Careers in Construction

According to The Office of National Statistics the number of people employed in the UK construction industry is currently over 2.2 million. However, growth in the construction sector is restricted due to a lack of skilled people. Many construction firms are working at full capacity and unable to take on new work due to a severe lack of talent.

There are a number of routes into the construction industry and the range of careers available is varied with many different occupations to choose from. The three main routes into the industry are craft, technical and graduate. However, what people choose to do first is not necessarily what they end up doing for the rest of their career. Different occupations require different qualifications. Options may vary depending on age and whether you want to study full-time or keep on earning while your learn.


The traditional route to entry for school leavers and people under 18. You can train and gain a qualification as you work through an apprenticeship or through another kind of training scheme. Once qualified in your chosen trade you can advance your career through further training leading to a technical, supervisory or management occupation.


You can train to technician level in the construction industry through an apprenticeship and study part-time. Alternatively you can opt to study full-time before joining the industry. Once qualified you can opt to do further training which may lead to a supervisory or management role.


You can study for a degree in a construction related subject, such as surveying or construction management full-time or you can study for a foundation degree part-time, perhaps while you are working in a junior management or specialist role. Once qualified you can expect a high level of responsibility with the chance to progress further through by gaining membership of a professional organisation such as The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or The Chartered Institute of Building.


There are over 400 Colleges of Further Education which offer courses in Construction and the built environment.


National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ’s), or Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQ’s) are gained through a combination of on-site practical assessment and college-based work. You can achieve an NVQ while working and attend college either one day a week or by block release.


National Award, Ordinary National Certificate (ONC) and Ordinary National Diploma (OND) are technical qualifications that can be part-time or full-time. You could start studying your ONC at 16 and progress to the HNC or HND.
ONC’s tend to be part-time courses, usually lasting over two years. They are particularly suited to people who want to gain their qualification whilst working, normally in a trainee technicians role. You spend just one day a week at college and the rest of the week with your employer.


Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND) are technical qualifications and can be part-time or full-time. An HNC lasts one-year full-time and 2 years part-time. An HND takes longer – 2 years full-time and between 3 and 4 years if done part-time.

Foundation Degree

Foundation degrees allow give people who are already in employment to undertake a programme of study in order to advance their careers. Some students may also undertake a Foundation degree when returning to work or changing their career. Foundation Degrees are vocational, integrating academic and work-based learning.
A full-time Foundation degree course will usually take two years to complete whilst a part-time Foundation degree course may 3 to 4 years. They are the step below a degree, and are advisable if you want to enter into a technical, engineering or supervisory role.


A degree is usually studied at a university rather than a higher-education college and will take between 3 and 5 years, depending on the programme being studied and whether you take it full or part-time. A degree will be a lot more specific in study areas than vocational qualifications and will require more specific entry requirements.


Each professional institution represents a particular specialism, such as engineering, building or architecture. Professional qualifications show that you are capable and responsible. They can take up to two years or more as part of a structured work-based training programme and may include exams, depending on your existing qualifications. Membership of a professional organisation at the appropriate level will be evidence of your abilities and an important badge of recognition for clients. You will also be more likely to be offered work overseas.

Professional training can be continued when you begin work, and can take a further few years. This can include workshops, work experience, lectures, essays and, depending on previous qualifications, possibly a final exam. Once you have qualified and become a member of your chosen professional body you will be expected to maintain your knowledge by embarking upon a lifelong learning route, known as CPD (continuous personal development).

Some useful links:

Professional Organisations:

For further help on the best route for you, visit, our careers site for young people, or