How Much Do Construction Workers Make?

Construction worker laying bricks

A “construction worker” is sometimes used as a catch-all term for many careers, but it actually represents a general laborer. Whether you plan on taking a full-time or part-time construction job, there are millions of people who find this industry rewarding, challenging, and well-paying.

 

What is a Construction Worker?

A construction worker is someone who works on a construction site. However, there are plenty of tradespeople that make up a construction crew. From carpenters to electricians to roofers to painters, any of these on-site professionals could be considered construction workers.

When a company is hiring a general “construction worker,” they’re looking for a general laborer who doesn’t have a journeyperson certification. Construction workers can either possess no experience, be a construction training program graduate or an apprentice.

 

What Does a Construction Worker Do?

A construction worker completes a wide range of tasks that could be very simple, like sweeping a driveway, or extremely difficult and hazardous, like working on a roof. While most tasks don’t require a lot of skill, others require training and expertise or direct supervision from a senior.

If a construction worker shows promise, they may be asked to join an apprenticeship program, usually paid for by their employer, under a few conditions. For example, the employer may require the apprentice to work for their company for at least a year after becoming certified.

Common duties of a construction worker include:

  • Cleaning and preparing construction sites
  • Loading and unloading building materials
  • Digging trenches and filling holes
  • Building bracings, barricades, and scaffolding
  • Helping craft workers with their duties
  • Operating machines, such as concrete mixers
  • Following construction plans or directions

 

The majority of construction workers are generalists, but they may specialize eventually.

 

What Skills Do You Need to be a Construction Worker?

While most construction workers don’t need any skills, they’re more likely to be hired if they specialize or have some experience in construction. Some construction specialties include:

  • Tearing down buildings
  • Building businesses and homes
  • Building roads and highways
  • Digging mine shafts and/or tunnels
  • Removing hazardous waste

 

Construction workers will use specific tools and equipment for their jobs. For example, shovels, brooms, and drills. If a construction worker is specialized or licensed, they may be able to use pavement breakers, earth tampers, jackhammers, forklifts, and surveying equipment.

With training and certification, construction workers may be able to remove asbestos, chemicals, and lead from buildings or operate laser beam equipment and boring machines.

If a construction worker becomes an apprentice, they may help the following trades:

  • Brickmasons
  • Electricians
  • Sheet Metal Workers
  • HVAC
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Pipefitters
  • Painters
  • Plasterers

 

Keep in mind that construction workers can only handle work typically performed by a senior if they’re under the supervision of a journeyperson. Otherwise, they perform general labor.

 

How Much Does a Construction Worker Make?

In 2020, the median salary for a construction worker was $37,890. However, if you live in a big city or work for a unionized company, you’ll make much more. Both Hawaii and Illinois pay their construction workers over $60,000 a year, while New Jersey and New York pay $57,000.

While construction workers make a lot of money for their skill set, they can make even more if they apprentice. An apprentice will earn a raise when they complete their program, with elevator installers, boilermakers, and building inspectors making the most as journeypeople.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a journeyperson in those trades that take apprentices. But electricians and plumbers are easy to find, and both professions make $65,000+ per year.

If you’re more interested in sheet metal, carpentry, or operating equipment, there are programs available for all three. At $60,000+ a year, all three careers will help you pay the bills.