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How Much Does a Construction Worker Make a Year?

By Timothy Moore · September 11, 2023 · 6 minute read

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How Much Does a Construction Worker Make a Year?

The average salary for a construction worker in 2022 was $46,350, or $22.29 per hour. Construction workers are a crucial part of the labor force across the country, and the industry is expected to grow through the end of the decade. Without a formal education requirement, construction work can be a viable option for anyone uninterested in getting a college degree right after high school.

That said, construction labor can be grueling. The job is physically demanding and at times dangerous. You’ll need to consider your physical limitations before pursuing a career in construction work.

Knowing what your income will look like may be the most important consideration of all. We’ll break down the average construction worker starting salary, as well as their typical responsibilities and required skills, below.

What Do Construction Workers Do?

Construction crews work on building sites for new homes, multi-family units, commercial buildings, roads, and bridges. Following detailed plans, construction workers are responsible for taking apart old structures and erecting new ones.

Depending on the job site, construction workers may operate heavy machinery, use hand tools, and perform plumbing and electrical tasks.

Construction work requires significant strength, endurance, and tolerance for extreme temperatures. The industry also has one of the highest rates of injuries on the job, so construction laborers must be familiar with safety protocols.


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Construction Worker Job Responsibility Examples

What kinds of things might you be responsible for as a construction worker on a job site? Here are some examples:

•   Removing debris

•   Loading and unloading materials

•   Assembling bracing, scaffolding, and other temporary structures to help with the construction

•   Operating heavy machinery and using hand tools when building and taking apart structures

•   Digging trenches, compacting earth, and backfilling holes

•   Directing traffic

•   Driving work trucks (may require a CDL, or commercial drivers license)

•   Measuring and cutting materials

•   Conducting minor plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work

Construction Worker Skills

Though you don’t need a secondary education to be a construction worker, you’ll need to learn specific skills. You might learn some of these on the job:

•   Ability to use tools and operate machinery

•   Plumbing, electrical, carpentry, masonry, concrete, roofing, drywall, and/or demolition know-how

•   Knowledge of various safety protocols

•   Basic math and measurement

•   Hand-eye coordination

•   Physical strength and energy

In addition, construction workers must be able to problem-solve on the fly and must embrace teamwork. This is not a job for introverts!

How Much Do Starting Construction Workers Make?

Construction worker entry-level salaries vary by state, but you can expect pay to be on the lower end when just starting out. The bottom 10% of earners in the industry bring home about $29,700 per year.

If you’re entering the construction industry with a degree, you will likely make more starting out. With an education, you might go straight into construction management. The bottom 10% of construction managers earn $62,210 a year. The average annual salary is $112,790.

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What Is the Average Salary for a Construction Worker?

The average salary for a construction worker in 2022 was $46,350, but rates vary significantly across the country. The average hourly rate for a construction worker is $22.29 per hour. Total income is about the same whether you get a salary vs. hourly pay.

As you’d expect, areas with a higher cost of living (think California, New York, and Hawaii) generally have more competitive pay than areas with a lower cost of living (states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas).

How much do construction workers make in California? $56,210, on average. In New York, the mean salary is even higher, at $59,280 a year. But it’s Hawaii where construction workers make the most money on average: $66,650.

Check out the following table for additional state insights:

State

Average Construction Worker Salary

Hawaii $66,650
Illinois $65,590
New Jersey $65,590
Massachusetts $64,940
New York $59,280
Washington $56,630
California $56,210
Minnesota $54,150
Rhode Island $53,820
Alaska $53,270
Connecticut $53,050
Missouri $52,150
Ohio $51,200
Pennsylvania $50,150
Oregon $49,250
Wisconsin $48,540
Indiana $47,850
Nevada $47,550
Montana $46,500
North Dakota $46,480
Michigan $46,020
Iowa $44,740
Vermont $43,680
New Hampshire $43,260
Maryland $43,120
Arizona $43,060
Delaware $42,950
Colorado $42,870
Utah $42,460
Kentucky $42,310
Nebraska $41,040
Maine $40,760
West Virginia $40,700
Wyoming $40,450
Idaho $39,950
Louisiana $39,500
Kansas $39,400
Oklahoma $39,120
Tennessee $38,590
South Carolina $38,200
Florida $37,690
Texas $37,600
Virginia $37,590
Georgia $37,270
New Mexico $37,170
South Dakota $37,050
North Carolina $36,760
Arkansas $35,150
Mississippi $34,240
Alabama $33,140
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022 data



💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Pros and Cons of Construction Worker Salary

Being a construction worker has some advantages, but there are also drawbacks to consider:

Pros

•   Higher than average salary: The average salary for someone without a college degree is just over $37,000. Construction workers earn more than $9,000 a year over that, without any formal education — and without any student loan debt.

•   Job growth: The job market is projected to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031, meaning there should be ample opportunities available.

•   Flexibility: Construction jobs are available across the country. If you want to relocate somewhere else, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a job.

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Cons

•   Difficult work: Construction labor can be physically demanding. It may lead to injury and illness, and you can leave job sites tired and sore each day.

•   Less money: Construction workers make significantly less money than construction managers. If you’re able to get a bachelor’s degree in construction management, you may earn more money over your lifetime.

•   Long-term career options: As you age, you may become less equipped to keep up with the physical demands of the job. This could force an early retirement, right when you should be in your earning prime. You may instead need to look for a work-from-home job for retirees to ensure you have enough income until you’re eligible for Social Security benefits and other retirement income.

The Takeaway

Construction workers can make decent money over the course of their careers, and you won’t have to take out a student loan to get a degree to land a job. However, the work can be exhausting and lead to injury. Weigh all the pros and cons carefully before starting a career as a construction worker.

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FAQ

How much do most construction workers make?

How much money a construction worker makes depends on where they live and their level of experience. However, the average construction laborer brings in $46,350 a year.

Who is the highest paid construction worker?

Hawaii has the highest paid construction workers, with an average salary of $66,650. However, the top 10% of construction workers in New Jersey outpace the earnings of the top 10% in Hawaii, bringing home $101,360 a year. Across the country, the top 10% highest paid construction workers average an annual salary of $72,430.

What job pays the best in construction?

Pipeline transportation of natural gas is the highest paying job in construction, with laborers earning $81,670 a year on average. Other high-paying construction jobs include electric power generation, transmission, and distribution; construction support services; construction work for medical and surgical hospitals; and rail transport construction.


Photo credit: iStock/damircudic

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