How to Start a Career in the Fastest Growing Construction Jobs
Drive past a construction site, and what do you think?
If you’re like most people outside the industry, you probably think nothing of it. Perhaps you have a flashing notion of hardhats or cranes. But there’s a good chance you don’t often think to yourself, “Wow, I wonder what a career in construction would be like?”
Even if you’ve been considering the field for a while, chances are you don’t know its full potential. The truth is, construction is a dynamic industry, but not many people outside of it are aware of all of its intricacies. The vibrancy and diversity of roles and positions are incredible and offer enough possibility to people of all backgrounds that it’s worth considering making the jump.
Although there is plenty of investment occurring in construction, the industry is experiencing a severe labor shortage. For career seekers, this means there are plenty of job opportunities with growing salaries. In addition to improving productivity and efficiency with technology, construction companies need more people to take on these exciting and lucrative jobs.
It’s time to change that. To continue celebrating Careers in Construction month (coined by Build Your Future), this week, we’ll discuss the top growing job trends in the industry and how to start a career in these sectors. Based on potential job growth, opportunities, median salary as well as personal fulfillment, these are our picks for the top 15 jobs in construction, in no particular order.
1. Construction Project Managers
If you like the view from the top, this is one of the best careers in construction for you. Project managers (PMs) are responsible for overseeing various aspects of a project from startup to closeout, including planning, coordination and budgets. In order to succeed in this role, PMs need excellent problem-solving skills, the ability to handle high-pressure situation, solid organizational and budgeting skills and strong leadership qualities.
You can check out our career guide for more information about this role, but to position yourself as a PM, it’s helpful to have a degree in construction management, surveying, civil engineering or construction engineering. Before they become PMs, many people start their careers as project engineers (PEs) so it may take a few years of experience as an engineer plus some field work to achieve your goal.
The good news: The role compensates well and offers excellent growth potential. The median salary for project managers is $91,370 annually. Additionally, the job is anticipated to grow at a rate of 11% from 2016 to 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Don’t forget to check out our career guide for construction project managers, which provides a deep dive into how to achieve and grow in this coveted career role.
Believe it or not, plumbing was ranked as the #1 best construction job by U.S. News & World Report. The market for plumbers is growing quite quickly right now, at a rate of 16% between 2016 and 2026, which is considerably faster than the market average. That translates to an additional 75,200 jobs in the next eight years, says the BLS, which makes investing in this role a very good idea. With a median salary of $52,590 annually, this is one of the most lucrative careers to pursue without a degree.
So what do they do? In the construction industry, typically, plumbers install and repair water supply lines, waste disposal systems, appliances and fixtures for residential, commercial and even industrial projects. A significant portion of their work in construction also involves service maintenance, after a project is complete. These contracts are usually long-term and add a steady and consistent stream of income.
Successful plumbers have a strong mechanical aptitude, coordination and a problem-solving skillset. They are also excellent in planning, people- and client-first focused roles and have an interest in continuing education, since technology in this field changes and is becoming more cutting-edge all the time. To work as a plumber, you must be licensed and certified. Before that, in addition to earning a diploma or GED, plumbers must undergo vocational training and then a 4-5 year apprenticeship. The work is worth getting into one of the best careers in construction. If you’re looking to learn more on the specifics of the opportunities and challenges that plumbers face, check out our ebook.
Closely following plumbers, electricians are ranked as the #3 best careers in construction by U.S. News & World Report, electricians follow quickly on the heels of plumbers for a more desirable role. With a job growth rate of 9% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s bound to be plenty of opportunity for anyone who leverages the possibilities now. The median salary is $54,110 annually, and keep in mind: that’s just average. Once you have years in the field under your belt, salaries can range much higher.
Electricians are responsible for designing, installing and maintaining the wiring and equipment through which electricity flows in all types of facilities. Similar to plumbers, a big segment of their work is maintenance related. To succeed as an electrician, you need to be highly mechanical, possess high standards for safety and quality, have customer-interfacing skills, be a natural problem-solver and enjoy the puzzle often presented by this role.
Similar to plumbers, electricians must be licensed and certified. Before that, in addition to a diploma or GED, electricians must undergo technical school to get hands-on training and then a 4-5 year apprenticeship program. We break down a little more of the specific hurdles electricians need to overcome in a recent ebook, here.
4. Civil Engineers
If you love the concepts of construction but don’t love being out on the jobsite, civil engineering is a great career path to explore, as people in this role spend a lot of time inside a trailer or office. Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of our world’s infrastructure which includes roads, tunnels, bridges, sewage systems and more.
With an expected 11% job growth from through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as a median salary of $84,770 annually, you can’t go wrong in this field. So long as you possess strong math abilities, good and decisive decision-making skills, strong organizational traits and a capacity for leadership, you’ll do well.
To begin their careers, civil engineers generally have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related specialty, such as mechanical engineering or urban planning. Many in higher positions also have a graduate degree. To learn more about this role, check out this in-depth exploration.
5. Solar Photovoltaic Installers
You may not know that solar photovoltaic installers assemble, install and maintain solar panels and systems on the rooftops of a variety of facilities. You also may not know that as the world grows more dependent on renewable resources, the need for solar photovoltaic installers has been increasing exponentially.
It’s not only one of the fastest growing careers in construction; it’s one of the fastest in general. According to the BLS, it is skyrocketing at a staggering rate of 105% between 2016 and 2026. The median salary is $39,490 annually, but people who enter the field and establish expertise can quickly outstrip this. Anyone with interest in energy production and electricity, as well as the propensity for continually improving their skills, will love and succeed in this field.
If you’d like to start a career in this fascinating field, you should head to technical school or community college for a 2-year program and subsequent apprenticeship. However, some may be able to get their start with a diploma or GED, followed by on-the-job-training of a year or so. Either way, there’s no time to lose.
6. Wind Turbine Technicians
Wind turbine technicians are also predicted to be one of the fastest growing careers in construction and of all jobs given the growth of renewable energy. The career path is expected to grow 96% between 2016 and 2026, says the BLS, making them among the best jobs in any field, not just construction. With a median salary of $53,880 annually, they’re also quite appealing for the money you can get as a young professional.
Wind turbine technicians are also known as windtechs. Their job duties include installing, maintaining and repairing wind turbines. The work is generally done outdoors, in confined spaces and at great heights. So in addition to mechanical and troubleshooting skills, as well as strong documentation abilities, you’ll need a lot of physical stamina and a significant tolerance of heights.
After getting a high school diploma or GED, most windtechs go to technical school to get certificates in wind energy technology. Some choose to earn an associate’s degree. After schooling, they usually receive one year of on-the-job training related to the specific wind turbines they will maintain and service. While not necessary, internships and professional certification improve job marketability.
7. Sheet Metal Workers
Sheet metal workers specialize in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC). They work both in shops and on jobsites and are currently seeing job growth of 9% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a median salary of $47,990 annually, you’ve got good prospects for earning a living and supporting others early on.
Plus, sheet metal workers have some of the most interesting and challenging careers in construction. Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems. If you possess mechanical skills, math skills, critical thinking skills and good coordination, chances are you will excel in this cutting-edge but surprisingly artistic field.
Once you get a high school diploma or GEO, expect to do a 4- to 5-year apprenticeship to learn your trade. While optional, certifications like one from the American Welding Society can help job prospects.
If you’re looking for careers in construction that are more physical in nature, glaziers have a promising path ahead of them. Glaziers install glass in windows, storefronts, and other displays, often using their technical knowledge and creative skills to fit panes to unique spaces or design solutions for specific specs.
Job prospects are very good. As the BLS points out, the role is growing at a rate of 9% between 2016 and 2026, with a median salary of $42,580 annually. If you have physical stamina and strength, material knowledge and mathematical skills, you’ll do well.
To get started, all you need is a high school diploma, followed by an apprenticeship and on-the-job training.
9. Elevator Installers and Repairers
If you don’t have fears of closed spaces and heights and don’t mind being on call in emergency situations, becoming an elevator installer or repairer can prove a lucrative and rewarding career. With 12% job growth predicted between 2016 and 2026, according to (who else?) the BLS, you won’t have trouble finding a job. Additionally, with a median salary of $79,480 annually, you’ll make a very comfortable living.
So what do they do, you’re wondering? In a nutshell, people in this field help to install, repair and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways and more. You’ll need good mechanical skills, troubleshooting skills, dependability, analytical thinking and independence to succeed in this role.
Starting your career typically requires an apprenticeship, in addition to ongoing training throughout a career. It is a challenging field, with significant repercussions for consumer safety, so it’s essential you stay up to date on all training.
10. Masonry Workers
Masonry is one of the oldest careers in construction. Masons have a refined craft that requires hand-eye coordination and other physical skills, with thousands of years of history backing up the trade. Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other structures. Successful traits include color vision, physical stamina and strength, coordination, precision and attention to detail.
They’ve never been in higher demand than now, with 12% job growth predicted between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS, and a median salary of $42,900 annually.
If you’d like to start in this field, you’ll need a diploma or GED, followed by an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Many technical schools also offer a masonry track.
While a career as an ironworker can be dangerous and full of risks, there are plenty of positive benefits that make it a fulfilling career for many. Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings and other infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. They require a calm nature, physical strength and stamina, determination and tolerance of heights.
If you have those skills, you’ll find that ironworking is quite rewarding. It offers significant job security, with roles growing at a rate of 13% between 2016 and 2026, says the BLS, and a median salary of $51,320. The vast majority of ironworkers do an apprenticeship, but some do learn on the job.
12. Construction Equipment Operators
Construction equipment operators are genuinely in the thick of things on the jobsite, but good career opportunities and salary with little educational requirements make this an enticing job market for many. The market is growing at a rate of 12% from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a median salary of $46,080 annually, you’ll make a comfortable living as well.
In this role, you can expect to drive, maneuver and control the heavy equipment and machinery used in a variety of construction environments. Successful traits include hand-eye coordination, physical stamina and mechanical skills.
To start a career as a construction equipment operator, you’ll need a high school diploma and GED, and possibly some vocational training. However, many learn on the job and can hit the ground running.
According to CareerExplorer, boilermakers, “assemble, install, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.” In addition to assembling and installing boilers on new builds, many boilermakers spend significant time inspecting and repairing the machinery and replacing parts.
While working as a boilermaker is physically demanding, the pay is good. The latest median annual wage for boilermakers was $62,150. Getting started as a boilermaker involves a GED and most learn the trade through a formal apprenticeship program.
14. Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Removal Worker
Removing hazardous materials is a common activity on a construction project. These workers identify and dispose of dangerous materials like lead, asbestos, radioactive waste and more, especially common on renovations and demolitions.
As careers in construction go, this can be a dangerous job. However, these workers always wear full, protective suits for long periods of time. That being said, the job can be demanding mentally. Workers often have to work overtime and nights and weekends. Nevertheless, the career path is projected to grow 11%t from 2018 to 2028, according to BLS. Typically, hazmat workers complete an apprenticeship and the median annual wage for the role is $42,030.
15. Construction Technologist
Haven’t heard of the career construction technologist? It’s a rising job role in many companies, especially as technology becomes ever more important in the industry. While the job role is so new that there’s not solid salary data on it at this moment, it’s influence and importance is rising in construction companies.
In general, it’s helpful to have an IT background to succeed in this role as they are generally responsible for research, technology management and implementation. JBKnowledge released a helpful guide for anyone interested in learning more about the role.
Careers in Construction: Something for Everyone
Lesson learned? Construction is a vibrant field full of promising opportunities and fascinating job options. Not one job fits all.
No matter your skillset, education level or interest, there’s probably a job that would be a good fit for you in construction. Choose one of the above careers in construction, and you’re bound to stay moving, enjoy your job responsibilities and make good money while you’re at it.