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What Is the Difference Between a Construction Worker & an Engineer?

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Both construction workers and engineers play an integral part in the building process; however, the roles each take on differ greatly. Engineers and construction workers often work in tandem when crafting a new project, making their relationship a symbiotic one. If considering selecting one of these career options, start by educating yourself in the differences that exist between these two trades.

Job Duties

The role of an engineer is primarily to plan and oversee construction projects. These professionals are highly trained in the mechanics of construction, allowing them to adeptly plan out potential construction projects. After the planning stage, they take on the role of overseer, watching those actually carrying out the construction process to ensure that they carry out the necessary steps properly to ensure the structural stability of the resulting building.

Construction workers, on the other hand, actually carry out the task of constructing a new building or structure. These individuals perform the physical labor necessary to bring the engineer’s plan to fruition, often working under supervision of the engineer as they do.

Work Environment

Engineers work in an assortment of environments. At times, they may work in an office, planning out projects and performing mathematical calculations to ensure that the planned projects are structurally sound. At other times, they may work in the field, overseeing the carrying out of their plans.

Construction workers work almost exclusively in the field, actually constructing buildings and other structures. These workers almost never get a respite from the elements, though they may get a temporary break if working on interior construction.

Education Requirements

To work as an engineer, an individual must possess a high degree of education. Often, entry into their field requires a minimum of a master’s degree in engineering or a related field. Some companies, however, allow engineers to work as apprentices while they earn their higher education degree if they possess a bachelors in a related field.

Construction workers, on the other hand, need not possess any specialized training. Individuals within this industry can often work with as little as a high school diploma or GED.


Engineers are often paid handsomely for their work. Though the salary varies from specific field to field, individuals in this industry can expect to earn anywhere from $52,480 to $83,121 annually, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics citing 2010 data.

Construction worker are generally paid on an hourly basis, making average of $21 per hour as of 2010. If the construction worker can find employment 12 months a year, he could earn $43,680 annually making this amount per hour; however, often construction work is seasonal in nature, reducing the worker’s annual take home substantially.


Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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