Management

Finally, if you’re interested in a long-term career in construction that eventually involves managing others, then getting a degree in construction management will teach you the skills necessary to do so. Some of the responsibilities you may have when you serve as a construction manager include:

  • Updating clients on the progress and status of a project
  • Maintaining the budget, including project expenses and construction workers alike
  • Hiring subcontractors and supervising what they do
  • Dealing with safety concerns, delays, unmet deadlines, and other issues
  • Collaborate with specialists like civil engineers and architects

Civil engineering and construction management courses have lots of overlap, but they are two different fields with varying education and professional requirements. The primary distinction between the two is the fact that civil engineering focuses on the whole of an infrastructure project, including the planning, budgeting, environmental study, legal permits, and construction materials.

On the other hand, construction management involves dealing with a construction project’s onsite aspects. Hands-on experience is more important in this field because construction managers work directly with techniques and materials, and engineers transform designs into actual constructions.

Essentially, a construction manager is responsible for ensuring the project is completed in a way that satisfies their employer. They budget, coordinate, plan, and supervise the project from its first to final steps. In most cases, you’ll work closely with both managers and engineers alike, serving as the bridge between the two, bringing various project components together.

Additionally, specialists must work with local, state, and federal authorities to ensure construction projects conform to all relevant laws. For example, as a construction manager, you would be in charge of making sure the project complies with all environmental regulations. In other situations, you might focus on local earthquake safety laws.

Related:

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Get our emails in your inbox, and you’ll get acceptance letters in your mailbox

Get our emails in your inbox, and you’ll get acceptance letters in your mailbox

Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?