Which Construction Education Is Right for You?

It seems that you need a degree to get any entry-level job these days. When you read the listings, you might be amazed by what some industries think is “entry-level.” Construction is a bit different in that there are many people who start at the bottom and manage to work their way up without a college education. With this information, you’ll know about the options you have for construction education, and how to tell which one is the best one for you.

Formal Education
There are a few four-year or master’s programs that specialize in construction management. Most at a community college or university offer a two-year associate’s degree in something like construction management or technology. If you’re not sure which field you want to get into, or if you’ve been working in a field for years and you want some added credibility, this may be the best route to take. This approach may or may not include apprenticeships, so be sure to find out before you apply and pay tuition.

Apprenticeships
The primary competitor to a formal education is the apprenticeship. This is a long-term program, usually at least a couple of years, for people new to the field to get on-the-job training. You must be at least 16 but there’s no maximum age limit. For example, the North America’s Building Trades Unions offers a variety of apprenticeships at hundreds of training centers across the U.S. In this type of program, you go through a rigorous and detailed training while you get paid for the work you do. It’s not hard to imagine the benefit of getting your education without having to take classes on the side or take out student loans. But that makes many apprenticeships competitive and sometimes very difficult to get, depending on the field.

Independent Study
Many construction education programs include features of independent study, but that tends to be more guided than truly going it alone. There are tons of resources online that you can use to get more information about relevant fields, read about building codes and more. YouTube has millions of video how-tos on common construction projects, mostly targeted at DIY. The big thing to keep in mind is that anyone can write a thing or make a video about how to do something. With this approach, it’s on you to determine which sources are credible.

Licensing Programs
Licensing programs, like the ones that CSLS offers, are often meant for the last few months before you are ready to get your license. Most licenses require four years of experience in the field, although you can substitute a college education or an apprenticeship to cover a portion of that. This type of program features a short series of classes that go over the standards you need to remember for the classification you’re seeking, as well as general test-taking tips and other things you must have to get your license. It’s a great way to solidify your knowledge base and get the support you need to pass the exam.

How to Choose
While it’s true that there is no wrong answer here, it’s also true that you’ll probably need to take more than one of these paths on your way to becoming a licensed contractor. Independent study or a few general seminar classes about construction fields can help narrow your focus and make sure you’re in the right field. Apprenticeships and certificate programs give you a deeper grounding in specific subjects, so that you can carry out the job safely and correctly. A licensing program may be the last step you take to ensure you can successfully apply for and receive your license.

Getting an education in your chosen field in construction is the biggest hurdle you need to clear before you can get your contractor’s license. To learn more about your options and how CSLS can help you achieve your goals, contact us today!