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How to Become a Tile and Marble Setter

Although some tile and marble setters learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship, many learn informally on the job, starting as a helper.


Some tile and marble setters learn their trade through a 2- to 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of related technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Tile and marble setters may begin with 12-week pre-apprenticeship training at a training center to learn construction basics. Construction basics include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and reading blueprints.

After completing an apprenticeship program, tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties 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 tile and marble setters. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, many first start out as helpers. 


Some 2-year technical schools offer courses that are affiliated with unions and contractor organizations. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Setting tile patterns involves determining small color variations. Because tile patterns often include many different colors, tilesetters must be able to distinguish between colors and patterns for the best looking finish. 

Customer-service skills. Working in customers’ homes is common. Therefore, tile and marble setters must be courteous and considerate of a customers’ property while completing tasks.

Detail oriented. Some tile arrangements can be highly detailed and artistic, so workers must ensure that the patterns are properly and accurately arranged.

Math skills. Basic math skills are used on every job. Besides measuring the area to be tiled, installers must calculate the number of tiles needed to cover an area.

Physical strength. Some marble setters need to be strong enough to carry and lift heavy marble countertops into position.

Stamina. Tile and marble setters must have the endurance to spend many hours on their feet. When setting tile or marble, installers also may be on their knees for hours at a time.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition