It’s no secret things are tough in the job market now. Between inflation and post-pandemic layoffs, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. But DIYers may have a strong advantage in an overlooked and surprisingly high-paying industry: construction work.

The construction industry desperately needs skilled workers. CNBC recently reported this shortage is causing a spike in pay. Construction work now pays 80% more than the average non-farm job. If you have DIY skills, you may be poised to make the leap to a well-paying job in the trades.

I’ve been through the challenges and rewards of going from DIY to pro. I worked for a handyman before moving into remodeling and property maintenance. But that’s only one path! I asked Jill Caren, co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, to share her expertise on the many ways to turn your DIY passion into a career.

What Does It Take To Be a Pro?

Caren started off by sharing specific skills that will ease your move from DIY to pro.

Communication skills:Important for working with coworkers and customers.Problem-solving skills:Critical in just about every trade to diagnose issues and find solutions.Time management:Essential in the trades, where you’ll be expected to complete jobs on time and on budget.Adaptability:You’ll be working in a wide range of environments with a wide range of people.Willingness to learn: New techniques and skills.A good work ethic: Helps you grow in your career and earn higher wages.

What To Know About Being a Construction Pro

The construction trades may seem mysterious from the outside, but here are some points to consider when making the leap from DIY to pro.

Commercial vs. residential

Like most industries, construction is segmented into different sub-categories with varying degrees of overlap. The main one is commercial vs. residential.

Residential construction focuses on building and renovating single-family homes and small multi-family units, like duplexes. Commercial construction is geared toward public spaces, businesses and larger multi-family buildings.

Commercial work is more likely to be unionized and may require specialized skills, while residential construction requires more client-facing skills. Things like whether you play music on the job site or what you wear matter much more when you’re working in someone’s home.

Licensed vs. skilled labor

Different trades have different expectations for those entering the field. Some require a license to begin operating on your own, while others are open to anyone who can demonstrate existing skills.

If you’re completely new to a trade, you can begin working immediately as untrained labor. You may have an easier time finding work as a laborer, but there’ll be a ceiling on your income. A licensed trade requires formal training but offers higher long-term earnings and stability.

Physical demands

All the trades involve physical labor, but some are more demanding than others. Painters carry five-gallon buckets of paint and reach over their heads, while stonemasons move heavier items and spend more time working low to the ground.

Consider construction-adjacent fields

The construction industry includes more than just boots-on-the-ground workers. Lumberyards and electrical and plumbing suppliers all need workers with DIY-level knowledge.

Construction Pro Pros and Cons

According to a recent Thumbtack survey, 87% of skilled trade workers are happy with their jobs. Still, no occupation is all upside. Here are some pros and cons of working in the trades.

Pros

Physical activity:The trades keep you on your feet and moving.Stability:High demand and the option for union membership provide a stable career path.Existing skills: DIY experience gives you a head start on learning the trades.Job market:No matter where you live, someone needs construction workers.Promotion possibilities: Many companies offer paths into supervisory roles.No robot takeover: No artificial intelligence (AI) or automations can replace tradespeople.

Cons

Health risks:There are inherent dangers in repetitive motion and exposure to construction materials. Proper training and use of protective gear are essential.Physical demands:If you have limited mobility, the physical demands of the trades can pose a challenge.On-site work:There is no work-from-home option in the trades.

Moving From DIY to Pro

Here are some possible paths to turn your hobby into a career.

Trade schools

Trade schools specialize in hands-on training for aspiring tradespeople.

“Trade or vocational school education is preferred by many employers,” says Caren. “While there are costs involved, you can learn everything you need to pass any certification or licensing exams that might be required. Many of these schools also offer job placement assistance.”

Community colleges

Want a more rounded education? Many community colleges offer vocational training.

“Some schools require you to take more general courses like math or English, unlike trade schools,” says Caren. “You can complete a program in a few months to two years.”

Apprenticeships

Trade schools and community colleges require tuition. But why not get paid to learn? “Apprenticeships with a local business are a way to get started while earning a paycheck,” Caren says.

Apprenticeships take your existing DIY skills and nurture them under the tutelage of one or more senior tradespeople. Your state may have programs to assist with finding an apprenticeship.

Property maintenance

Property management companies value workers with DIY skills like replacing a ceiling fan or fixing a leaky toilet.

If you live in a rental, reach out to the owner or manager and ask if they need maintenance help. You might pick up work right in your backyard.

Handyman work

Many handyman companies hire DIYers, and handyman work is a good choice for those looking for a side hustle. Friends and family are often happy to hire someone they trust, and make a great customer base when building a handyman side gig.

More Resources for Prospective Construction Pros

An overview like this is just the beginning. Caren recommends the following resources to get started on your path to pro:

Check with your state to see if they offer job training and education resources.O*NET online is a resource for finding all things career-related.Blue Collar Brain features career guides and information specific to the trades.

About the Expert

Jill Caren and her husband created Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to find employment in the trades that doesn’t require a college degree. Both grew up in blue collar families.Read More