Although most masons learn through a formal apprenticeship, some learn informally on the job. Others learn through 1- or 2-year mason programs at technical colleges.
A 3- to 4-year apprenticeship is how most masons learn the occupation. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn construction basics such as how to read blueprints, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices.
In the coming years, the focus of apprenticeships is likely to change from time served to demonstrated competence. This may result in apprenticeships of shorter duration.
After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to do tasks on their own.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
Some contractors have their own training programs for masons. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, some masons start out as construction helpers.
Many technical colleges offer 1-year programs in basic masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with formal training. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job training.
For someone interested in becoming a mason, high school courses in English, math, mechanical drawing, and shop are useful.
Creativity. Stonemasons must be able to shape stones into a finished structure that is functional and looks attractive.
Dexterity. Workers must be able to apply smooth, even layers of mortar, set bricks, and remove any excess, before the mortar hardens.
Math skills. Knowledge of math—including measurement, volume, and mixing proportions—is important in this trade.
Physical strength. Workers must be strong enough to lift blocks that sometimes weigh more than 40 pounds. They must also carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.
Stamina. Brickmasons must keep a steady pace while setting bricks all day. Although no individual brick is extremely heavy, the constant lifting can be tiring.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition