Whether you’re still in high school or are looking for a second career later in life, it’s important to understand the requirements for any job you’re interested in. While some jobs may just be a stepping stone towards another offer of employment if you hope to make a career in a particular field, brush up on what it takes as far as education, certifications, and experience. Plus, find out what the industry potential looks like in 2021 and beyond.
What Brick Masons Do
Traditionally, brick masons built things using brick and mortar. Today’s brick masons may also build using concrete blocks and natural or manmade stones. The list of potential projects is endless, but the most common tasks include building chimneys for homes or outdoor fire pits, retaining walls to keep hillsides in place, and building facades on homes.
If you also own the business you may have a host of responsibilities in addition to masonry work such as taking the time to manage office staff, handle payroll and employee issues, monitor local and federal regulations, present bids for services by visiting each site and evaluating the work required, order supplies, educate homeowners, and schedule jobs.
As with many industries, the range of jobs for masonry workers is vast. Typical job titles within the field of brick masons include brick masons, block masons, stonemasons, bricklayers, cement masons, and concrete finishers.
Brick masons commonly work outdoors, but some tasks are indoor as well. Work is in new or existing homes and businesses. They also work outdoors on the exterior of buildings and around yards. The job often requires working in dirty conditions and loud construction environments.
Work hours vary widely in the industry with many part-time and full-time employees, yet overtime is not uncommon during the busiest seasons. Work may require evening and weekend hours. As a brick mason you may work alone, with a few other workers, or as part of a large crew.
Education and Certifications
Most brick masons are trained on the job. This is often through an apprenticeship offered through work experience. There are, however, trade schools where you can learn masonry skills, either independently or as part of the apprenticeship offered by your employer.
There are no certification requirements in the industry, however apprenticeship requirements vary between states and different businesses. Regardless, once you complete those requirements you are considered a journeyman level brick mason and can complete tasks on your own.
Typical topics covered during study and hands-on practice include construction basics such as blueprint reading, proper measurement, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices.
Getting a job as a brick mason typically doesn’t require previous experience, but if you’ve ever worked with brick and mortar it will help at the interview. For this type of position most employers are looking for workers who are dedicated to advancing their skills through education and hands-on experience, show self-discipline and motivation, and are physically able to perform the job.
Strong Personal Characteristics
Every job has certain personal characteristics that help the job be a more natural match for the person. Becoming a brick mason requires strength, stamina, and a strong work ethic. If you’ve ever worked in construction or even completed some DIY projects in your home, you know no project goes as planned so flexibility and adaptability are key. You will also need strong communication skills to interact with customers, home and business owners, co-workers, employees, and bosses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical annual pay range for all types of chimney cleaners is $45,000-$50,000. It should be noted that this can be seasonal work, rather than regular full-time, depending on the type of projects you work on.
Those starting out will likely get paid at or close to minimum wage for their work. But as you develop skills in using tools, interacting with customers, and learning other aspects of the business, you can increase your value and your pay. It is easy to start a business as a brick mason with little more than a deep understanding of the craft and regulations, and some basic tools.
As of 2021, the BLS says the job outlook for brick masonry is on track for a slight decline over the next decade. This may be the result of the continuing adoption of new kinds of construction techniques, and the movement away from wood-burning stoves in modern homes. However, brick has been around for thousands of years, so it seems likely that there will always be a need for at least some brick masons.
As with all jobs, the technology continues to evolve around masonry. It might be a good idea to look into some of the brick laying equipment in development since new machinery often presents opportunities for those who know how to use it.
Working as a brick mason comes with intrinsic safety hazards mostly associated with heights, hauling supplies up and down ladders, and falling bricks.