Important Skills for Construction Jobs

Construction worker

Don Mason / Getty Images

Construction can be a physically and mentally challenging career, though a personally and financially rewarding one. Some people work construction for a brief time, perhaps to raise money for college, while others spend their entire working lives building—or demolishing—in the world of contracting.

Prospective construction workers might not realize how many of the required skills they already have. Many people learn construction skills by working on their own projects at home, or by doing volunteer work with neighbors or community organizations.

There are also skills that are highly relevant to construction work, such as mathematics, that you may have learned in another context.

What Are Construction Skills?

Anything related to the planning and erecting of physical structures involves construction. While most construction jobs begin on site performing menial, rigorous tasks, those that have practiced in the industry for many years go on to manage entire construction teams for impressive projects.

Entry-level construction jobs typically have no educational requirements, though high school-level training programs can be a big help.

Some apprenticeship programs require a high school diploma or GED. To practice certain advanced skill sets, such as welding, you may need specialized training and appropriate licensure. Many construction jobs pay well.

Types of Construction Skills

Specific construction skills include bricklaying, carpentry, pouring cement, putting up drywall, and installing specific types of equipment. Be sure to tell your prospective employer the tasks that you have experience performing and the amount of experience, even if it is not directly relevant to the job for which you are applying.

Employers typically appreciate versatile workers who can take on additional tasks as needed.

Construction tasks may include:

  • Masonry
  • Carpentry
  • Painting
  • Drywall
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Framing
  • Building site supervision
  • Construction management
  • Construction reports
  • Concrete
  • Roofing
  • Sheet metal work
  • Demolition
  • Renovations
  • Repairs
  • Building codes
  • Electrical codes
  • Environmental codes
  • OSHA safety requirements
  • Interpreting specifications
  • Reading and interpreting drawings
  • Inspecting
  • Measuring
  • Organize building materials
  • Reading and interpreting drawings
  • Engineering
  • Erecting
  • Hazardous materials
  • HVAC work
  • Installation
  • Ironwork
  • Metal lathing
  • Pipe fitting
  • Refrigeration
  • Rigging
  • Steam fitting
  • Surveying
  • Trim
  • Construction equipment
  • Maintenance
  • Power tools

Physical Skills

As a construction worker, you will not only have to be strong and dexterous; you will also have to be smart about how you use your body. Proper ergonomics, including correct lifting posture and careful attention to safety, can prevent painful and costly accidents; career-ending injuries do not only occur for athletes. Bad habits can also result in repeated minor injuries that young, fit people may dismiss and ignore, but will add up to disabilities years later. Also, proper movement is more efficient and effective. Construction work generally involves:

  • Physical endurance
  • Compliance
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Heavy lifting
  • Dexterity
  • Heavy equipment operation

Office Skills

Construction businesses, similar to all other businesses, require budgeting, planning, record-keeping, and marketing to stay viable. If you have office skills, including familiarity with word-processing, spreadsheets, and publishing software, have excellent telephone etiquette, and good organizational skills and communication skills, you can be an important asset.

Even if you spend most of your time on site, being able to pull into the office as needed is important if the office becomes short-staffed. Typical office skills include:

  • Mobile devices
  • Microsoft office
  • Phone etiquette
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Information management
  • Basic math
  • Punch lists
  • Scheduling
  • Customer service

Design and Planning

Whether you are designing the project yourself or following someone else’s plan, you need to know how to read a blueprint. You also need to understand design well enough that you can spot problems or mistakes; while rare, blueprints can contain errors. You might also need to make decisions about what materials to use or how to schedule different phases of the project, and a good understanding of the project’s design will be critical. These skills are important in the design and planning phase of a project:

  • Interpreting blueprints
  • Giving and following directions
  • Project management
  • Flexibility
  • Construction management
  • Construction reports
  • Estimating
  • Identifying the building process
  • Identifying material costs
  • Understanding the design

Codes and Regulations

As a construction worker, you will be subject to building codes, environmental regulations, safety codes, and labor agreements. While entry-level workers will not be responsible for enforcing those regulations, training will go more smoothly if you know the rules. Inspectors will appreciate it if you know all the information they’ll need for site visits.

There is also the possibility that your employer—or your site supervisor—could break the rules. Your own safety, and that of your client and those who live and work near your site, might depend on you recognizing and responding to the problem. Therefore, these skills are also necessary:

  • Integrity
  • Compliance
  • Environmental awareness
  • Adherence to safety measure
  • Problem sensitivity
  • Discernment
  • Attention to detail
  • Labor relations
  • Negotiation

Management Skills

Obviously, not all construction workers need management or leadership skills, but having them certainly gives you more advancement options in your career. Managing work sites, developing estimates and negotiating prices, performing quality control, and reaching out to prospective clients are all important skills for construction workers. Management skills typically include:

  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Managing a team
  • Giving and following directions
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Quality assurance
  • Compliance
  • Safety
  • Directing
  • Supervision
  • Problem-solving

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Review your work history and include any skills or experience in specific jobs and professions. Even if you are applying for a position in which you do not have direct experience, familiarity with skills in related positions can be a bonus for the employer.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: Most construction jobs do not require a cover letter, unless you are applying for a management position. In that case, be sure to mention a crew or two that you successfully managed in the completion of a construction project.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: If you know how to do something relevant to the job description, say so. If you have specialized training or licensure (such as a CDL), say so in your resume and interview.