Construction Laborers and Helpers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Work Environment: Most construction laborers and helpers typically work full time and do physically demanding work. Some work at great heights or outdoors in all weather conditions. Construction laborers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

How to Become One: Construction laborers and helpers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Formal education is not typically required.

Salary: The median annual wage for construction laborers and helpers is $37,080.

Job Outlook: Employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Laborers and helpers work in all fields of construction, and demand for these workers should mirror the level of overall construction activity.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of construction laborers and helpers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a construction laborer with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 1 Construction Laborer Jobs

  • Site Clerk - construction - Wenz Recruitment - Cape Town, Western Cape

    Timekeeping of laborers on site. Well developed English Language skills (speak, read and write). Monitor occupational health and safety standards.

See all Construction Laborer jobs

What Construction Laborers and Helpers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Duties of Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction
  • Follow construction plans and instructions from supervisors or more experienced workers
  • Assist craftworkers with their duties

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, performing a wide range of tasks varying in complexity from very easy to extremely difficult and hazardous.

Construction laborers, also referred to as construction craft laborers, perform a wide variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Many laborers spend their time preparing and cleaning up construction sites, using tools such as shovels and brooms. Other workers, such as those on road crews, may specialize and learn to control traffic patterns and operate pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, or surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use lasers to place pipes and to use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.

Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set the forms that determine the shape of poured concrete. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.

Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following trades have associated helpers:

Work Environment for Construction Laborers and Helpers[About this section] [To Top]

Construction laborers and helpers hold about 1.5 million jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up construction laborers and helpers is distributed as follows:

Construction laborers 1,285,200
Helpers—electricians 75,500
Helpers—pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 56,200
Helpers—carpenters 31,000
Helpers, construction trades, all other 27,800
Helpers—brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters 20,900
Helpers—painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons 9,400
Helpers—roofers 8,200

The largest employers of construction laborers and helpers are as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 34%
Self-employed workers 21%
Construction of buildings 18%
Heavy and civil engineering construction 16%
Temporary help services 3%

Most construction laborers and helpers perform physically demanding work. Some work at great heights or outdoors in all weather conditions; others may be required to work in tunnels. They must use earplugs around loud equipment and wear gloves, safety glasses, and other protective gear.

Injuries and Illnesses for Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and "helpers, construction trades, all other" have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Workers may experience cuts from materials and tools, fatal and nonfatal falls from ladders and scaffolding, and burns from chemicals or equipment. Some jobs expose workers to harmful materials, fumes, or odors, or to dangerous machinery. Workers may also experience muscle fatigue and injuries related to lifting and carrying heavy materials.

Construction Laborer and Helper Work Schedules

Like many construction workers, most laborers and helpers work full time. Although they must sometimes stop work because of bad weather, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. Laborers and helpers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid causing major traffic disruptions. In some parts of the country, construction laborers and helpers may work only during certain seasons. For example, in northern climates, cold weather frequently disrupts construction activity in the winter.

Some construction laborers are self-employed. In contrast, very few helpers are self-employed.

How to Become a Construction Laborer or Helper[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Construction Laborers and Helpers near you!

Construction laborers and helpers learn their trade through on-the-job training (OJT). The length of training depends on the employer and the specialization. Formal education is not typically required.

Education for Construction Laborers and Helpers

Although formal education is not typically required for most positions, helpers of electricians and helpers of pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically need a high school diploma. High school classes in mathematics, blueprint reading, welding, and other vocational subjects can be helpful.

Construction Laborer and Helper Training

Construction laborers and helpers typically learn through OJT after being hired by a construction contractor. Workers usually learn by performing tasks under the guidance of experienced workers.

Although the majority of construction laborers and helpers learn by assisting experienced workers, some construction laborers may opt for apprenticeship programs. These programs generally include 2 to 4 years of technical instruction and OJT. The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) requires a combination of OJT and related classroom instruction in such areas as signaling, blueprint reading, using proper tools and equipment, and following health and safety procedures. The remainder of the curriculum consists of specialized training in one of these eight areas:

  • Building construction
  • Demolition and deconstruction
  • Environmental remediation
  • Road and utility construction
  • Tunneling
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping
  • Pipeline construction

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Construction Laborers and Helpers

Laborers who remove hazardous materials (hazmat) must meet the federal and state requirements for hazardous materials removal workers.

Depending on the work they do, laborers may need specific certifications, which may be attained through LIUNA. Rigging and scaffold building are commonly attained certifications. Certification can help workers prove that they have the knowledge to perform more complex tasks.

Advancement for Construction Laborers and Helpers

Through experience and training, construction laborers and helpers can advance into positions that involve more complex tasks. For example, laborers may earn certifications in welding, erecting scaffolding, or finishing concrete, and then spend more time performing those activities. Similarly, helpers sometimes move into construction craft occupations after gaining experience in the field. For example, experience as an electrician's helper may lead someone to becoming an apprentice electrician.

Important Qualities for Construction Laborers and Helpers

Color vision. Construction laborers and helpers may need to be able to distinguish colors to do their job. For example, an electrician's helper must be able to distinguish different colors of wire to help the lead electrician.

Math skills. Construction laborers and some helpers need to perform basic math calculations while measuring on jobsites or assisting a surveying crew.

Mechanical skills. Construction laborers are frequently required to operate and maintain equipment, such as jackhammers.

Physical stamina. Construction laborers and helpers must have the endurance to perform strenuous tasks throughout the day. Highway laborers, for example, spend hours on their feet—often in hot temperatures—with few breaks.

Physical strength. Construction laborers and helpers must often lift heavy materials or equipment. For example, cement mason helpers must move cinder blocks, which typically weigh more than 40 pounds each.

Construction Laborer and Helper Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for construction laborers and helpers is $37,080. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,780.

Median annual wages for construction laborers and helpers are as follows:

Construction laborers $37,890
Helpers—brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters $36,990
Helpers—carpenters $34,280
Helpers—electricians $33,840
Helpers—pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters $33,590
Helpers, construction trades, all other $33,360
Helpers—roofers $33,260
Helpers—painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons $31,640

The median annual wages for construction laborers and helpers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $38,820
Construction of buildings $38,170
Specialty trade contractors $36,240
Temporary help services $31,040

The starting pay for most apprentices is usually about 60 percent of what fully trained laborers make. Apprentices receive pay increases as they learn more skills.

Like many construction workers, most construction laborers and helpers work full time. Although they sometimes stop work because of bad weather, they may work overtime to meet deadlines. Laborers and helpers on highway and bridge projects may need to work overnight to avoid causing major traffic disruptions. In some parts of the country, construction laborers and helpers may work only during certain seasons. For example, in northern climates, cold weather frequently disrupts construction activity in the winter.

Some construction laborers are self-employed. In contrast, very few helpers are self-employed.

Job Outlook for Construction Laborers and Helpers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 167,800 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

See all construction jobs.

Employment of Construction Laborers and Helpers

Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020.

Construction laborers work in all fields of construction, and demand for laborers should mirror the level of overall construction activity. Repairing and replacing the nation’s infrastructure, such as roads and water lines, may result in steady demand for laborers. The increased use of prefabricated components, such as panels and modular rooms that are made offsite, will create a need for laborers in some areas to assemble them onsite.

Although employment growth of specific types of helpers is projected to vary, overall demand is expected to be driven by the construction of homes, schools, office buildings, factories, and power plants. However, use of prefabrication is projected to result in the need for fewer of these workers, including both helpers of brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters in production and laborers in onsite installation.

Employment projections data for Construction Laborers and Helpers, 2020-30
Occupational Title Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30
Percent Numeric
Construction laborers and helpers 1,514,200 1,623,300 7 109,100
  Construction laborers 1,285,200 1,388,300 8 103,200
  Helpers—brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters 20,900 20,100 -4 -800
  Helpers—carpenters 31,000 31,200 1 200
  Helpers—electricians 75,500 76,200 1 700
  Helpers—painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons 9,400 10,000 7 600
  Helpers—pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 56,200 59,400 6 3,100
  Helpers—roofers 8,200 8,600 5 400
  Helpers, all other construction trades 27,800 29,500 6 1,700


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


Explore more careers: View all Careers or the Top 30 Career Profiles


Search for jobs: