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.

Work Environment

Cement masons and terrazzo workers held about 144,300 jobs in 2012. About 90 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.

About 5 percent were self-employed in 2012. Many of them can set their own schedule.

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.

Training

Most on-the-job training programs consist of experienced workers teaching helpers to use the tools, equipment, machines, and materials of the trade. Trainees begin with tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly placed concrete. As training progresses, assignments become more complex and trainees can usually perform finishing tasks more quickly.

Some cement masons and most terrazzo workers learn their trade through a 3-year apprenticeship. Each year, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. Apprentices also learn about the wide variety of materials and additives that can change color or allow concrete to cure in different conditions.

After completing an apprenticeship program, cement masons and terrazzo workers are considered to be journey workers, qualifying them to do tasks on their own.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

    Some contractors have their own cement masonry or terrazzo training programs. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, many start out as construction laborers and helpers.

    Important 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 cement masons and concrete finishers was $35,760 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,380, and the top 10 percent earned more than $64,080.

    The median annual wage for terrazzo workers and finishers was $39,740 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,050, and the top 10 percent earned more than $66,380.

    The starting pay for apprentices usually is about 50 percent of what fully trained workers make. Apprentices receive pay increases as they learn to do more tasks.

    Most cement masons and terrazzo workers are employed full time. About 5 percent are self-employed, many of whom have the ability to set their own schedule.

    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

    Employment of cement masons and terrazzo workers is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

    Although employment growth will vary by specialty, both specialties’ growth will depend on the number of commercial, public, and civil construction projects such as new roads, bridges, and buildings.

    Employment of cement masons and concrete finishers is projected to grow 29 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations. More cement masons will be needed to build and renovate highways, bridges, factories, and residential structures to meet the demands of a growing population and aging infrastructure.

    The use of concrete for buildings is increasing because its strength is an important asset in areas prone to severe weather. For example, residential construction projects in Florida are using more concrete as building requirements change in reaction to the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes. The use of concrete is likely to expand into other hurricane-prone areas as the durability of Florida homes built with concrete becomes more established.

    Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is projected to grow 20 percent, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 700 new jobs over the 10-year period. Terrazzo is a durable and attractive flooring option that is often used in schools, government buildings, and hospitals. The construction and renovation of such buildings will spur demand for these workers. However, because polished concrete is similar to terrazzo and usually less expensive, this may limit the need for terrazzo workers.

    For More Information

    For information about apprenticeships or job opportunities as a cement mason or terrazzo worker, contact local cement or terrazzo contractors, a local joint union-management apprenticeship committee, or the nearest office of your state employment service or apprenticeship agency. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s toll-free help line, 1 (877) 872-5627, or Employment and Training Administration.

    For general information about cement masons and terrazzo workers, visit

    Associated Builders and Contractors http://www.abc.org/

    Associated General Contractors of America http://www.agc.org/

    International Masonry Institute http://www.imiweb.org/

    NCCER http://www.nccer.org/

    National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association http://www.ntma.com/

    Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association http://www.opcmia.org/

    For more information about careers and training as a mason, visit

    Mason Contractors Association of America http://www.masoncontractors.org/

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

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