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Construction Supervisor Job Description, Career as a Construction Supervisor, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school, training, and experience

Salary: Average—$50,980 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Construction supervisors manage crews of skilled and unskilled workers at construction sites. Supervisors, also known as foremen or forewomen, are usually experienced construction workers. For example, an experienced bricklayer might supervise a crew of bricklayers. Supervisors are responsible for the efficient use of labor, machines, and materials by their crews. Supervisors report to site superintendents, who are responsible for the efficiency of all the crews on a construction job.

Supervisors plan and schedule work and keep records of the materials used and the progress made on a job. These records are included in the supervisor's reports to the superintendent. Supervisors also report on such things as personnel, costs, and safety. Supervisors must see that safety rules are followed. They also communicate company rules and policies to the workers. When the workers have grievances or complaints about their jobs, the construction supervisor meets with union representatives to work out solutions. Supervisors must be familiar with union contracts and procedures.

In some cases, especially on small jobs, supervisors work alongside their crews. These supervisors are called working supervisors. On large jobs they spend their time in management activities. Supervisors must be able to read blueprints and plans. Supervisors advise qualified craft workers on the best way to handle certain tasks. Sometimes supervisors oversee the training of newly hired laborers.

A construction supervisor discusses blueprints and plans with a contractor. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Supervisors must be experts in their crafts. They must be able to give clear directions and see that they are followed. They must also be able to communicate well with their bosses, who may be superintendents or contractors. Supervisors are very important to the efficient completion of all construction jobs, large and small. They are more familiar with their trades than are the superintendents, who rely on supervisors to maintain high standards of workmanship and efficiency.

Education and Training Requirements

The majority of construction supervisors are former union members who have worked their way up through the construction trade. A high school diploma is necessary to enter many of these trades and is desirable for those who want to become supervisors. Few supervisors are college graduates, although a growing number of employers are hiring supervisors with college training.

Supervisors should have a thorough knowledge of construction. They learn from experience how a job should be done, what problems to anticipate, and how to correct these problems. Supervisors who begin as apprentices and move up to become experienced craft workers know what to expect from their workers. They are aware of management policies and are sensitive to workers' attitudes toward these policies. They are experienced with union negotiations and grievance procedures, which helps them avoid problems with workers. Employers look for leadership ability as well as experience and skill in construction trades.

Getting the Job

Most contractors hire supervisors in each of the building trades and employ them on a steady basis. Experienced trade workers can apply to contractors for positions. Union offices have listings of job openings. Other sources of job information include state employment services, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Supervisors are already at the top of their trade. Some supervisors become site superintendents or contractors. Others become inspectors for city or county governments.

Employment is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. The health of the local economy will affect the amount of construction in a particular area. More growth can be expected in areas of increasing population, such as the Sunbelt states, and in metropolitan areas, where aging buildings and infrastructure need to be rebuilt or replaced. Government spending on roads, schools, and other public structures will also affect the job market. Construction jobs are often short-term, so supervisors may be laid off temporarily or experience lulls in employment.

Working Conditions

Construction supervisors are among the first to arrive at a job site and the last to leave. This work demands participation in many activities and communication with many workers and managers on the job site. Supervisors spend a lot of time going through the construction site, checking the production and efficiency of the workers. Supervisors, like other construction workers, are unable to work in bad weather. But since they are salaried employees, they are paid whether or not they work.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated General Contractors of America
2300 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 400
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 548-3118
http://www.agc.org

Associated Builders and Contractors
4250 North Fairfax Dr., 9th Floor.
Arlington, VA 22203-1607
(703) 812-2000
http://www.abc.org

National Association of Women in Construction
327 S. Adams St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104-1002
(800) 552-3506
http://www.nawic.org

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary widely depending on the nature and location of the work, the supervisor's experience, the size of the job, and the number of crew members being supervised. The median salary for construction supervisors in 2004 was $50,980. Some earned much more. Most employers provided health insurance plans and paid holidays and vacations.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades