Approximately 191,100 cement masons and concrete finishers are employed in the United States. Most cement masons work for concrete contractors or general contractors in the building and construction industries to help build roads, shopping malls, factories, and many other structures. Some cement masons are employed by large contractors for such big operations as utility companies and public works departments; others work for small contractors to construct buildings such as apartment complexes, shopping malls, and schools. Cement masons who are disciplined and skilled enough in the trade and in business may have the goal of one day starting their own companies, perhaps specializing in walkways, swimming pools, or building foundations.
You don't have to attend college to become a cement mason. After graduating from high school or getting a GED, you can either go through a formal apprenticeship training program or get work that offers the opportunity for on-the-job training. For information about becoming an apprentice cement mason, contact local cement contractors, the offices of your state's employment service, or the area headquarters of one of the unions that organize cement masons. Many cement masons are members of either the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association or the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.
If you want a job as a trainee, get in touch with contractors in your area who may be hiring helpers. Follow up on job leads from the state employment service, newspaper classified ads, and online ads.
Once a beginning cement mason has gained some skills and become efficient in the trade, he or she can specialize in a certain phase of the work. A cement mason may become, for example, a lip-curb finisher, an expansion joint finisher, or a concrete paving-finishing machine operator.
An experienced mason—with good judgment, planning skills, and the ability to deal with people—may be promoted to a supervisory position. Supervisors with a broad understanding of other construction trades may eventually become job superintendents, who are in charge of the whole range of activities at the job site. A cement mason may also become an estimator for concrete contractors, calculating materials requirements and labor costs. A self-disciplined and highly motivated cement mason can eventually go into business on his or her own by opening a company to do small projects like sidewalks and patios.
To obtain experience, try to work as a helper to a cement mason.
Join the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.
Talk with cement masons about their careers. Ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.