Cement masons pour, smooth, and finish concrete floors, sidewalks, roads, and curbs. Using a cement mixture, terrazzo workers create durable and decorative surfaces for floors and stairways.

Concrete is one of the most common and durable materials used in construction. Once set, concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—becomes the foundation for everything from decorative patios and floors to huge dams or miles of roadways.

The following are examples of types of cement masons and terrazzo workers:

Cement masons and concrete finishers place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose aggregate (small stones) in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons must monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They must have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of concrete so that they can determine what is happening to the concrete and take measures to prevent defects. Some small jobs may require the use of a supportive wire mesh called lath. On larger jobs, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.

Terrazzo workers and finishers create decorative walkways, floors, patios, and panels. Although much of the preliminary work in pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete is similar to that of cement masons, terrazzo workers create more decorative finishes by blending a fine marble chip into the epoxy or cement, which is often colored. Once the terrazzo is thoroughly set, workers correct any depressions or imperfections with a grinder to create a smooth, uniform finish. Terrazzo workers also install decorative toppings and/or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.

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Work Environment

Cement masons and terrazzo workers held about 193,900 jobs in 2018. About 67 percent were employed in the specialty trade contractors industry.

Concrete and terrazzo work is fast paced and strenuous. Because most of the work is done at floor level, workers often must bend and kneel. The work, either indoors or outdoors, may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty.

Although the work is less dangerous than many other construction occupations, cement masons and terrazzo workers may experience chemical burns from uncured concrete, falls from scaffolding, and cuts from tools. To avoid injuries, workers wear protective gear, including kneepads, harnesses, and water-repellent boots.

Most cement masons and terrazzo workers are employed full time.

Because many cement and terrazzo jobs are outdoors, work generally stops in wet weather. Hours may also vary for other reasons, such as construction deadlines or coordination with other work activities.

Education and Training

Education

Although there are no specific education requirements for cement masons and concrete finishers, terrazzo workers usually must have a high school diploma. High school courses in math, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading are considered to be helpful.

Many technical schools offer programs in basic masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job training.

Training

Masons typically learn the trade through apprenticeships and on the job, working with experienced masons.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprentices learn construction basics, such as blueprint reading; mathematics for measurement; building code requirements; and safety and first-aid practices. After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to do tasks on their own.

The International Masonry Institute offers pre-apprenticeship training programs for construction trades, including masonry.

Personality and Interests

Cement masons and terrazzo workers typically have an interest in the Building interest area, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building interest which might fit with a career as a cement mason and terrazzo worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Cement masons and terrazzo workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Color vision. Terrazzo workers must determine small color variances when setting terrazzo patterns. Because these patterns often include many different colors, terrazzo workers must be able to distinguish between colors for the best looking finish.

Physical stamina. Cement masons and terrazzo workers must be able to spend a lot of time kneeling, bending, and reaching.

Physical strength. Cement masons and terrazzo workers often must lift heavy materials. For example, many jobs require workers to be able to lift and carry 50-pound bags of gravel and sand.

Pay

The median annual wage for masonry workers overall was $46,500 in May 2019. The median annual wage for cement masons and concrete finishers was $44,810 in May 2019. The median annual wage for terrazzo workers and finishers was $52,180 in May 2019. 

Most cement masons and terrazzo workers are employed full time. Because many jobs are outdoors, work generally stops in wet weather. Hours may also vary for other reasons, such as construction deadlines or coordination with other work activities.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Although employment growth will vary by occupation, it will be driven by the demands of a growing population for more commercial, public, and civil construction projects, such as new roads, bridges, and buildings.

Employment of cement masons and concrete finishers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Cement masons will be needed to build and renovate highways, bridges, factories, and residential structures to meet the demands of a growing population and to make repairs to aging infrastructure.

Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 300 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Job Prospects

About 35,500 openings for masonry workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Overall job prospects should be good as construction activity continues to grow to meet the demand for new buildings and roads. Workers with construction experience should have the best opportunities. 

As with many other construction workers, employment of masons is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, during peak periods of building activity some areas may require additional number of these workers.

For More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for masonry workers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ masons, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For general information about cement masons and terrazzo workers, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers International Union

International Masonry Institute

Mason Contractors Association of America

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association

The Associated General Contractors of America

The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association

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