Skip main navigation

Explore: the construction industry

Here we provide you with all the information you need to start your career in the varied and exciting construction industry.

Explore Construction Industry

The construction industry is immensely important to society and there are many exciting careers to consider within it. Construction offers a huge range of employment opportunities, from trades through to logistics, management, and other professional functions. The industry is set to grow by 85% worldwide by 2030, creating jobs and new career paths around the world.

In this article, we’ll be discussing how to get your career started in construction, the skills you need to be successful, the different types of job available and the potential salaries. If you decide you’re interested in choosing the construction industry for your career, you might want to take a look at our Step into Construction course, which will help you get started.

The global construction industry

Let’s start by taking a look at what we mean when we talk about construction careers, as well as what the current global situation looks like. This is a great way of understanding some of the current trends and the future outlook for those in the field.

What is it?

Construction comes from the word “construct”, and so it refers to the action of building something. There are three main types of construction projects: buildings, public works and industrial structures. So this can include anything from building houses and skyscrapers to railways and power plants. Construction workers usually use a detailed plan and building materials to create or oversee the building of large structures.

How big is the industry?

The construction industry is of huge economic importance globally, currently representing 13% of global GDP. We took a look at the Global Construction 2030 Report by Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics to see what the future looks like for the construction industry. 

The report states that the economic worth of the construction industry will grow by 85% in 2030, being worth $15.5 trillion. It also forecasts that China, the U.S. and India will be the biggest leaders in this development. However, India and the U.S. are set to grow much faster than China, due to a huge drop in construction growth that China suffered in 2016. Europe isn’t predicted to grow at such a high rate, but the UK is set to overtake Germany and become the 6th largest construction market in the world by 2030.

The growth of the global industry is inevitable, and “utterly crucial to the evolution of prosperous societies around the world”, according to Fernando A. González, Chief Executive of global building materials company CEMEX. Not only does construction create vital infrastructure, but it creates vast amounts of wealth and lots of employment opportunities. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted construction careers?

Pretty much no industry managed to come away from COVID-19 completely unscathed, but unfortunately, the construction industry was hit particularly hard. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government halted all construction work in the UK, having a negative impact on the industry and those who work within it. Workers did return in May, but this didn’t necessarily undo the harm caused.

As well as halting construction work, there have been other COVID-19 related challenges having a detrimental effect on the industry. Many business owners have struggled with funds and operating costs, leading them to cancel or postpone building projects. There have also been issues with companies not being able to meet government guidelines and health requirements, and increased numbers of workers having to shield or quarantine, resulting in further shut downs. 

CHAS (Common Assessment Standard) conducted a survey in the UK with construction business owners, asking how the pandemic had affected their businesses. They found that 80.51% of respondents have had to postpone or cancel projects due to COVID-19, and that 63.59% have not always been able to get the goods, materials or services they need to be able to continue operating. 

However, the good news is that things have been getting back on track, and nearly all construction companies now feel confident with following COVID-19 guidelines. As the world continues to get vaccinated, we can be pretty certain that the construction industry will thrive again.

What kinds of jobs are there in construction?

Construction is a large and varied industry, and there are many different career paths you can choose to take. Not all of them require you to do manual labour, so everyone has the potential to work within the industry as long as you’re willing to put in the work.

Labourer

This is an extremely broad term for anyone who does manual labour work on a construction site. However, job roles can be very nuanced and often require specific training and technical skills. Examples of manual labourers include bricklayers, carpenters, crane drivers, glaziers, painter-decorators, plasterers, roofers, scaffolders and tilers. As you can see, this category is so broad that there’s bound to be something that interests you.

Surveyor 

There are various types of surveyors relevant to the construction industry, including building surveyors, quantity surveyors, technical surveyors and land surveyors. Ultimately, surveyors are people who help to plan building projects, ensure the safety of buildings, make sure projects are running efficiently and assess the impact and profitability of construction projects. The specifics will depend on your interests – are you interested in city planning or checking the safety of period properties? Or perhaps the financial side of construction is more up your street, and you’d suit being a quantity surveyor. You usually need a degree to be a surveyor.

Building site inspector

The primary role of a building site inspector is to ensure that health, safety and quality regulations are being followed. They help manage staff, go to management meetings and evaluate building plans. If you’re a good leader and enjoy looking after large projects, this might be an exciting role for you. There’s no one way of becoming a building inspector, but some form of qualification and experience is essential. To find out more, you can try our Construction Ethics and Compliance course. 

Construction manager

As you might imagine, construction managers are in charge of the running of construction projects from start to finish. They work with architects, surveyors, engineers and labourers to ensure everything runs smoothly. They are also responsible for the planning process, which involves things like scheduling, budgeting, buying materials and hiring workers. If you think you could be interested in this, it’s worth checking out a Construction Management degree by the Chartered Institute of Builders.

