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The construction industry is a constantly growing career field, and there are more career paths and types of jobs available than ever before. It is also quite stable, in that there are almost always jobs available.

But the construction field is about more than just building houses. In fact, there are several reasons to choose a career in construction. Beyond the fresh air and outstanding workplace environment, there are also opportunities for advancement into executive jobs, and often those with the right degree can transition immediately into these positions.

There are some, though, who will never want to join the executive ranks, preferring instead to work with their hands. There are many opportunities in this area as well. Here is a unique look at three high-risk construction jobs and their executive counterparts.

Construction Laborer vs. Construction Management

The first area we will look at is the construction laborer who works in a high-risk environment versus the job of a  construction manager. For every project there has to be a good mix of both positions. So how do they stack up against each other in key areas?

Safety: Being a construction laborer is one of the riskiest jobs out there. Most injuries are caused by falls (38.8 percent), followed by getting struck with an object, electrocutions, and being caught between objects. Construction managers have less risk because they are often on the ground, but as they are still on site, they can still be injured.

Physical Nature of the Work: Being either a construction laborer or a manager is physically demanding, although a laborer is more so. However, managers still have to make on-site inspections and do a lot of walking, climbing, standing, and lifting.

Education and Experience Needed: A manager needs a more extensive college education than a laborer normally, but don’t think this means a laborer does not need higher education at all. Many high-risk positions mean trade school, often followed by long apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and continual updates of critical skills.

Salary: Construction managers start at around $30 an hour, while laborers generally start in the $20 an hour range. However, high-risk laborers can make even more, and those who work on high rises and oil/gas rigs often make over $100,000 annually. As is typical, more often than not manager positions are higher paying than that of laborers.

Hours Worked: This one is often hard to determine. Laborers usually work pretty steady schedules, but on rush jobs or in other circumstances, they might be asked to work more, although as hourly employees this usually means overtime for anything over 40 hours. Managers, on the other hand, are often salaried, and may work from 40-60 hours a week, often with no overtime.

Job Satisfaction: This really depends on the person. While some prefer the adrenaline rush of high-risk work, others prefer the safety of managerial work and find more satisfaction there. This preference often changes with age.

There is no clear “winner” in this category, but more of a choice. The more hands-on you want to be, the more likely it is you will gravitate toward more labor-intensive jobs.

Solar Panel Installer vs. Environmental Engineer

At first glance, this might seem like an unfair comparison, but both positions have their own perks and downsides. The two jobs are very different in their nature, but both concentrate on similar things.

Safety: Typically engineers do more office work and planning and less field work, making their jobs generally much safer than a solar panel installer who works on roofs and often on uneven terrain.

Physical Nature of the Work: This is also a large contrast. While environmental engineers often run the risks of a sedentary environment, solar panel installers will spend most of their day outside and run greater risk of injury.

Education and Experience Needed: A solar panel installer often needs some specialized training, especially in the area of electronics and electrical systems. Installation of panels and power storage systems requires that workers be well versed in the hazards and risks of these systems. An environmental engineer will at least need a specialized bachelor’s degree, perhaps even a master’s or above depending on the type of project they are doing.

Salary: Solar panel installers make less on an hourly basis than an environmental engineer, averaging between $17-$22 an hour. Environmental engineers are normally a salaried position, but when broken down hourly rates are from $28-$41 an hour, depending on experience and the type of company they work for.

Hours Worked: Hours worked are both similar, in that both positions work around 40 hours a week. Commute times can also be similar, as solar panel installers may be traveling extensively to sites in and out of their local area, and often engineers commute from the suburbs to central offices that may not be close to their home.

Job Satisfaction: This again depends on the person and how they prefer to work. Those who prefer an outdoor environment, much like that for construction laborers, will prefer the solar panel installer option, while those who plan to continue their education further and prefer an office-type environment will prefer the environmental engineer position.

Which is better? If making more money is more important, being an environmental engineer may be a better choice. However, not everyone is cut out for the analytical nature of an engineering position.

Civil Engineer vs. Steel Worker

This comparison is a little tougher. There are a number of opportunities in the civil engineering career field, and it offers a fairly solid job market. The career outlook for steel workers is also optimistic with the number of jobs set to rise by around 13 percent by 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How do the two compare in other ways?

Safety: Steel workers often work under pretty hazardous conditions, but civil engineers tend to do a lot of field work also. Depending on the project they are working on, this can mean some genuine risk.

Physical Nature of the Work: Civil engineers are not sedentary, but to be a steel worker, strength is a requirement. Work is often backbreaking labor that involves handling heavy materials on a regular basis.

Education and Experience Needed: A civil engineer needs a degree, and a steel worker often needs a lot of on-the-job training and hands-on experience. Apprentice work is one of the more common ways to get started, but little to no education after high school is needed.

Salary: Much like the other professions listed here, the more education one has, the higher the salary. A steel worker makes around $50,000 a year while the average civil engineer makes around $65,000 annually, although in some geographic areas they make more.

Hours Worked: Both professions work around the same number of hours: 40 per week, although on some jobs overtime is available to both. This offers the ability to increase earnings significantly.

Job Satisfaction: Much like the other jobs listed here, this one also depends on personality, penchant for math and engineering skills, and the ability and desire for higher education.

There are more than just jobs building houses in the construction world. There are also management and executive positions as well, and they all have their pros and cons. While executive positions tend to make more money, they also come with additional stresses and responsibilities, along with a completely different work environment. The choice, it seems, is up to the individual as to which path is right for them.

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