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Where Can A Career In Construction Take You?

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Overview

Construction is the industry that builds the physical world around us, making sure our public and private spaces are safe and fit for use. Those working in this sector are primarily responsible for the creation of buildings, but also of structures such as walls, bridges and anything else that requires precision planning in its construction.

Working closely with the property sector and with engineers, those working in construction plan, manage, facilitate and ultimately deliver on building projects. Clients might include the government, commercial entities, individuals or local services such as schools or hospitals.

Most of those working in construction work in SMEs (small/medium sized enterprises), meaning you’re likely to work in a close-knit team and see the real impact of your work if you choose to go into this area.

Types of jobs within construction

Construction covers a large area, from managing the initial construction of a building from the ground to fitting its interiors once it is almost ready to function.

Here’s the outline of just a few of the jobs that are available in the sector:

Construction manager – Working alongside architects and engineers from the very beginning of a project, going over plans and blueprints, making timetables, choosing materials, calculating staff costs, hiring contractors and scheduling work, amongst other tasks

Construction operative – Assisting in all tasks on the building site, working alongside highly skilled construction workers

Construction plant mechanic – Maintaining the equipment used on building or construction sites, including vehicles

Construction plant operator – The construction workers that use large machinery, such as diggers and cranes, to complete on-site jobs

Demolition operative – Responsible for taking apart a building in preparation for demolition, so removing fittings, stripping roofs, and so on

Structural engineer – Responsible for construction planning on new buildings and bridges, and for making alterations to existing buildings

Shopfitter – Working alongside various tradespeople to create the interiors for shops, offices and other commercial or public service buildings

Clerk of works – Inspecting various goings-on on a construction site, including making sure tasks are following the brief and that the correct materials are being used

Construction worker – Responsible for physical labour on construction sites

Excavator operative – Responsible for maintaining and performing safety checks on heavy duty equipment on-site

Contracts manager – Negotiating and managing contracts for staff and materials

Construction project manager – Working on every aspect of the construction process, managing multiple different aspects of the project

Skills & interests required

Working in construction means being outdoors a lot, so you need to be comfortable with working in sunshine or in the rain!

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Adaptability
- Attention to detail
- Commercial Awareness
- Dependability
- Networking
- Numeracy
- Teamwork
- Time Management

Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in Construction

If you want to go into construction management, a degree in civil engineering is a good place to start. The majority of those rising up in this area have worked on-site at a lower level, gaining experience and getting to know the industry, before applying for higher level roles later.

Tips for getting into the field

There are a large number of general, non-industry-related things that you can do to put yourself in a good position to start applying for jobs. These include:


  • Tailoring your CV for each specific role - making sure you focus on previous experience and relevant skills

  • Applying for internships and/or work experience – this is a no-brainer: as well as ensuring that you’ve experienced the field before you start applying for jobs within it, it’ll show that you’re committed and allow you to start acquiring the practical skills you’ll need in your future job

  • Take on similar roles – for example as an accounts assistant or similar, during holidays or whilst you apply for higher-level roles right after graduation

  • See what the top companies in the field require – start by looking for case studies from the big firms, and note what backgrounds and skills their current employees have

  • Use your contacts – university professors, those you met on work experience, people you can approach through social media or LinkedIn – they’re all potentially the stepping stone to your next role, and they might very well be happy to help you

Earning potential

Salaries in this industry can be fairly high, especially if you’re in a management role. Here are the average salaries for some roles in the construction industry, according to Payscale:

Construction manager – £40,724
Construction worker – £24,130
Heavy equipment mechanic – £34,000
Excavator operative – £27,523
Structural engineer – £29,960
Contracts manager – £41,210
Construction project manager - £43,920
Construction manager - £40,371

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

Some of the following degrees are likely to be useful if you want to work in the construction sector:


  • Property

  • Maths

  • Economics

  • Civil Engineering

  • Design

  • Physics

  • Architecture


It might also be helpful to have a postgraduate qualification in a specific part of engineering (especially if your undergraduate degree is in a different subject), or in an area such as project management.

Useful resources

Construction News

UK Construction Week

Industry bodies

Construction Industry Council (CIC)

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)

Scottish Building Federation

Build UK

Confederation of Construction Specialists

Construction Industry Research & Information Association (CIRIA)

Engineering Construction Industry Association

Chartered Institute of Building

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