When you get to the basics, construction is the act of building. But as a career and an industry, it is so much more. Construction encompasses building residential and commercial buildings as well as infrastructure, and a construction worker can be an unskilled laborer or a civil engineer, a plumber, or a solar installer. Shovels and hammers are still tools of the construction trade, but so too are 3D printing and robotics. The world will always rely on the construction industry to meet its needs.
What is a Construction Trade School?
There are plenty of construction jobs that are open and available to unskilled workers, but a construction trade school offers specific skills and practical knowledge that put attendees on a path to higher wages, job security, specialization, and career advancement.
Construction trade schools offer multiple program options. Students can choose certificate and diploma programs that last less than a year and focus on a specific area of construction such as carpentry or wiring, or more ambitious associate degree programs that last two years and offer a broader scope of construction knowledge and best practices. Whichever option you choose will introduce you to key construction concepts including safety, building techniques, and building code compliance, and prepare you for supervisory positions.
Compared to a community college or baccalaureate program, a construction trade school exclusively teaches trade-based classes. Construction trade schools may offer the match education required for project completion, but beyond that do not offer general education classes.
What to Expect as a Construction Major
Whether you choose a six-month certification program in a specific skill or a more ambitious and comprehensive associate degree curriculum, you can expect your coursework to be focused and intense. While most construction trade schools are offered as in-person, hands-on programs, an increasing number of schools are offering online formats where students rely on instructional videos and simulations to learn the necessary skills.
One of the advantages of attending construction trade school is the ability to continually add on to the education that you’ve begun. Students can enroll in a certification program in a skill like masonry or blueprint reading, then continue on to an associate degree program, a bachelor’s degree program, or even a graduate degree program.
How Much Does Construction Trade School Cost?
Cost is one of the many advantages of attending a construction trade school. Fees for a two-year program can range from as little as $3,500 per year at a public school to $15,000 at a private school. These costs are far below the annual tuition rates charged by four-year degree programs and are incurred for just two years rather than four. Tuition expenses are also quickly offset, as graduates of construction trade schools enjoy seamless entry into good-paying jobs.
Types of Construction Classes or Topics
The classes offered in trade schools for construction will vary depending upon whether it is a certification or diploma program that is focused on a single construction skill such as estimating or building inspection, or an associate degree program whose goal is to prepare students for supervisory or project manager roles. In both cases, there are often opportunities to participate in practical training.
Skills-based programs and construction classes can include:
- Tools used for a variety of functions including cutting, drilling, or finishing
- Reading and understanding blueprints
- Different building types and how to erect or renovate them
- Calculating project costs
- Preparing bids
- Creating work schedules
- Building code compliance
- Construction methods and materials
- Building systems
- Basics of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing construction
- Site planning and preparation
- Framing or finish carpentry
- Business management
In some construction careers, certification and licensure add to your expertise, which makes you more marketable and may mean higher salaries. Other positions may require credentials, depending on the role. The specific requirements change based on profession as well as geography. When choosing a school or program, it is a good idea to choose one that is credentialed by one of the following organizations or that leads to one of their certifications.
An associate degree in construction can target a wide range of career goals, from construction management to welding, from architecture to electrical engineering. An associate degree generally takes two years to complete and focus on the fundamentals of the specific area of concentration.
Requirements for entry to an associate degree program will include having a high school diploma or equivalent. In some cases, programs require students to have a minimum GPA, a math prerequisite, or work experience.
Associate degree programs are offered through technical colleges and community colleges in both in-person and online formats.
Beyond the education offered by construction trade schools and technical colleges, there are many universities that offer bachelor’s degrees – as well as graduate degrees – in construction science and construction management. These in-depth programs can prepare you for a career in professional construction, covering topics from project and resource management as well as economics, engineering, business, and law.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Science and Management, graduates have career opportunities overseeing job sites as construction managers, working with architects or designers, and in operations.
What Can You Do After Construction Trade School?
Completing a training program at a construction trade school gives you technical knowledge you can take pride in. Trade school students can choose from an extensive range of trades. No matter which craft you choose, you’ll find yourself highly skilled, in demand, and well compensated.
