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Building, Construction & Engineering
The building, construction, and engineering sectors are significant contributors to the U.S. economy. The industry has more than 680,000 employers, over seven million employees and creates nearly $1.3 trillion worth of structures each year!
If you’re after a hands-on career filled with tonnes of opportunities to problem-solve and get a strong sense of satisfaction out of seeing a project done and dusted, this could be the pathway for you.
The industry includes the erection, maintenance, and repair of buildings and other immobile structures and the construction of roads and service facilities that become integral parts of systems and are essential to their use.
Building and construction cover everything from delivering completed buildings, infrastructure, and industrial facilities in its most widely used context. It also includes structural alterations but excludes the building of mobile structures such as ships.
Working within the sector can cover anything from the beginning to the building process – planning, financing, design – through to execution and building, and into repairs and maintenance.
The United States Department of Labor defines the construction industry as companies engaged in the construction of buildings or engineering projects, such as bridges and roads.
The building and construction industry comprises six main sectors:
- Building Completion Services
- Building Installation Services
- Building Structure Services
- General Construction and Demolition
- Signage and Building Surveying
- Specialist Construction Services
The construction industry also covers things like land development and site preparation and the construction trades, including bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry, and electrical.
Many development areas in society require engineers, and many kinds of engineers are needed to meet development needs! It means there is a broad choice of specializations for those interested in a career involving putting things together and making them work.
There are five leading types of engineering that contribute the most to the sector:
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Computer Engineering
- Civil Engineering
Construction, building, and engineering is a growing industry in the US, and qualified individuals with the right skills demand. Every country needs skilled and knowledgeable construction workers and engineers to help them grow and develop, so there’s every possibility to take your skills global!
Entry into the sector is as varied as the roles available, so no matter what academic pathway you choose to pursue, there’ll be an opportunity to sta with a career in construction, building, and engineering.
What You Could Do
Job roles in the building and construction industry are varied, and people may hold qualifications and skills in more than one specific area.
Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could pursue:
- Trades Roles: This includes plumbers, bricklayers, electricians, plasterers, carpenters, painters, and decorators; these workers are specialized in at least one skill area and may work under contract, privately, or be employed through a construction agency/organization. They might work on private projects in private homes or large-scale projects like office buildings or commercial buildings.
- Heavy Machinery Operator: If you’ve ever been past a construction site, you’ll know they use some pretty hefty equipment to get the work done! In this role, you’ll be required to perform daily maintenance and safety checks and operate equipment according to health and safety regulations. It also includes appropriately using handheld machinery tools such as scoops, shovel blades, rock breaking hammers, winches, and blades.
- Construction Manager: Construction managers lead a range of building projects from beginning to end. They are responsible for setting and keeping schedules, monitoring finances and budgets, hiring and resourcing the correct people with the right skills to do the work required, and ensuring everybody is doing what they should, every day. They’ll also problem-solve major issues and keep clients up to speed on delays and additional work to be done.
- Building Surveyor: Building surveyors are responsible for advising clients about the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings. They survey buildings and then report on their findings and make recommendations. They need excellent analytical skills and strong knowledge about different building structures.
There are five leading types of engineering that contribute the most to the sector. Let’s take a look at what each of these does:
- Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineering is one of the most diverse engineering fields. Engineers in this area of industry focus on the study of objects and systems in motion. Mechanical engineers research, design, build, test, maintain, and improve all manner of things we use across our daily lives and society.
- Electrical Engineering: Electrical engineers create, design, and manage electricity to help power the world. They are problem-solvers who apply the physics and mathematics of electricity, electromagnetism, and electronics to process, harness, and transmit energy.
Chemical Engineering Chemical engineering is a branch of engineering that studies chemical plants’ design and operation and improves production methods. Chemical engineers develop economic and commercial processes to convert raw materials into valuable products.
- Computer Engineering: Computer engineers research, design, develop and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. An important role of computer engineers is to integrate different hardware and components into computer and network systems.
