Building and Construction Schools
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Construction schools can show you what it takes to fulfill a foundational role on a building crew. Construction managers, supervisors, and laborers are not easily replaced by machines or contracted overseas, making this field an especially great choice for people who value job security. Plus, the building industry offers fulfilling work, high wages, and a range of specializations to explore.
Learn more about this essential trade, including details on what to expect in construction school, how you can secure employment, and what a career in the field has to offer you.
Education & Training
College-level construction programs can help you gain a foundation of skills for a wide range of career opportunities.
Benefits of Construction Trade School
Stand out from the competition: Getting formal construction training at a trade school can make you more attractive to potential employers. That's because it indicates that you've already learned some basic principles and safety protocols as well as industry-current techniques.
Get targeted training to match your goals: You can choose a program specializing in one area or providing a broader-based education. So, whether you're brand new to the construction industry or are currently working and want to advance your skills, a trade school for construction can help.
Boost your earning potential: Many of the highest-paying positions in construction, such as cost estimator and construction manager, often require a construction management degree.
Graduate sooner: Attending a construction trade school means taking advantage of the flexible schedules and accelerated programs specifically designed to prepare you for the workforce as quickly as possible.
Length of Training
Construction school programs are designed to make the most of your time and generally last from six to 48 months.** You can focus on job-specific construction classes without wasting time learning subjects unrelated to your career. You can also take advantage of flexible scheduling options and online learning formats, which help fit your training into your existing daily life. You could even earn a construction management degree in less than two years.
Most Common Length of School**
(range in months)
Construction Program Options
Certificate and diploma programs:
- Short, typically no longer than a year**
- Focused on one aspect of construction, such as carpentry, estimating, wiring, or building inspection
- Aimed at people who want to get into the workforce quickly or who are already employed in the industry and want to expand their skillset
Associate degree programs:
- Two years or so to complete, with some programs that can even be completed in as little as 14 months**
- Comprised of a broader range of courses related to construction practices
- Can make you a stronger candidate for roles like foreman, site supervisor, or project manager
Many people with associate degrees also become construction managers, typically for smaller firms.
Bachelor's degree programs:
- Roughly four years long**
- Heavy focus on business principles
- Designed to prepare students for roles in management or supervision
Many employers look for people with bachelor's degrees when hiring construction managers. And if you have no industry experience, a four-year construction management degree can help you qualify for optional certifications like the Associate Constructor credential from the American Institute of Constructors.
Master's degree programs:
- About two years of study beyond the bachelor's level**
- Provide more in-depth instruction in areas like risk management and design functions
- Generally intended for experienced workers who want to advance their skills to stand out as candidates for senior management or executive positions
Typical Construction Classes
At a trade school, construction classes commonly cover areas like:
- Blueprint reading
- Building systems
- Construction methods and materials
- Framing or finish carpentry
- Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing basics
- Cost estimating
- Site planning and preparation
- Building codes
- Business management
Skills You Can Learn
You could begin learning how to:
- Read and understand blueprints
- Use a variety of professional tools for cutting, drilling, finishing, and other functions
- Erect and renovate different types of buildings
- Calculate estimated project costs and prepare bids
- Create work schedules
- Organize and direct workers
- Follow building codes
- Review building plans and perform site inspections
- Communicate on a job site
Licensing & Certification
Some careers in construction require workers to be licensed, certified, or registered at the federal, state, or local levels. However, the rules differ between regions. For instance, some states require general contractors to be licensed if they work on jobs over a certain value. And some require separate licenses for residential and commercial contractors.
Here are a few examples of construction-related occupations that frequently have special regulations:
- Building inspectors
- General contractors
- HVAC technicians
- Plumbers and pipefitters
The National Occupational Licensing Database details the regulations governing tradespeople in each state.
Construction professionals may also benefit from pursuing voluntary certifications from organizations, including:
Education & Training FAQs
Can I take a construction program online?
Yes. Some programs are offered in an all-online format, guiding students through hands-on projects using instructional videos and simulations. The pandemic has further pushed post-secondary schools to adapt their programs to online formats. New and developing technology will provide better opportunities to earn an online construction management degree, diploma, or certificate.
What are the best trade schools for construction?
The best schools are the ones that offer high-quality construction training in a way that meets your needs. Schools accredited by a regional or national agency recognized by the Department of Education have demonstrated that they meet established standards.
However, the right choice for you will depend on your goals and priorities. For instance, online programs may be a good choice if the ability to learn from home is important to you. Other factors that may weigh into your decision include flexible scheduling, hands-on training opportunities, and job search assistance.
You can use our search tool to find construction trade schools near you.
Do I need a bachelor's degree to become a licensed general contractor?
No state makes it mandatory for contractors to have college degrees. However, most of them require a certain amount of construction experience, and you may have to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of things like contracts, estimates, labor law, and safety protocols. Completing a post-secondary program can help you expand your knowledge in these and other areas.
Construction school can help students lay the groundwork for a wide range of satisfying careers with good wage potential.
5.7% growth from 2020 to 2030
Average Yearly Openings
Length of Training
Most Common Length
Residential, commercial or institutional, industrial, civil
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics separates construction jobs into two categories:
Construction and extraction
- Median annual wage: $48,610
- Median annual wage: $97,180
Construction management positions can offer especially good prospects when it comes to earnings. Top-earning construction managers made over $169,070 as of May 2020. Pay is often highest for formally educated people who earn voluntary certification, such as the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation awarded by the Construction Management Association of America.
