Working as a Construction Helper
A construction helper assists construction tradespeople—like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, masons, painters, welders, and roofers—on construction sites and shops. They perform basic tasks that require moderate training. For example, a helper carries materials and tools, hands tools to tradespeople when they request them, and cleans work areas.
In 2016, median annual salaries by trade were:
- $29,530 (electricians' helpers)
- $29,030 (plumbers' helpers)
- $30,570 (masons' helpers)
- $28,810 (carpenters' helpers)
Construction helpers working in other trades earned median annual salaries of $29,270.
In 2014, over 183,000 people worked in this field. There were 69,000 electricians' helpers, 52,000 plumbers' helpers, 24,000 masons' helpers, and 40,000 carpenters' helpers.
The job outlook varies by trade and depends on activity in the construction industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment to grow for each specialty. The BLS designates electricians' helper and masons' helper as "bright outlook occupations" due to job growth the government agency predicts will be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.
How to Become a Construction Helper
You won't need formal education, other than a high school or equivalency diploma, to become a construction helper. Your employer will provide on-the-job training, usually delivered by experienced workers.
Alternatively, some individuals who want to become helpers choose to do an apprenticeship. In addition to on-the-job training, they also learn technical skills in a classroom setting. They usually spend two to four years as an apprentice and are paid for their time.
You will need specific soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field. Because you will be following the instruction of a supervisor you must be an active listener. Excellent listening skills will allow you to follow instructions. Failure to do so on a construction site can be hazardous to yourself or to others around you.
You must be able to coordinate your actions with those of the tradesperson you are assisting. You also need the ability to evaluate your choices when solving problems and making decisions is essential. You must be able to evaluate your own performance and seek advice and instruction when necessary.
Roles and Responsibilities
What is it like to be a construction helper? For answers, we looked at job announcements on "Indeed.com." Here's are some job duties we found:
- "Assist to install, connect, and test complete water and sanitary piping systems" (Plumber's Helper).
- "Cut or drill openings as may be necessary for installation or repair of plumbing pipes or fixtures" (Plumber's Helper).
- "Clean and maintain tools; test equipment and job sites" (Electrician's Helper).
- "Watch for hazards and report any concerns to your supervisor or safety professional" (Electrician's Helper).
- "Remove the damaged stone, brick, or mortar, and clean and prepare surfaces" (Mason's Helper).
- "Shape or cut materials to specified measurements, using hand tools, machines, or power saw" (Carpenter's Helper).
- "Grinds, sands, and polishes surfaces such as concrete or wood" (Carpenter's Helper).
What You Should Know About Being a Construction Helper
There is a wide variety of working conditions and hours for construction helpers. In some cases, the jobs are full-time. However, some positions will be part-time and sessional occupations.
The work is physically demanding. You will have to lift heavy materials and tools. Your company may provide you with a set of tools that you will be responsible for keeping in good working order and returning when the job is complete.
Expect to work outdoors in all types of weather. You may be required to work nights or weekends depending on the job. As an example, if you are working on remodeling a business that is open during the day, you may need to work at night to complete the work.
Also, this job isn't for anyone who has a fear of heights or enclosed spaces as you will find yourself working in both environments at times. There are more reported injuries, some fatal, in this occupation than in any other trade.
What Employers Expect From You
Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on "Indeed.com:"
- "Knowledge of arithmetic, basic geometry, and their applications to carpentry" (Carpenter's Helper).
- "Ability to work at elevated heights" (Electrician's Helper).
- "Must be willing to learn the principles, methods, tools, and equipment used in the trade" (Plumber's Helper).
- "Ability to follow oral and written instructions" (Electrician's Helper).
- "Solid organizational skills" (Mason's Helper).
- "Must become knowledgeable and have the ability to safely operate hand and power tools" (Plumber's Helper).
- "Must be detail-oriented and have good verbal skills and a neat/clean appearance" (Electrician's Helper).
Is this occupation a good fit for you?
Your interests, personality type, and work-related values make up who you are and can play a significant role in your success in any occupation. Having the following traits indicate you could have a successful career as a construction helper:
- Interests (Holland Code of dominant personality type is RCE): Social, Realistic, Enterprising
- Personality Type (Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) career assessment code is ESTJ): Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving
- Work-Related Values: Support, Relationships, Working Conditions, Independence
|Description||Median Annual Wage (2016)||Minimum Required Education/Training|
|Construction Laborer||Prepare and clean up construction sites||$33,430||HS or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-Job Training|
|Plumber||Installs pipes and related fixtures||$51,450||HS or Equivalency Diploma + 4-5 year apprenticeship|
|Electrician||Installs wiring and electrical components in residences and commercial buildings||$52,720||HS or Equivalency Diploma + 4-5 year apprenticeship|
|Carpenter||Builds and installs wood, fiberglass and drywall structures||$43,600||HS or Equivalency Diploma + 3-4 year apprenticeship|
|Mason||Builds brick, stone or concrete block structures||
|HS or Equivalency Diploma + 3-4 year apprenticeship|
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–17; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited 10/25/17).