Construction’s certification soup


  • Consider getting certifications to enhance your experience and help you stay relevant.
  • Choose construction-specific project management certifications for industry-specific focus.
  • Certifications can also help you get more work, rise in the ranks, and get a solid start in construction.

Certifications without experience are like paint brushes without paint. They might look good, but they won’t get the job done. Certifications enhance experience, and they show you are continuing to learn and stay current. Here’s a look at some of the more popular ones—from those aimed at specialties like green building to the most basic construction step-ladders.

A little history

While there’s no deep historical record of construction certifications, the concept finds its roots in the guilds of centuries past. According to Colorado State University, there really wasn’t anything similar to today’s construction industry until the late 1800s. Before that, everything was built by master builders, a sort of hybrid star who oversaw both design and construction.

During the late Industrial Revolution, unions started using apprenticeship training as a way to certify the skills of workers. Yet for decades, until as late as the 1970s, industry-specific certifications were largely nonexistent. That started changing with the rise of certifications in other industries, like those in IT.

Interest in construction certifications over the past 14 years peaked several times between February 2004 and October 2006, based on Google Trends. Then the downturn came, and interest has trended at half those levels since, with a gradual uptick that started in January 2017. Hence, construction certifications are getting more interest across the industry.

The Certificate Playing Field

Most certifications require experience. Some also require college degrees. It all depends on the certificate issuer. Construction certifications focus heavily on project management, but you can also get them for safety, specialized skills, and green building. More public and private organizations are now offering training programs which certify a person has the skills needed for a particular trade.

Construction certifications focus heavily on project management, but you can also get them for safety, specialized skills, and green building.

The Construction Management Association of America offers Certified Construction Manager certification, which claims to cover the unique aspects of construction project management. The American National Standards Institute and International Organization for Standardization recognize this certification, according to CMAA. The organization also issues a Construction Manager in Training Certificate.

You can also get certifications from the American Institute of Constructors; it offers the Associate Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor. Colleges and universities offer certifications of various types related to construction management.

Project management certifications
Other valuable certificates for project managers are those from the Project Management Institute. While many require degrees, the Certified Associate in Project Management does not. It only requires 1,500 hours of project management experience. The cost is also very reasonable, and the certification fills the need for those un-degreed construction professionals who came up through the ranks based on experience.

Skills certificates
If you are a small business, specialty trades contractor, you can increase your standing on bids and open up new business opportunities by getting certified in related skills. For example, the American Concrete Institute offers a certificate in decorative flatwork.

For individuals, if you are your company’s go-to tech person, getting FAA’s Part 107 certification in drones—or any of the network security certifications—will help you stay current, and add more value to your contribution.

Safety certificates
There is no substitute for safety certifications, especially the OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour courses. The emphasis on safety remains strong, so after getting one, or both, of the OSHA certifications, other specialized safety training related to your specific job helps to increase your value to business owners and clients.

Going green or environmental
When it comes to green and environmental certifications, you need to consider the needs of your employer. There are so many companies offering certifications in this field that you can easily find yourself with a certificate that doesn’t actually fit what you want to do. If you’re not employed but looking, consider the type of company you aim to work for. A green building certification will fall short if you want to work in environmental construction.

If already employed, consider the type of work your employer does and the type of client it serves. That will guide you to the appropriate certification. You should definitely discuss certifications with your boss. The goal is to get certified in work you want to do, while also boosting your value to your employer. When construction companies bid on jobs, they’ll usually highlight the relevant certifications of their employees.

Basic construction skills certs
People with no construction experience need a different kind of certification—the certification proving they know basic building techniques for the trade they are applying to. Communities across the country now offer bootstrap programs to anybody with the desire to learn construction. Some of these are connected with universities and colleges, while others are private efforts.

The National Center for Construction Education & Research offers industry-wide certifications for students and craftspeople. The organization keeps records of those who have completed the certifications so employers can easily check to confirm credentials. You can choose from over 70 craft certifications.

Others, like the 77 YouthBuild training programs across the country, aid at-risk youths in their efforts to finish their secondary schooling or equivalency programs while gaining skills and experience in building. In some cases, there is no cost, and there can be perks to go along with it, like dinners when you have to go to training at the end of the day.

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