Finding a Job in the Demolition Industry
If you like the idea of tearing down buildings and working with heavy machinery (and explosives) then a job in the demolition industry may be for you. However, this business isn’t exactly something you can just “do.” Unlike working at a restaurant or retail, most demolition jobs require at least a little experience or expertise, which is why finding a position in this industry can be a challenge.
Fortunately, if you’re ready to start your demolition career, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to be looking at the various ways that you can break into this business, as well as provide some unique tips and tricks to help you find the job of your dreams.
Whether you’ve been working in demolition for a while or you’re still new to the industry, here’s how to get hired.
Jobs in the Demolition Industry
Before we talk about the various methods you should follow to get hired, it’s imperative that we understand what jobs are available. Demolition crews require a variety of unique skills, so there are a few different avenues you can take to get into this industry.
Some examples of demolition jobs include:
Most demolition jobs start out as general laborers. These are the people who do most of the grunt work. Following orders and maintaining safety standards is essential for this position. Since most demolition work requires hands-on training, this is the best place to start if you’re still new to the field. Most companies will offer training for these positions, because they don’t require specialized skills.
When demolishing a building or structure, there will be various components that have to be broken down. A torch cutter will use heavy machinery to cut through metal pieces to make them easier to take off of the job site. Since these machines are dangerous, extensive training is required before you can operate them.
In many cases, the quickest way to bring a building down is by blowing it up. However, considering that many of these structures are within city limits, it’s imperative that the explosion is highly controlled to minimize any collateral damage that could occur. This particular position requires extensive training and certification so that you know how to adapt to your surroundings.
Heavy Equipment Operator
Demolition usually requires multiple pieces of heavy machinery to do it right. Bulldozers, cranes, and excavators are just some of the various vehicles that have to be operated. In each case, workers have to get and maintain certification for this equipment to ensure that they follow all safety procedures.
Once you have sufficient experience in the demolition field, you can move up into a management position. Site supervisors are in charge of making sure that the demolition goes smoothly, and that all safety precautions are followed. While there are safety supervisors on demo projects, usually all of the various elements are overseen by a foreman or site manager.
Overall, there are multiple disciplines within each category. Because demolition crews can encounter a wide variety of materials and problems, being capable of handling them will make your position much more valuable.
Other elements that require training and expertise on a demo job site include:
Concrete cutting and removal
Salvage management (i.e., recycling components of the structure)
As you can see, having multiple skills within the demolition industry can make you more desirable to prospective employers. However, focusing on a particular specialty (i.e., concrete and metal cutting) can also make you more valuable since they require training and certification.
Where to Find Employers in Demolition
Fortunately, because demolition jobs are in virtually every state, it’s not too difficult to find openings. That being said, the industry as a whole is relatively exclusive, thanks to its specialized skills. If buildings are not being torn down for development, then there’s no need for demolition experts or laborers.
Thus, if you want to improve your chances of finding a high-paying demolition job, it may help to move to an up-and-coming location. Cities that are expanding rapidly always need skilled workers to facilitate new construction, so moving may be the best thing for your career. Areas like Las Vegas, Seattle, and Orlando are always changing, and since there’s only so much land on which to build, demolition is happening regularly.
When it comes to finding demolition jobs online, any generic job site will usually have positions available. Some of the top sites include:
Demolitionforum.com is another excellent resource because it offers jobs that are only within this field. You can also look up news and other insightful information about the industry as a whole, which can help you find job prospects and other details.
Social media can be an excellent way to find openings, as LinkedIn has numerous demolition companies. In many cases, these firms will have postings on the site as well as on other job boards. However, applying through LinkedIn can be a better prospect because you’ve already established a connection with the company. Also, you can find out more about whom they are and what they do, which will help you during the interview process.
Finally, it can also be a good idea to look up the largest demolition companies in your area and apply to them directly. Even if they’re not currently hiring, providing a resume can increase your chances of getting noticed.
Here is a list of the top 20 demolition firms in the US. However, depending on where you live, you will also want to do a local search of companies that may only operate in your city or state. One of the primary benefits of applying to the company directly is that you can make yourself known easier, rather than submitting a resume with everyone else every time a job is posted.
Demolition Trade Groups and Shows
Another industry website is the National Demolition Association. They are the largest organization in the country that focuses on this particular field, and they have many resources that can help you find out more about the industry as a whole.
Each year, the NDA hosts a massive trade show, which can be an excellent place to meet new employers and network your way to your next job. The next one is called Demolition Rockies, and it’s going to be held in Aurora, Colorado.
The International Construction and Utility Equipment Expo is held every year. It’s put on by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), and it’s an ideal place for machinery operators and other demo experts to meet and find out more about the industry. It’s held annually in Louisville, Kentucky.
For the most part, trade shows are not a place to bring your resume. They are not the same as job fairs, meaning that the primary purpose of the show is networking and education, not employment. While you may want to bring copies of your resume to a trade show just in case, you don’t want to lead with it.
