What Is a Mason?

Job Description, Earnings, and Training

Brick Mason
••• Hisham Ibrahim / Photodisc / Getty Images

A mason uses bricks, concrete blocks, or natural stones to build structures, including walls, walkways, fences, and chimneys. Depending on the building material in which these construction tradespeople specialize, they are called brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons. Brickmasons are sometimes called bricklayers.

Quick Facts About Masons

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following data for various mason occupations: 

  • As of May 2017, brickmasons and blockmasons earn a median annual salary of $53,390 and hourly wages of $25.66, while stonemasons earn $42,370 annually and $20.37 hourly. 
  • There were 292,500 masonry workers, as of 2016. Just over 91,100 were blockmasons and brickmasons, and slightly fewer than 18,900 were stonemasons.
  • About 13 percent of masonry workers are self-employed.
  • Most jobs are full-time and often include overtime work.
  • Schedules can be erratic during cold weather months when there isn't a lot of building taking place.
  • The job outlook for masons is excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2026.

A Day in the Life of a Mason

To find out what typical roles and responsibilities a mason has, consider the following excerpts from job announcements for masons on Indeed.com:

  • "Assist in building layout, framing, sheathing, and roofing structures"
  • "Use equipment and tools properly and safely to perform basic construction tasks"
  • "Lift and place bricks weighing approximately 5 pounds hundreds of times per day"
  • "Lift and place blocks weighing 24 to 55 pounds hundreds of times per day"
  • "Correct any safety hazards and communicate to the foreman"
  • "Tear down, rebuild, and point chimneys"
  • "Cut openings into walls, ceilings, and floors constructed of masonry materials"

How to Become a Mason

You can train to work in this occupation by completing a three- to four-year apprenticeship. Apprentices must complete about 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training each year. They learn about blueprints, building code requirements, mathematics, safety requirements, and first aid procedures.

To enroll in an apprenticeship program, which is usually sponsored by a union or contractor association, you must be at least 18 years old, have earned a high school or equivalency diploma, and be physically up to the challenges of the work involved in being a mason. Upon completion of the program, you will be considered a journey worker, which means you can do your job unsupervised. 

To learn about apprenticeship programs in your area, contact the local union that represents masons. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers maintains a list of locals that are part of that organization. Alternatively, you may choose to get training through a one-year program at a technical college. The credits you earn may count toward an associate degree.

What Skills Do You Need?

If you think you might want to become a mason, you should evaluate whether you have several essential qualities. First of all, are you physically strong? Masons must regularly lift very heavy equipment and material, such as blocks that weigh more than 40 pounds.

How is your manual dexterity? You will have to apply smooth, even layers of mortar and quickly set bricks.

Do you have a lot of physical stamina? If you want to be a brickmason, you will have to keep up a steady pace as you lay bricks all day.

Are you creative? If stone masonry appeals to you, you should know that you will have to shape stones into attractive and functional structures.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

What do employers look for when they hire masonry workers? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Ability to read and comprehend instructions including, but not limited to, safety policies and procedure manuals"
  • "Enjoy physical work in the outdoors"
  • "Ability to work independently and complete daily activities according to work schedule"
  • "Must be physically fit and have the ability to work with very little downtime"
  • "Valid driver's license and ability to travel required"
  • "Must be able to tolerate pushing/pulling motions, bending at the waist, and reaching above shoulder level"

Is a Masonry Career a Good Fit for You?

Before you decide whether any career is right for you, you must make sure it's a good fit for your interestspersonality type, and work-related values. If you have the following traits, you should consider becoming a mason:

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2017)Minimum Required Education/Training
Tile and Marble SetterCuts and places marble or ceramic tiles

$40,250

H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training
PaperhangerApplies decorative wallpaper and fabric to walls and ceilings$37,030H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training
Construction CarpenterConstructs wood, plywood, and wallboard structures$45,170H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + 3-4 year apprenticeship
PainterApplies paint and other coatings to interior and exterior surfaces$37,960H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training