Median Annual Wage Comparison
Job Openings & Outlook
Many factors are driving the growth of the construction field:
- The U.S. population is steadily expanding, resulting in the need for new or upgraded buildings, industrial facilities, and public projects.
- Other factors contributing to job demand include the increasing complexity of construction technology and building processes.
- Much of America's physical infrastructure is very old and needs significant improvements.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in all construction and extraction occupations is expected to grow by 5.7 percent between 2020 and 2030. However, one profession within that category has more than double that percentage of projected job growth: construction management jobs are expected to increase by 11.5 percent in the same period.
This data includes new positions and openings from people transferring to other occupations or retiring.
- The chance to literally shape your community: You can enjoy the pride and satisfaction of creating buildings, roads, or other structures that will likely endure for many years.
- Variety of career paths: In addition to hands-on roles in the skilled trades, the construction industry offers opportunities in areas like administration, inspection, and occupational health and safety.
- Good pay: Many construction-related jobs come with median wages that are higher than the national median for all occupations.
What a Construction Specialist Does
The specific tasks vary greatly by role. But broadly speaking, people who work in construction carry out activities like:
- Interpreting blueprints and schematics
- Measuring and cutting construction materials
Erecting or installing components like:
- Coordinating and overseeing the construction process
- Preparing cost estimates, budgets, and work schedules
- Collaborating with tradespeople and laborers
- Ensuring that all safety regulations are followed
- Adhering to building codes
- Inspecting construction projects to make sure they are structurally sound
Some construction professionals work in offices or mobile trailers. However, most work at indoor or outdoor building sites like:
- Office buildings
- Shopping centers
- Sports arenas
- Parking garages
The construction industry offers numerous opportunities for individuals who enjoy seeing the tangible results of their work. For some of the occupations listed here, you may need to complete specialized training or an apprenticeship to become fully qualified. Here are a few possibilities:
Building inspector: Determine if a newly built or remodeled structure meets all applicable codes and is safe for people to use.
Carpenter: Use materials like wood and fiberglass to construct framing for walls and windows, install cabinets, build stairs, and carry out other tasks.
Construction manager: Direct and coordinate the construction process and ensure that the work gets done on time and on budget.
Construction safety officer: Develop and implement measures to reduce the risk of injuries or accidents and make sure that all workers on a job site follow established safety regulations.
Cost estimator: Consider the materials, labor, and time required for a construction project in order to calculate a total estimated cost.
Electrician: Install wiring systems in renovated or newly constructed homes, offices, factories, and other buildings.
Home remodeler: Change a home's appearance or function by performing tasks like framing rooms, hanging drywall, installing new plumbing fixtures, or replacing electrical switches.
HVAC technician: Set up the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that keep indoor conditions comfortable.
Plumber: Install, relocate, or replace the piping systems that keep water and other liquids flowing safely throughout different types of buildings.
Many people in the construction field choose to concentrate on one or more of the following areas.
Residential: Build or remodel homes, including single-family dwellings and multi-family structures like apartments, condos, and duplexes.
Commercial or institutional: Work on larger and more complex structures like skyscrapers, shopping malls, hospitals, schools, and sports and entertainment venues.
Industrial: Focus on special facilities for industries like manufacturing, oil refining, chemical processing, or electric power generation.
Civil: Build or restore structures like roads, tunnels, bridges, sewer systems, pipelines, airports, public transit systems, railways, and communications systems.
What kind of hours do construction professionals work?
That depends on their specific role and specialization. For instance, highway construction often happens at night when there are fewer vehicles on the road. Outside of residential construction, a typical workday goes from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In areas with extremely hot summers, shifts may begin as early as 3 a.m. to finish before temperatures get too high.
Workers who focus on remodeling or construction projects in people's homes tend to start a bit later, usually around 8 or 9 a.m.
Construction managers must monitor site activities and deal with project delays or challenges, so they frequently put in more than 40 hours a week.
What's the difference between a general contractor and a construction manager?
These two roles encompass many of the same functions, but there are a few differences.
- Enter at the construction phase and oversee getting the project built.
- Examine the designs and use them to prepare a bid for the project owner.
- Often charge a set price and stand to make more profit if the total cost comes in under their bid price.
- Are responsible for directing daily activities on the job site and managing all subcontractors.
- Tend to employ some of their own full-time tradespeople and hire a few outside subcontractors (within firms).
- Tend to be self-employed and operate their own businesses.
- Oversee building projects from planning and design right through to completion.
- Involved in the very early stages, so they can fine-tune the plans and help deliver more accurate estimates.
- Typically are hired for an agreed-upon price (not through a bidding process).
- Tend to work more closely with project owners than general contractors do.
- Mostly hire and supervise independent contractors as needed for specific project phases.
- Often have more expertise in land acquisition, bid solicitation, cost and quality control, cash flow, scheduling, contract administration, risk management, and more.
- Can frequently save the owner of a project more time and money than would be achieved by using a general contractor to oversee everything.
- Often employed by construction management firms, architectural or engineering firms, or large companies with long-term plans for physical expansion or upgrades.
Construction Schools Can Open New Doors for You
Builders know the importance of a good foundation. But before you can get to work, you first need to start laying the foundation for your future with solid training. Start with your zip code to immediately locate construction trade schools near you and online.
* Salary, employment growth, and job opening numbers are based on BLS estimates for construction and extraction occupations and construction managers. The average median salary is the calculated average of the median earnings for those two occupational groups.
** Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant programs from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.