Architecture and construction is a complex cluster that deals with all aspects of planning, building, and maintaining a structure, whether it is a skyscraper or a highway. Jobs in this field range from designing an entire community to installing security and fire alarms in individual buildings. In addition to the planning and building of structures, this field also covers the servicing of equipment that, when installed, becomes a vital part of the structure, such as plumbing, heating, central air-conditioning, electrical wiring, lighting equipment, elevators, and escalators. The construction industry is one of the largest industries in the United States.
or most of the trades involved in construction, the workers do not start at the beginning of the building process and work until the building is complete. Workers come in for the portion of the job that involves them and then move on to other projects. So, an electrician comes in to wire a house and then moves on to another construction site. He or she may have to come back to do more electrical work, but it is not essential to have an electrician at a job site every day. Because workers come and go, it is important to have a project supervisor, or job foreman, who knows all the phases of the work being done.
There are three pathways in the architecture and construction field: construction, design/pre-construction, and maintenance/operations.
People in this area turn plans into reality. Depending on the area in which they work, they build, renovate, and restore houses, office buildings, factories, bridges, highways, and just about any other structure. Many of the jobs in this area require a training or apprenticeship period, and some require a two- or four-year degree. Examples of careers in construction include construction inspectors, construction laborers, landscape architects, plumbers, and sheet metal workers.
People in this area take the idea for a structure and turn it into a set of detailed plans. Once a construction project gets underway, other workers use these plans as the basis for their work. Most states require people in this area to pass certain tests and obtain a license. Careers in design/pre-construction include architects, city planners, civil engineers, computer-aided design technicians, cost estimators, and surveyors.
People who work in this area keep buildings and other structures running smoothly. They ensure that a structure meets all government codes and that it is safe and comfortable for those who use it. Some of the jobs in this field overlap with those in construction, but people in maintenance/ operations work on structures that have already been completed. Examples of careers in this area are electricians, elevator installers and repairers, floor covering installers, heating and cooling technicians, and janitors and cleaners.
People who work in architecture and construction should have solid math skills, as these often come into play in most jobs of this nature. People involved in design/ pre-construction especially should have a strong grasp of visual detail. Attention to detail is vital to all careers in this area, as the difference of several well-placed bolts could mean the difference between success and catastrophe when building a bridge or highway overpass. Thus, classes in art, drafting, and math (especially algebra, trigonometry, and geometry) will be great preparation for this type of job. Some careers, such as construction laborer, require that the worker be able to lift heavy objects and stand on his or her feet for many hours at a time, working in all types of weather conditions. If that type of career interests you, be sure to stay in shape and build your stamina.
Although some jobs in construction may require only a high school diploma, most of the jobs in this field, especially those that involve skilled labor, require a period of formal training or an apprenticeship. During this time a new employee works alongside experienced skilled workers and learns the trade. After a designated period of time, the new employee generally must pass a licensing examination in order to practice the trade on his or her own. Many of the careers in this field, such as architects, engineers, and city planners require a bachelor’s degree or greater, and advanced certifications are also available. Read the individual career articles in this book to learn the exact requirements for the careers that interest you.
The United States will be forced to make major repairs to its highways, tunnels, bridges, airports, and other buildings throughout the coming years. This will create the need for all kinds of people employed in architecture and construction work. Residential construction should continue to grow, although the demand for remodeling and repair work is likely to be stronger than the demand for new housing.
Job growth also will occur in most of the skilled construction trades, especially for electricians. They will be needed in greater numbers not only to replace old wiring in existing facilities but to keep pace with the continuing growth in telecommunications and computer equipment now used in many new structures, including, for example, electronically operated “smart” buildings.
All these factors point to a steady growth of the market for architecture and construction. Although further improvements in construction methods and equipment will increase the amount of work one person can do, the volume of activity will require substantial numbers of skilled worked in this field.