Why College Graduates Should Enter the Construction Industry

Why College Graduates Should Enter the Construction Industry

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September 10, 2019

Author: Kelsey Zibell, NCCER Guest Contributor

The career opportunities in the construction industry are endless. In fact, with so many paths to success, there are numerous ways to get in the industry.

Some professionals have been in the industry since they started in career and technical education programs in middle and high school. Some got certifications and training at community centers or two-year colleges. Some people found apprenticeships with mentors willing to take them in and train them.

And yet, some have taken a less direct route. Many students feel pressured to go to a university to get a four-year degree despite not having a solid career plan. Only after struggling to find a job in their original field do they realize their passion and path to success is in construction.

Why should college graduates explore a career in construction? The crafts offer high wages, high demand and plenty of opportunities – just what college grads are looking for.

High Wages and Low Debt

If you have a college degree, there is a good chance that you also have incurred some debt during your studies. In fact, college students graduate with an average student debt of $35,000. And on top of this debt, college graduates are finding it harder and harder to find work that pays enough to get them out of this financial hole.

By looking at statistics of the United States labor market, this makes sense. For every 10 jobs, only two require a four-year degree and only one requires a master’s or doctoral degree. With so many students choosing to pursue one of these degrees, the result is surplus of graduates and a shortage of associated jobs, resulting in underemployment for many recent grads.

For students with a college degree, struggling to find a job and trying to pay off their mountain of student loans, looking into the construction industry is a viable and responsible career choice.

Because of the growing demand for craft professionals, the salaries for these positions continue to rise. For example, the national average base salary for a welder is $71,067 per year, and many roles offer opportunities to make over six figures with travel and additional incentives.

Worried that switching to a new career will just add more education debt on top of the loans you already have? Don’t be. With the many grants, sponsorships and scholarships available, as well as earn-while-you-learn education models like apprenticeships, a lot of craft students actually come out ahead.

Many students go to college thinking it’s necessary to get a high-paying job. It isn’t. There are other paths to a good career. With so much opportunity in the skilled crafts arena, it makes sense to explore the many options there.

High Demand and Opportunity

The high salaries in construction are partially due to the growing demand for skilled craft professionals.

For quite some time, the construction industry has been dominated by Baby Boomers. As Boomers have begun to retire, more young people have opted to pursue four-year degrees instead of joining the skilled crafts. The result of this trend is an intense craft professional shortage that is only getting worse.

By 2023, there will be 1.5 million construction jobs that need to be filled. This shortage could be detrimental to the infrastructure and construction projects in America.

As the skills gap worsens, those with a lot of knowledge and experience in the crafts will be highly sought out with high-paying opportunities. Following the idea of supply and demand, this shortage has led to stable, high-paying careers for construction professionals.

This should be particularly attractive for college graduates. While the many degree-focused career fields are only getting more competitive and more difficult to land jobs in, the opportunities in construction are booming. And with high salaries that are likely to increase over time, there has never been a better time to join the industry.

There is also the added perk of upward potential. If college graduates join the industry now, they will gain experience and put themselves in prime position to fill the management or even executive roles that Boomers will be leaving behind.

You Can Go Your Own Way

The most important takeaway is that you have options.

Many young adults have been pushed into college with no plan or goal upon graduating. When these students leave college, they struggle to find a career and have financial debt weighing them down.

It is important to remember that a career in construction is valuable, stable, rewarding and high-paying.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at Build Your Future resources like our Career Path and map out a career plan that works for you!