Masonry, a centuries-old trade, continues to play a pivotal role in our modern world. It’s an art, a science, and a profession that requires a unique set of skills and a keen eye for detail. Whether you’re fascinated by historic structures or contemporary architecture, a career in masonry could be your path to a fulfilling, lucrative future.
This guide will shed light on the key steps to becoming a professional mason, including education requirements, apprenticeship, wages, job growth, and the pros and cons of the field.
What is a Mason?
A mason, also known as a stonemason or brickmason, uses bricks, stones, and other materials to construct or repair structures like buildings, walls, and walkways. They read and interpret construction plans, measure and cut materials, and use mortar to secure elements together.
Education and Training
To become a mason, you typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some start their training in technical high schools.
The most common path into the profession is through a three-to-four year paid apprenticeship, which combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Apprentice candidates must be at least 18 years old and physically able to do the work.
During an apprenticeship, you’ll learn essential skills such as reading blueprints, doing math for layouts, choosing and mixing the right types of mortar, and understanding safety procedures. After completion, you’ll be considered a journeyman and can work independently.
Licensure and Certification
Licensing requirements vary by state, with some requiring masons to pass a licensing exam after their apprenticeship.
While not always mandatory, becoming certified can enhance your job prospects. Certifications from organizations like the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) can demonstrate your competence and commitment to the trade.
Wages and Job Growth
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2022 that the median annual wage for brickmasons and blockmasons was $53,100, with the top 10% earning more than $84,000. Stonemasons earned a median annual wage of $42,650. Wages can vary based on factors like location, level of experience, and specific industry.
The BLS projects that employment for masons will grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Population growth, the need to build new structures, and the necessity to maintain and repair existing ones will continue to create demand for masons.
Pros and Cons of a Masonry Career
- Skill-Based Career: Masonry is a trade skill that is always in demand. It can’t be outsourced, making it a secure profession.
- Physical Fitness: Masonry is a physically engaging career, which can contribute to overall health and fitness.
- Creativity and Satisfaction: Masonry allows for creativity in design and offers satisfaction in seeing the tangible results of your work.
- Compensation: Experienced masons can earn a comfortable living, especially those with specialized skills.
- Physical Demands: The work is physically intense, with risks of injuries from lifting heavy materials or from long periods of bending and kneeling.
- Working Conditions: Masons often work outdoors, meaning weather conditions can impact work schedules. They may also work at heights or in cramped conditions.
- Seasonal Work: In colder climates, masonry work can be seasonal due to unfavorable weather conditions in winter.
Choosing a career in masonry involves careful consideration of your interests, physical abilities, and career aspirations. This trade offers a blend of creativity and practicality that can be rewarding for those with the right skills and mindset.
Further Education and Career Advancement
While a high school diploma and apprenticeship might be the standard entry into masonry, further education in the form of associate or bachelor’s degrees in construction management or a related field can enhance your career prospects. These degrees can open the door to supervisory or managerial roles within the construction industry.
Additionally, developing specializations within masonry, such as working with historic restorations or becoming proficient in decorative masonry, can provide competitive edges. They not only increase your value as a mason but also often command higher wages.
In conclusion, becoming a mason is a commitment to mastering a highly valued craft. The profession requires technical proficiency, physical strength, and a meticulous eye for detail. While it does have its challenges, many find the career to be immensely fulfilling and financially rewarding.
It’s a path that offers the satisfaction of creating durable, tangible structures that stand the test of time. If you’re drawn to a profession where you can see the results of your work at the end of each day and make a lasting mark on the world, masonry might be an excellent choice for you.