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Construction: Construction Industry Training and Continuing Education

While learning opportunities abound in the construction industry, a number of disciplines offer particularly extensive training. Here are a few trade-specific examples.

Masonry Certification

This certificate, one of the most widely-recognized in the field, can be earned through the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Before applying to take the standard exam, however, the individual must earn certification credits through mason contractor-related courses. Those earned through a formal apprenticeship training program are not valid.

While some choose to turn to an outside institution to build credits, the MCAA suggests that the best way to ensure meeting course requirements via those entities in its Approved Provider Network, since these classes deem automatic MCAA endorsement. Better yet, the provider automatically notifies the Association of the candidate's attendance.

Aspiring masons may register for the certification-related courses via the MCAA website, which outlines all approved class offerings and includes scheduling. The mason will receive a registered username, as well as an account that tracks progress and likewise specifies the credits/education needed for certain designations.

Courses focus on everything from the mason industry to running a contractor business. Candidates must collect 100 continuing education credits in six disciplines:

  • Masonry Quality Institute
  • Codes and Standards
  • Ethics and Business Practice
  • Safety
  • Bidding Practices
  • Masonry Products

Once the MCAA approves course completion, candidates may pay a fee and take the certification exam. Certification must be renewed every three years.

Electrician License/Certification

Individual state Licensing Boards sometimes offer Code Electrical preparation courses and provide information about exam sites. Study questions generally relate to theory, on-the-job knowledge and the National Electrical Code. Some states now include queries about business and law.

A variety of construction-focused software companies and publishers offer computer programs, as well as books designed to help electricians prepare for the exam. No matter the course, industry pundits recommend at least six months of study prior to taking the exam.

Many states require renewal within one to three years of the issued date. This could include a designated number of hours of continuing education, as well as field time.

Journeyman Electrician License/Certification

Again, requirements for the Journeyman Electrician License vary from state to state. However, the applicant usually must have four years of electrical work experience to earn approval from the State Licensing Board. In many cases, the electrical work must take place under the supervision of an engineer, licensed master electrician or licensed journeyman electrician, with detailed documentation and verification.

Most states allow exam participants two attempts to pass. Portions of the tests - which tend to consist of anywhere from 60 to 100 questions depending on the state - allow open book.

Master Electrician License/Certification

Most states first require the applicant to pass the Journeyman License exam in order to qualify for the Master Electrician License test. In some cases, the government will forgo this rule - particularly if the individual submits records that demonstrate much time in the field.

While exam questions vary from one state to the next, these requirements are fairly standard:

  • Applicant must be over 21 years of age
  • Applicant must possess a high school diploma or GED
  • Applicant has a minimum of five years’ hands-on experience in the field
  • Applicant completed a four-year apprenticeship program (approved by the federal government and a federally-certified state agency)
  • Applicant earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and fulfilled two years of practical hands-on experience.

Masonry (Brick, Block and Stone)

For many entering the masonry field, the path does not involve formal schooling, but rather, on-the-job training. Still, vocational schools and courses provided by industry organizations, as well as apprenticeships, can help workers climb the professional ladder.

This construction trade generally falls into several professional advancement categories based on experience and education. These include:

  • Apprenticeship: This usually is divided into first-, second- and third-year rankings. Consisting of on-the-job training coupled with classroom education (trade school), the employer generally covers costs. In many cases, when an apprentice fulfills training requirements over a set time period, he or she receives journeyman mason status.
  • Mason foreman: Persons at this career level often take on supervisory and management roles, including accounting, marketing and personnel work. In addition, they also might perform construction work alongside their employees.
  • Estimator: This job involves preparing cost estimates to help employers in the process of bidding for a project or in determining the price of a product or service.
  • Project supervisor: In this position, workers oversee planning, coordinating and budgeting. They usually engage in conceptual development so that they can direct the organization, scheduling and implementation of the project.
  • Mason contractor: This professional has advanced to owning a company, generally coordinating a team and employing the people in the mason fields listed above.

Continuing Education is useful for professional advancement and also required for certification renewal. For additional training and education, the following entities offer the latest in mason technology and standards:

  • Mason Contractors Association of American (MCAA): The Association offers online courses, webinars, conventions and intensive seminars all designed to bring quality education at a reasonable cost to mason contractors. Additionally, the Association hosts the MCAA Virtual University where individuals can access online courses any time of the day or night, and complete them at their own pace.
  • International Masonry Institute (IMI): In an alliance with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), the two organizations provide training, technical assistance, and continuing education. Offerings include pre-job and advanced training programs, curriculum and standards development, Masonry Camp, certification programs, instructor certification program, supervisor certification program and Contractor College.


Those entering the electrician field after vocational school generally start with a four-year apprenticeship. During this time, a worker receives on-the-job training and additional education. Industry organizations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association all sponsor these programs. The aspiring electrician usually learns electrical code requirements, safety, blueprint reading, electrical theory and more.

While there are many different avenues for one seeking an electrician apprenticeship, most require the person to be at least 18 years old, a high school graduate, or the holder of a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Once workers wrap up their apprenticeships, they may go on to become an Electrician Journeyman and ultimately, a Master Electrician.

More information about apprenticeship opportunities and continuing education can be found at:

Carpentry/ Framing

This trade, like most in the industry, starts with an apprenticeship and advances to Journeyman and Master Craftsman after so many years. Usually, experience leads the way to qualification for certification. Still, as the industry changes rapidly - moving toward more efficient and environmentally friendly practices - a number of institutes and trade groups provide continuing education on the matters of the day.

Since carpenters and framers help with the actual development of a project, this advancement option is ideal for many in these fields. On average, professionals who receive a Master's degree - particularly individuals with extensive experience on the jobsite - become construction managers in very large firms or in construction management companies. Individuals who hold a Bachelor's degree in unrelated fields often seek a Master's in construction management or construction science simply to work in the industry.

Modern Green Building Techniques

Organizations such as Build It Green provide professionals in carpentry and other development fields with ongoing courses related to the latest trends in environmentally-friendly construction. This particular group offers a re-certification program (Certified Green Building Professional) that includes class work based on the most modern advances in green building. CGBP holders must renew every two years, taking continuing education in Energy/Building Science, Material/Indoor Air Quality and Site/ Landscaping/ Water.

Materials cover topics such as renewable energy, weatherproofing, insulation, building technology, energy efficiency, structural systems, recycling materials, waste diversion, storm water control, rainwater collection, conservation and more.

Other organizations, among them Green Advantage, offer CE opportunities in the green building arena, as well. It simply takes a few minutes online to locate them.


Plumbers who've finished a four-year apprenticeship and want to jumpstart their careers can take advantage of numerous continuing education resources for this particular trade. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, for instance, offers a variety of course work and training materials for plumbers seeking apprenticeship and journeyman status.

The American Society of Sanitary Engineering

The ASSE provides a good number of continuing education resources for plumbers. This organization represents a cross-section of the plumbing industry, using the expertise of plumbers, engineers, journeymen, surveyors, inspectors, manufacturers and code officials for information and course subjects. Specifically, ASSE helps enlighten plumbers on the industry's annually changing standards and code.