Building engineer 

Building engineers design, create and install functional characteristics of buildings, including the electrics, mechanics and security. They essentially bring the buildings to life, providing things like lighting, heating and water supply. It’s important not just that they design something functional, but that they create something efficient, cost-effective and sustainable. Most building engineers will need an engineering degree, though there are some apprenticeship programs available.

Architects

As the designers of buildings, architects draw up technical plans of construction projects and work on anything from housing development to building renovation. Architects use knowledge of building materials, budgets, safety regulations and aesthetics to create innovative building designs. Due to the technical nature of the role, you do need to complete a five-year architecture degree to become a professional architect.

What skills do I need to enter the construction industry?

Since there is such a variety of jobs within the construction industry, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact skills that you’ll need for all of them. As many construction professionals are tradespeople and have specialised skills, this will depend a lot on your chosen career path.

Physical strength is desirable, as often you’ll be handling large and heavy objects. Equally, good hand-eye coordination and dexterity will be very useful to have, as a lot of construction requires tricky physical work. It can also be advantageous to have some design skills, so that you understand how building designs function, but the extent of your skills here will depend on your job.

Of course, not all those who work in the construction industry are manual labourers, so some skills apply more generally to everyone. Good reading and maths skills are essential to understand construction plans properly. A lot of construction work now uses technology, so it will be helpful to have a good understanding of technological equipment. Finally, if you’re in some kind of management role, you’ll need to have leadership and organisational skills.

Soft skills

There are also some basic soft skills you’ll need while working in construction, including those listed below:

How do salaries compare? 

Salaries for construction careers vary depending on the job role, level of experience and the country you work in. Below we’ve found some average salaries for construction workers and related careers across the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. We found the data from a series of salary websites including PayScale, Salary, Indeed and Seek.

 UKUSACanadaAustralia
Architect£67,500$109,000C$90,000A$85,000
Building Surveyor£45,000$70,000C$70,000A$110,000
Construction Manager£45,000$80,000C$90,000A$110,000
Manual Labourer£20,000-40,000$30,000-45,000C$35,000-60,000A$55,000-75,000
Building Engineer£35,000$70,000C$68,000A$105,000
Building Site Inspector£35,000$55,000C$65,000A$80,000

Why choose a career in construction?

There are many reasons why you might want to work in the construction industry. While many of these depend on the individual, there are several notable ones worth mentioning: 

 

  • You want to make a difference to your community. Construction workers are vital to community growth, and it can be very rewarding for workers to see people using and enjoying what they’ve built.
  • You enjoy variety. Working in construction must be one of the most varied careers out there. From different projects to different locations, day to day work will never be the same. If you’re easily bored or just like variety, you might want to consider construction.
  • You’ll always be in demand. As we previously explored, the industry is set to grow and grow, meaning you’ll hopefully never be out of a job. This security is certainly appealing when considering a career in construction.
  • There are opportunities for travel. This will depend on your preference, but there will almost certainly be opportunities to travel across the country for different projects. There could even be opportunities to travel abroad, as working in construction is such a versatile job.
  • You’re not stuck at a desk. Many people dread the idea of a typical nine to five, stuck behind a desk all day. Working in many areas of construction is a way to avoid this fate, which is ideal if you don’t like to sit still or do office tasks.

How to get started in a construction career

There’s not just one route for getting into construction, and it vastly depends on which role you’re interested in. Here, we let you know the most common ways to start your construction career. For more information on this topic, our Step into Construction course by City & Guilds will help you discover the roles and opportunities available to you in the construction industry, and the pathways to get you into the sector.

Apprenticeships: Probably the most common route into construction is taking an apprenticeship, particularly if you’re starting with manual work. They usually take 1-5 years to complete and you  receive an education along with practical experience. There are hundreds to choose from, depending on what you’re passionate about, and they allow you to earn money straight out of school.

Degree: If you’re not so interested in the manual labour side of things, but you’re thinking of being an architect or building surveyor, you’ll generally need a degree qualification. These take three years or more to complete.

College training: Your local college may offer construction courses where you are able to learn technical and vocational skills. These are usually free to take and can be a good way into the industry.

Online courses: If going into a college doesn’t appeal to you, or you prefer learning from home, we have some fantastic online courses in construction available, which will help you to boost your career. From quality management to sustainable development, we’ll have something for you.

Final thoughts

That concludes our detailed look at the construction industry. As we’ve seen, it’s an industry that is essential to the everyday lives of people globally, and the demand for construction services is rising. 

The types of job roles available span many different fields and areas, meaning that there’s something for just about anyone. With the right skills, training, and passion, you can start your own career in construction.

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education

Related stories on FutureLearn