Contractor: Education Needed to Start a Career As a Building Contractor
General contractors, also called construction managers, administer and facilitate the process of constructing buildings and other structures from the abstract planning phase to the finished product. They ensure that a construction project is completed on time and within budget. Although a college degree isn't necessary for this profession, prospective contractors may find it highly beneficial.
While associate's degrees are available in the field, aspiring contractors may choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in construction management in order to increase their employment prospects. Entry-level employees with 4-year degrees in construction management or a relevant field typically begin their careers closer to the management level.
A bachelor's degree in construction management prepares students in the engineering, economic and management aspects of the construction process. Students may be expected to apply the principles of an array of different disciplines, such as mathematics, physics, law and accounting, to problems at each stage of the construction process.
Prospective contractors with a degree in a field not related to construction management may choose to enroll in certificate programs at community colleges or training institutes. These programs may run over the course of several months and require students to obtain a minimum number of credit hours for successful completion.
Work Experience and Licensing
All states mandate that contractors be licensed before they offer their services. The requirements for the license may vary by state. Some states may require contractors to demonstrate at least four years of either work experience or education in a trade. If aspiring contractors can only demonstrate work experience, they may also have to hold a license for the trade in which they've worked for those four years.
Employers, trade unions and professional associations may also offer training for entry-level workers in the form of apprenticeship programs, which may last from 3-5 years and comprise both on-the-job and classroom training. Aspiring contractors with only work experience and licensing may need to show at least several years of work experience before ascending into the position of a general contractor.
In addition to general building contractors, individuals may also aspire to specialty contractor positions. Specialty contractors supervise and facilitate certain aspects of the construction process, such as elevator installation, electrical installation, carpentry work, landscaping and masonry.
Salary Information and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction managers, including general contractors, brought home a median annual salary of $82,790 as of May 2012. Employment in the field of construction management was predicted to grow 17% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average (BLS).
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