Do you want people to refer to you as a ‘brickie’? Do you like working outdoors? Do you want the sense of satisfaction that comes with constructing buildings from scratch? Well then, it sounds like you should become a bricklayer.
Bricklayers are responsible for building or repairing walls in accordance with construction plans. These dynamic construction workers also build or refurbish chimneys, arches and other structures. If you enter this profession, you might be working on construction projects of all sizes, ranging from small residential dwellings to large commercial properties.
These guys are usually employed by building contractors or sub-contractors and agencies engaged in infrastructure developments under the supervision of local authorities. A substantial majority of bricklayers are self-employed, offering their services to an established client base.
If you pull on a pair of boots, don a hard hat and get out on a busy construction site, you’ll ultimately be responsible for laying out the structural framework of buildings using bricks and mortar in accordance with approved construction plans.
You’ll be using a cement mixer to create mortar (the glue that holds bricks together), cutting and shaping bricks to fit corners, ceilings and floors, and then laying bricks in the right place.
You’ll need awesome attention to detail to make sure that the bricks are arranged in the right way. To make sure everything is accurate you’ll be using plumb lines and spirit levels to check that the bricks are aligned appropriately. In your professional life, you’ll be using a range of other specialist tools too, from hammers and trowels to state-of-the-art power tools.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for bricklayers with little or no experience range between £14,000 and £16,000, while experienced bricklayers can earn between £15,000 and £25,000 per annum.
Bricklayers with more than ten years of experience, or those in supervisory roles, can expect to earn salaries of around £32,000.
Bricklayers usually work on construction sites as part of a team of bricklayers and stonemasons. Working hours are long and can involve frequent overtime, weekend and holiday work. A typical working week is between Monday and Friday, however, and most brickies work between eight and ten hours on a daily basis.
Health and safety regulations are strictly enforced and you’ll be required to wear and use protective gear at all times.
Travelling from one project to another is a common occurrence and you’ll need to be flexible about moving across the length and breadth of the UK.
Some bricklayers that work for construction companies with an international client base may even be required to travel abroad to work on major construction projects.
Generally, employers place more emphasis on the importance of hands-on experience rather than academic qualifications. Indeed, you don’t need any specific academic credentials to break into this line of work.
A common entry route is to enrol in an apprenticeship scheme offered by construction firms. The minimum requirements for such schemes are GCSE-level passes in English, mathematics and relevant technical subjects.
Another route is to obtain a BTEC or a Diploma in construction. If you’re academically inclined, however, and interested in obtaining advanced qualifications, there are several relevant college-level courses available, including City & Guilds qualifications, BTEC Level 2 certifications or Construction Skills awards.
For most construction jobs, you’ll now also need to hold a valid Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, which provides evidence of your knowledge and skills as a bricklayer. The CSCS card is obtained by completing a prescribed health and safety test and a relevant vocational qualification (e.g. NVQ, SVQ or BTEC).
If you’re unable to meet the above criteria, an alternative route to getting your CSCS card is to complete an Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA), which is coordinated by Construction Skills or SkillsDirect.
Training & progression
All training is provided on the job. However, many bricklayers also get involved with additional training courses to develop specialist skills, such as stonemasonry.
If you’re employed by a large construction company, you may get the opportunity to move into supervisory and senior management roles as you progress.
Self-employment is another viable alternative and many bricklayers set up their own construction businesses. Some experienced bricklayers even move into teaching positions at local further education colleges.