Career Profile and Information: Mason

Career Information

Brick Mason
A brick mason building a wall. Hisham Ibrahim / Photodisc / Getty Images

A mason builds structures using bricks, concrete blocks or natural stones, depending on the material in which he or she specializes. These structures include walls, walkways and fences. They mostly work on residential buildings, but they may also construct commercial buildings. Masons are classified by the material with which they work. One can be a brick mason, a block mason or a stone mason. Brick masons are sometimes called bricklayers.

Quick Facts

  • Brick and block masons earned a median annual salary of $47,650 and hourly wages of $22.91 in 2014, while stone masons earned $37,880 annually and $18.21 hourly.
  • There were approximately 252,900 people employed as masonry workers in 2014. Just over 78,000 were block and brick masons and slightly fewer than 15,000 were stone masons.
  • Most work in residential construction.
  • About 1 out of 10 masonry workers are self-employed.
  • Most jobs are full time and often include overtime work.
  • Work schedules can be erratic during cold weather months.
  • The job outlook for masons is excellent, which is why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies it as a "bright outlook occupation." Employment is predicted to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in the Life of a Mason

To find out what typical roles and responsibilities a mason has, we looked at job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Assist in building layout, framing, sheathing, and roofing structures"
  • "Use equipment and tools properly and safely to perform basic construction tasks"
  • "Lift and place bricks weighing approximately 5 pounds hundreds of times per day"
  • "Lift and place blocks weighing 24 to 55 pounds hundreds of times per day"
  • "Correct any safety hazards and communicate to the foreman"
  • "Tear down, rebuild and point chimneys"
  • "Cut openings into walls, ceilings and floors constructed of masonry materials"

How to Become a Mason

You can train to work in this occupation by doing a three to four year apprenticeship. Apprentices must complete 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training each year. Included in that is training in reading blue prints, building code requirements, mathematics, safety requirements and first aid procedures.

To enroll in an apprenticeship program, which is usually sponsored by a union or contractor association, you must be at least 18 years old, have earned a high school or equivalency diploma and be physically up to the challenges of the work involved in being a mason. Upon completion of the program, you will be considered a journey worker who can work independently. To learn about apprenticeship programs in your area, contact the local union that represents masons. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers maintains a list of locals that are part of that organization.

Alternatively, some choose to get training through a one-year program at a technical college.

Credits often count toward an associate degree.

What Skills Do You Need?

If you think you might want to become a mason, you should evaluate whether you have several essential qualities. First of all, are you physically strong? Masons regularly lift very heavy equipment and material, such as blocks that weigh more than 40 pounds. How is your manual dexterity? You will have to apply smooth, even layers of mortar and quickly set bricks. Do you have a lot of physical stamina? If you want to be a brick mason, you will have to keep up a steady pace as you lay bricks all day. Are you creative? If stone masonry looks like an interesting occupation, realize you will have to shape stones into attractive and functional structures.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

What do employers look for when they hire workers?

Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

  • "Ability to read and comprehend instructions including, but not limited to, safety policies and procedure manuals"
  • "Enjoy physical work in the outdoors"
  • "Ability to work independently and complete daily activities according to work schedule"
  • "Must be physically fit and have the ability to work with very little down time"
  • "Valid driver's license and ability to travel required"
  • "Must be able to tolerate pushing/pulling motions, bending at waist, and reaching above shoulder level"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

  • Holland Code: Brick or Block Mason: RCI (Realistic, Conventional, Investigative); Stonemason: RAC (Realistic, Artistic, Conventional)
  • MBTI Personality Types: ESTP, ISTP (Tieger, Paul D., Barron, Barbara, and Tieger, Kelly. (2014) Do What You Are. NY: Hatchette Book Group.)

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2014)Minimum Required Education/Training
Tile and Marble SetterCuts and places marble or ceramic tiles

$38,980

H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training
PaperhangerApplies decorative wallpaper and fabric to walls and ceilings$32,930H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training
Construction CarpenterConstructs wood, plywood and wallboard structures$40,820H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + 3-4 year apprenticeship
PainterApplies paint and other coatings to interior and exterior surfaces$35,950H.S. or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-job Training

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited March 7, 2016 ).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited March 7, 2016).

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