- Civil Engineering: Civil engineering might be the most significant sector within engineering as a whole – civil engineering impacts a broad range of our daily living and lifestyles. Civil engineers design, construct, manage and maintain the infrastructure of modern society. Roads, railways, tunnels, buildings, bridges, airports, mines, dams, ports and harbors, water supply and sewerage systems, and flood mitigation works are all shaped by civil engineers.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface. Each industry segment will also include administrative or managerial functions that support the sector in significant ways.
Graduate Employment and Gender Split
Although a degree is not always essential for every career pathway in most of the construction and building sector, it is required for engineering.
Knowing what graduate employment looks like can help set your expectations and make further decisions.
According to the American Society for Engineering Education, employment opportunities are improving for graduates in the sector:
- Engineering Bachelor’s Graduates in full-time employment: 61%
- Engineering Master’s Graduates in employment overall: 67%
Labor market data also indicates that unemployment for engineering graduates is much lower than national averages, at between 1-4% depending on your chosen major.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are great percentages!
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within, but it remains a heavily male-dominated industry.
The American Society for Engineering Education indicates that the average split is:
While gender, racial and ethnic diversity among engineering technicians and technologists are still low, both groups are better represented than within engineering occupations.
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:
- Construction Worker: $53-$69,500
- Construction Manager: $71,500-$126,000
- Land/Site Surveyor: $55-$69,500
- Civil Engineer: $87-$113,500
- General Engineer: $81-$96,800
Salaries can be pretty varied, with lower expectations for entry-level roles.
Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Any additional qualifications or certifications that give you a specialist skillset
The building, construction, and engineering sector and workers have been deemed essential following the coronavirus pandemic within the United States. However, wider economic shutdown and supply chain disruptions jeopardized operations and construction schedules. Many workers were affected by the pandemic, and there was a reduction in available workers overall.
These factors have contributed to a decline across the sector throughout 2020 and 2021, but longer-term industry growth is promising.
Before the pandemic, the US had announced several large-scale construction developments and expansions on existing sites, especially across healthcare and hospitals and solar projects – predominantly in Texas. The expansion and construction of new facilities to support hospitals and save beds for the patients who needed them the most.
The industry is expected to grow by 15.6% to reach US$ 1515659.4 million by the end of 2021 and growth is expected steadily over the next four quarters. The growth momentum is expected to continue during 2021-2025.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of role you want to get into.
You’ll typically need at least your high school diploma or GED for most building and construction roles such as:
- Laborer or General Construction Worker
- Plumbing, Carpentry and Electrician roles
- Heavy Machinery/Equipment Operator
You can also pursue many roles in the building and construction sector through:
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start an apprenticeship and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
- Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience in entry-level positions and work your way up over time.
Some employers require employees to pass industry-specific certifications to work in specific roles. This may include:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Construction Certificate: This certification is hosted by the national safety organization OSHA and assesses a candidate’s knowledge of nationally mandated safety protocols. Entry-level construction workers can take a 10-hour course, while those with more experience can take a 30-hour course.
- Silica in Construction Certificate: Construction workers can take this course online to learn how to decrease their exposure to silica on the job and stay safe. It is a common certificate for labor professionals who use mechanical tools, such as drills, saws, and sanding machines that release particles identified by OSHA as potentially harmful.
- National Association of Safety Professionals Certifications: This resource provides more in-depth policies that keep labor professionals safe on the job. There is a variety of safety courses construction workers can take depending on their career goals.
Construction Management and Engineering roles will require a bachelor’s degree, with most engineering roles also require a postgraduate qualification, alongside a professional work placement.
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions in the US to study engineering include:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
- University of California-Berkeley
- California Institute of Technology
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Purdue University – West Lafayette
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
- Georgia Institute of Technology
Where to Learn More
You can learn more about different building, construction, and engineering pathways through professional bodies and organizations advocating for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organizations to help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.