Career Opportunities After Construction Trade School
- Median Salary: $48,630
- Career Outlook: +5% (2020-2030)
- Median Salary: $59,880
- Career Outlook: +2% (2020-2030)
- Median Salary: $47,010
- Career Outlook: +2% (2020-2030)
- Median Salary: $98,890
- Career Outlook: +8% (2020-2030)
- Median Salary: $60,040
- Career Outlook: +7% (2020-2030)
Best States for Construction Jobs
Construction is a rewarding profession no matter where you work, and the best place for you to work may be linked to your family or your hobbies and interests.
Beyond personal factors, the elements that are most attractive to construction workers are opportunity and compensation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting a 4% growth for the industry over the next ten years, with some states experiencing greater increases in employment than others.
Looking at which states have the most construction jobs, the highest wages, and the most growth potential, international construction expert ConExpo-ConAgg reports that the ten best states for construction jobs are:
- New York
- North Carolina
Attending a construction trade school offers a promising future and solid career opportunities, but paying for it isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there are many scholarship opportunities available for those who want to attend a trade school for construction. Here are just a few:
- RCIF Newlan Scholarship - $2,500 scholarship program administered by Scholarship America for students currently enrolled in an architecture, engineering, construction, or building sciences post-secondary program.
- Residential Construction Management Scholarship - $2,500 scholarship program offered by Houzz to support the next generation of construction professionals. Open to students studying construction management at the undergraduate or graduate level who want to pursue residential construction management professionally.
- Workforce Development Scholarship – Awards are offered by the AGC Education and Research Foundation to students enrolled in accredited technical schools or craft training programs in any discipline of construction.
- Ted G. Wilson Memorial Scholarship - $1,500 scholarship offered by the Professional Construction Estimators Association to a deserving student interested in entering the construction industry.
How to Get Started on a Construction Degree
Choosing to attend a construction trade school offers numerous benefits.
- Trade school tuitions are more affordable than a four-year college and allow you to begin your career sooner.
- When you enter, you’ll have the opportunity to choose the profession you find most interesting.
- Many construction trade schools provide hands-on training that allows you to shadow a skilled professional.
Though every school has its own unique requirements and admissions criteria, most construction trade schools have minimal requirements: proof of having graduated from high school degree or having a GED can open doors to a rewarding certificate program.
Once you’ve completed your trade school program, you’ll be prepared to move on to work in construction. If you’re interested in career advancement, you have many other options. There are many two-year associate degree programs that can expand on your craft to include management or technology skills, and requirements for entry to those programs are no more demanding than what you needed to enter your trade school.
To truly excel in your career, you can pursue professional certifications or a bachelor’s degree in construction science or construction management.
Construction Trade School FAQs
What is the highest-paying job in construction?
The salary that you earn while working in construction depends on many different factors:
How much experience you have
Whether you have any certifications
Whether you work overtime
The work environment
Where you are located in the country
If you enter an entry level construction lbaor position without any formal training or education, you may barely earn more than minimum wage. However, with education, training, and licensure, a general contractor of construction manager will earn closer to $100,000 or more. Similarly, people who install and repair elevators, escalators, and moving walkways earn significantly more than other trades, followed by boilermakers and building inspectors.
Is now a good time to start a career in construction?
- Now is an excellent time to get started in the industry. The existing labor force is getting close to retirement, and the federal government has just announced a years-long investment in infrastructure. The demand for skilled tradespeople is higher than ever, so now’s the time to get moving and fill those construction shortages.
Is it worth it to go to a construction trade school? Can’t I just get a construction job straight out of high school?
- Though you can probably get a construction job as soon as you graduate from high school – or even without a diploma – you will not be eligible for the same salary as those who have the specialized training that a trade school provides. Additionally, you will not qualify to do the same type of job. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says that graduates of vocational schools earn 15% more than high school graduates. And Fieldwire reports that construction management jobs earn two to three times as much as construction laborers.
How do I know if a career in construction is right for me?
- Construction is not right for everybody. The work can be physically demanding with long hours. People who are best suited to construction work enjoy working with their hands. If you’re a good listener who is project oriented and pays attention to detail, construction may be right for you.