Starting a Career in Site Work Construction: Your Guide

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Getting Started in Site Work Construction:

Hey there! Are you thinking of starting a career in site work construction? Are you wondering what you’ll need, what to expect, and how to be successful? If you’re a motivated individual who loves hands-on work, problem-solving, and leaving a mark that will last for years to come, then you’re in the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about starting a career in civil site work construction, from essential gear and equipment to the right mindset and income potential.

Table of Contents Quick Links:

The Thrill of Civil Site Work Construction:

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s explore why civil site work construction can be an excellent career choice for ambitious young people like yourself. This field offers a unique blend of physical work, skills, teamwork, and the satisfaction of creating something tangible. Working outdoors, you’ll find yourself involved in various projects, including excavation, grading, drainage systems, road construction, and more. It’s a dynamic industry that promises excitement, personal growth, and lifelong learning.

“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.

Jocko Willink – Extreme Ownership
starting a career in site work construction

Essential Tools and Equipment:

As you begin your journey in civil site work construction, you’ll need a few things to help you get the job done efficiently, and most importantly, safely. Here are some essentials:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

Safety should be your top priority on the job site. You’ll need a good-quality hard hat, safety glasses, work boots with steel toes, high-visibility clothing, gloves, and hearing protection. These items will keep you protected from potential hazards and ensure you’re compliant with safety regulations. Ask your employer which of these items will be provided for you and which you will need to get on your own. At J.H. Hiers, we provide a hard-hat, safety glasses, gloves, high-visibility vest, and ear protection when you get started.


While the job may not require these items, it’s usually a good idea to have them anyway. Keep in mind that in the dirt world, everything gets extremely dirty:

  • Utility Knife or Multi-tool
  • Rugged Phone Case
  • Waterproof Sunscreen
  • Small Cooler with Lunch / Snacks
  • Heavy Duty Cleaning Products (hands, body, and clothing)

Heavy Equipment:

It will be important to familiarize yourself with various types of heavy equipment commonly used in civil site work construction. These may include excavators, loaders, bulldozers, motor graders, off-road (articulated) trucks, and compactors. Understanding how these machines operate will broaden your skill set and open up more opportunities for advancement.

starting a career in site work construction

Developing the Right Mindset:

To excel in civil site work construction, it’s important to cultivate the right mindset. Here are a few key qualities that will serve you well in this industry:

Strong Work Ethic:

Construction work requires dedication, perseverance, and the willingness to put in the effort. You’ll encounter challenging tasks, adverse weather conditions, and long hours. A strong work ethic will help you stay motivated and push through any obstacles that come your way. As Jocko Willink says “Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.

Problem-Solving Skills:

Construction sites are dynamic environments where problems and obstacles are part of the daily routine. Developing problem-solving skills will enable you to think on your feet, analyze situations, and come up with practical solutions. A proactive approach to finding solutions will set you apart and make you an invaluable asset to any team.

Adaptability and Flexibility:

The construction industry is ever-evolving, with new technologies, materials, and techniques constantly emerging. Being adaptable and willing to learn and embrace change will ensure your skills remain relevant and help you thrive in a rapidly evolving field.

Teamwork and Communication:

Construction projects require collaboration and effective communication among team members. Building positive relationships with colleagues, subcontractors, and even the clients will enhance productivity and contribute to a better work environment.

starting a career in site work construction

Don’t Underestimate Construction Work:

Construction work will most likely be more challenging than any other hands-on job you’ve done before, so don’t underestimate it. When applying, don’t overstate your experience or skills, and be honest about your abilities. Be mindful to stay humble, give it your best every day, take time to learn and ask questions, and follow the pros’ lead. If you do that, the work is very rewarding and handling the demands will be easier.

Especially as you’re starting out, arrive early each day (at least 15 minutes) and be sure all aspects of the project you’re working on are in order so you can start working immediately. Try to take any light-hearted joking in stride as you become a valuable member of the team. And if you get a nickname (which you probably will), embrace it.

Income Potential and Career Advancement:

One of the major advantages of pursuing a career in civil site work construction is the potential for a lucrative income. While salaries can vary based on factors such as experience, location, and job responsibilities, skilled workers in this field have the opportunity to earn a respectable income. It’s worth noting that career advancement and income growth often come with gaining experience, additional certifications, and specializing in areas such as project management or equipment operation.

Now, let’s compare and contrast the income capabilities of a career in civil site work construction with someone who has gone to college and acquired a bachelor’s degree, along with the burden of student loans.

Income Potential in Civil Site Work Construction:

Civil site work construction offers the potential for steady income growth. As you gain experience and expertise, your earning potential increases. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for construction laborers was $38,890 as of May 2020. Skilled workers (e.g. pipe layers), especially those in supervisory roles or with specialized skills, can earn significantly higher wages.

Comparison with College Degree and Student Loans:

While pursuing a college degree can lead to higher-paying careers in certain fields, it often comes with the burden of student loans. Many college graduates face the challenge of repaying their student loans while starting their careers. Paying off student loans can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years, depending on the type of loan and repayment term chosen. The average cost of college has more than doubled in the 21st century, with an annual growth rate of 7.1%. The average student borrows more than $30,000 to attend school. According to, the total average cost of a bachelor’s degree (including lost earning potential, living expenses, and interest rates) is $500,000.

In contrast, a career in civil site work construction allows you to enter the workforce immediately, earn a steady income, and gain valuable experience without the burden of student loan debt. It’s also a great alternative to the over-worn path to a 9-5 desk job. Over time, as you gain experience and advance in your site work construction career, your earning potential can rival or even surpass that of some college graduates (no joke).

Starting a Career in Site Work Construction with No Experience? No Problem:

There are almost always positions available in the construction industry for people with no experience who are willing to work hard and learn as they go. At J.H. Hiers, the starting pay for these positions is usually more than double minimum wage.

starting a career in site work construction

Construction Laborer:

An entry-level site work construction laborer is responsible for performing various tasks to aid daily operations at a construction site. The duties and responsibilities of a laborer are all geared toward maintaining a clean, safe and efficient construction site while also supporting the overall project. The list of duties and responsibilities for a laborer on any given day may include the following: 

  • Cleaning and preparing job sites
  • Loading and unloading materials and equipment
  • Building and taking down temporary structures
  • Digging trenches, compacting earth and backfilling holes
  • Operating and tending machinery and heavy equipment
  • Following instructions from supervisors and implementing construction plans
  • Assisting skilled tradespeople in their duties

Heavy Equipment Operators:

While there is experience necessary to be a heavy equipment operator, that experience is often being learned on the job over time. It’s common for a laborer to eventually become an equipment operator. Construction equipment operators are genuinely in the heart of the action on the job site. Good career opportunities and salary with little educational requirements make this an enticing job for many. The market is growing at a rate of 5% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an average annual salary of a little more $49,000, you’ll make a comfortable living as well.

As a heavy equipment operator, you can expect to drive, maneuver, and control the heavy equipment and machinery. Successful traits include hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, and mechanical skills.

Conclusion – Starting a Career in Site Work Construction

Starting a career in civil site work construction can be an exciting and rewarding choice for young people. Are you ready to get started?

By acquiring the necessary tools, cultivating the right mindset, and embracing the potential for income growth, you can pave the way for a successful and fulfilling career. Remember, in this dynamic industry, continuous learning, adaptability, and a strong work ethic will be your keys to long-term success. So, put on your safety gear and get ready to build a successful future in civil site work construction.

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