What types of jobs and employers are there in construction?

What is construction?
Construction jobs involve more than just what you see on a building site. There is a huge range of career choices in the industry. These involve designing, planning and project management, as well as doing the hands-on, practical work.

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Construction jobs are essentially about being able to say ‘I helped build that!’. Construction involves designing and building the ‘built’ environment around us: not only skyscrapers, football stadiums and bridges, but also houses, factories, hospitals, schools, railways, tunnels, piers, dams, coastal defences and energy generation plants.

A project can be a ‘new build’, a renovation or a refurbishment. Larger construction companies specialise in particular ‘markets’ or sectors – for example, healthcare projects. Some work in a range of sectors while other companies provide expertise in just one or two areas. Many construction professionals specialise in a particular type of project over time.

Construction professionals’ overall priorities are to ensure that their projects are attractive, safe, sustainable (environmentally friendly), and completed on time and within budget.

What types of construction jobs and careers are there?

People are often surprised by how many different kinds of jobs there are in the construction industry. The main job roles for school leavers and graduates are:

  • Architects and architectural technologists design buildings. Architects design the structure, while architectural technologists ensure that the technical aspects of a design work.
  • Building services engineers make sure that a building has more than walls and a roof. They ensure that the lighting, power, ventilation, heating, cooling and water systems work. They might work on the designs of a building or ensure that the designs are put into practice correctly. They are sometimes known as mechanical and/or electrical engineers.
  • Building surveyors provide technical advice relating to construction and property. They have various roles, but the core of their work is to report on a building’s condition (for example, if there is damp and what any repairs would cost).
  • Civil, structural and geotechnical engineers are essential in ensuring that project designs work in practice. Civil and structural engineers tend to work either in an office on the technical aspects of designs or out on site making sure that the designs are implemented properly. Structural engineers have particular responsibility for ensuring that the structure (innerframework) of the project holds up. Geotechnical engineers are responsible for structures’ foundations. They design foundations and oversee foundation work on site.
  • Landscape architects aim to improve the quality of the environment by designing and managing the open spaces around us. They design and create public areas in towns, cities and the countryside.
  • Quantity surveyors help a construction project to make a profit. They are involved in working out either how much the design would cost to build in theory or how much the project is costing to build in reality.
  • Site managers ensure things get done on a construction site. They make sure that the building work is finished on time, within budget and to a high standard, managing teams of workers.
  • Working in a construction trade or craft is what most people think of as construction work. Trades and crafts include bricklaying, stonemasonry, carpentry, joinery, demolition work, electrical work, painting and decorating, plumbing, scaffolding, steeplejacking, and wall and floor work.

What types of employers are there in construction?

In construction a number of different types of organisations work together to complete a project. The exact work you will do in your job will depend on the type of organisation you work for.

The main types of construction organisation are:

  • Consultants, which look after the pre-construction stages of a project on behalf of a client who wants something built. Professionals who work for consultants spend their time helping to plan and design the project.
  • Contractors, which build the project once the designs have been finalised. Professionals who work for contractors spend most of their time working out on site.
  • Subcontractor organisations, which are employed by contractors if the contractors need specialist or additional help. For example, the contractor might bring in teams to help with the foundation work or steelwork. Professionals working for subcontractors tend to spend their time on site alongside contractors.

Some construction professionals might also work for service providers, such as a water company, or for local authorities. You can read more about the types of employers different professionals can work for in the individual 'construction job roles' explained articles linked to in the 'Types of job' section above.

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