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Why a career in industrial construction can pay off


When you think about career in construction, does hammering nails in a new house come to mind? Well think again. How does a six-figure income without having to go to college sound?

This is the world of industrial construction, and we are going to explain it to you. Industrial construciton is an industry where entry level jobs can start over $20/hr and top pay can go well above $40/hr.

Industrial construction is where the only thing larger than the paychecks are the project sizes. This industry has some of the biggest and most complicated projects ever built. Where the machinery and cranes can be equally massive.

While the paychecks are great, it's not all rainbows and ice cream sundaes, the work can be hard. It can be cold. It can be hot. The hours can be long. But so is the possibility of a six-figure income without college debt – and a great career to go along with it.

This world is out there and the construction companies in the industry are looking for people to come join them in building the industrial facilities that will drive the world’s economy into the future.

It's not for everybody. But for the few that are cut out for this business, the career potential is limitless.


What is industrial construction?

Industrial construction is – as it sounds – construction projects associated with industrial facilities. This can be solar fields, wind turbines, manufacturing facilities, pulp & paper mills, refineries, warehouses, pipelines, shipbuilding, food & beverage, data centers, pharmaceutical plants, natural gas fired power plants, pipelines, airports, battery storage facilities, mines, nuclear power plants, hydrogen plants, electrical vehicle production plants, bridges, dams, and many others. Essentially this is everything except building houses and stores.

Where homebuilders typically build with wood, these facilities are built with steel and concrete. The jobs are typically large and schedules to complete the jobs on time are critical.

Industrial projects are typically not local to any one area. They can be done anywhere at any time. Companies and people in this industry are used to traveling to wherever the project is. This can be a few hours away or across the country or even international.

The projects tend to be very large in terms of cost and everything that goes with the jobs is also large. From tooling and equipment to site facilities and the paychecks that go along with it. Industrial construction is big business. Some of the most complex projects in the world are industrial construction projects.


Do industrial construction trades people make good money?

Pay rates are excellent in industrial construction. Welders, for example, are paid $29/hr on average and that pay can go up into the $40s per hour depending on the project.

However, that is not the only money you’ll be paid. Overtime is typically a standard part of projects. This means you’ll work 50, 60, 70 or more hours a week, and earn the big paychecks that go along with those long hours. $5,000 a week (or more!) is not uncommon.

In addition, people working in industrial construction are typically paid a per diem to cover daily meals and lodging when traveling out of town for a project. This payment is typically between $75 and $100 per day and go upward of $200 per day in higher cost parts of the country. Since this money is intended to cover your travel expenses, it is not taxed by the government. The full value of the per diem payment is deposited into your account on pay day. Very nice!


Who are the top industrial construction companies?

Some of the largest construction companies in the world have been built by focusing on industrial construction projects. Industrial construction projects can be some of the largest in the industry so it only makes sense that you’ll find big companies in the sector. These companies are doing, in some cases, over a hundred billion dollars’ worth of construction every year. The numbers can be staggering!

In the United States in 2021, three (3) of the five (5) largest contractors are industrial construction companies; Bechtel, Fluor and Kiewit. These companies, and many of the other largest industrial construction companies also execute projects internationally.


What makes industrial construction different from residential construction?

Most people think of building houses or store when they think of construction. There are many differences between residential construction and industrial construction.

First (and for some, most important) is that in most cases, residential construction is the lowest paying of the construction sectors. In order of lowest to highest paying, those sectors are residential, commercial, and industrial. Industrial construction projects typically require specialized skills and trades.

The highly skilled trades people working industrial construction projects bring abilities developed over many years and lots of training. People with these skills are more valuable. As we talked about earlier in this article, industrial construction jobs can require travel which means that they will pay at the higher end of the pay range and pay diem – both drivers of overall compensation. Taken together, the average industrial construction trades person will earn more than the average residential const

Of the 8 million people (approximately) that work in construction today approximately 1 million works in industrial construction. It’s a niche part of the construction world which is why many people are not aware of the industry.

This part of the industry is not as well known or understood by most people. Yet people are building real careers in the industry and making a lot of money along the way.


Where are these industrial construction projects built?

A sizeable portion of industrial construction projects are traveling construction jobs. For recruiters looking to understand how to best write job ads for traveling welders and other traveling construction trades, check out our article on the topic.

Traveling construction jobs typically pay per diem, which is tax free money paid to traveling construction workers for reimbursing living expenses. This payment is a fixed amount of money that is paid so if you’re able to structure your situation so that your expenses are less than the per diem payment, the extra money becomes essentially profit for you. This is an important part of maximizing your earnings in traveling construction jobs. We covered how you can maximize your earnings in traveling construction jobs in this article.

The people who make a living in industrial construction have nicknames. These people are called Road Dogs. Some call themselves Road Techs, Boiler Animals, and many other names. All these names relate back to the same idea that they are willing to go “on the road” to find work. And for those willing to go on the road, the pay can be excellent.


How do I find an industrial construction job?

We’ve written a step-by-step plan about how to find a job in construction with no experience. This is a good place to start. You’ll learn basics of job search and where to look.

You can also start searching the internet for jobs. One way is to search for jobs that are paying per diem. These jobs can be traveling welder jobs, traveling millwright jobs, travelling ironworker jobs or traveling pipefitter jobs. Most of the time if a job is paying per diem, it’s probably going to be an industrial construction project. You can also talk to the recruiter about the project they’re recruiting for and what type of facility it is.  


Understanding the industrial construction jobs of the future

Energy projects make up a large percentage of the industrial construction market. Since the world of energy is changing fast, so is the world of industrial construction. Jobs in traditionally strong smokestack industries are shifting to greener, higher tech projects and industries.

Change creates opportunity and there will be lots of opportunities to grow a career in construction.