Here are some tips for making the most of a demolition trade show.
These shows are put on by a variety of sponsors, most of which are going to be in the demolition field. Find out more information about these companies - where they operate, the type of demolition they specialize in, and how big they are. Since they are sponsoring the event, each company should be easy to find.
Learn About Demolition Trends and Updates
Because the demolition field encompasses a wide range of specialties, laws and regulations are changing all the time. Also, because the industry recycles most of what it demolishes, trends can shift as well, especially regarding where these recycled items go and how they’re managed.
Learning about these trends will help you figure out how to position yourself better within the industry. For example, asbestos removal is going to be much less of an issue as newer buildings are made of better fire retardant materials. Also, green buildings are in higher demand, so sustainable demolition practices are becoming more mainstream.
Overall, the more you can know about the industry, the better off you’ll be when applying for a job. When interviewing, you can impress the hiring manager with your knowledge about these trends and how your skills can match.
Make Connections With Insiders
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s all about who you know. When you make a connection with someone, they’re much more likely to think of you when the time comes to hire someone for a particular position.
All too often, you may simply grab a handful of business cards and then send out emails or voicemails later on. However, if the people you’re contacting don’t remember you, they’re much more likely to ignore you.
Thus, make sure to talk to people you get business cards from, and let them know what you do, as well as your experience and expertise in the industry. Even if they aren’t hiring right now, they will think of you when the time comes.
What Skills are Demolition Employers Searching For?
One of the most notable skills about demolition jobs is that no traditional education or experience is required. These positions are usually considered entry-level, assuming that you’re not applying for something more technical or managerial, like site supervisor or torch cutter.
That being said, there are plenty of skills that employers will want to see in potential demolition workers. Let’s break them down by category.
General Skills and Attributes
When you’re first starting out in this field, you’ll be learning a lot of the skills from experienced demolition experts. Thus, you don’t necessarily have to know things like how to operate a jackhammer or how to use various tools and machines. Instead, these skills are going to help you the most.
Since you’re learning by doing, you need to be able to listen and understand what you’re being told, as well as follow instructions clearly. Depending on the precise nature of the work you’re doing (i.e., cutting wires or pipes), you want to be as detailed as possible.
Demolition sites are no place for guessing and estimating, especially when you’re still new. If you’re not sure how to do something, you need to ask.
Physical Strength and Dexterity
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to be a demolition worker, but you have to be able to lift things like machinery, debris, and other tools. Demo sites are not a place for people who have various physical limitations. Thus, if you can’t perform the job duties because of a disability or similar affliction, you probably won’t be cut out for this industry.
When it comes to operating power tools and heavy machinery, you have to be able to focus on the task at hand. Safety is always a priority on demolition sites, so you can’t afford to get distracted easily, especially while running a piece of equipment. Demo workers have to stay calm in high-stress environments where it can be both loud and hectic. The ability to filter out distractions is a valuable skill to have.
Each demo job is different, and there are many different aspects to it that have to be communicated with the team. If you have questions, you need to speak up and ask them. If you need to relay details to other members of the team, you have to be able to do so quickly and efficiently without creating confusion. A demolition site has to run like a well-oiled machine, so strong communication is essential.
Attention to Detail
One of the defining aspects about this industry is that the vast majority of materials are recycled. Up to 90 percent of everything removed from a demolition site is reused, which means that each piece has to be handled with care.
As a demolition worker, you have to pay attention to the smallest details to ensure that you’re both following proper safety procedures, as well as preserving each component for reuse.
An excellent example of detail-oriented work is deconstruction. This field is slightly different than demolition as it mostly requires disassembling the building or structure, rather than tearing it down and salvaging what’s left. With deconstruction jobs, the work is much more intricate, so you have to pay closer attention to what you’re doing.
Higher Level Skills and Expertise
Assuming that you don’t want to be a general laborer for your whole career, you’ll want to find a specialty within the demolition field and focus your attention on that. We mentioned some of the more specialized options within the industry, such as torch cutter, explosives expert, and site manager.
Here are some additional skills and certifications you will have to get to reach higher positions within this field.
In many places, you have to be certified to operate any heavy machinery. Whether it’s a jackhammer, a crane, or a bulldozer, you have to have sufficient training (i.e., number of operating hours), as well as certification. For some equipment, you don’t need a certificate, but others will require it.
In most cases, certification is an ongoing thing. Thus, you have to re-certify yourself every few years to make sure that you’re still current. If you let it lapse, then you’ll have to go through training again to qualify for that position.
If you want to be a supervisor, most positions require at least five or more years of experience. One of the best ways to facilitate moving up into a management position is to rise in the ranks of the same company, instead of taking your skills elsewhere. The benefit of moving up in the same place is that you can usually command a higher salary and better benefits. Having seniority at a company is often more valuable than getting a new job somewhere else.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration oversee the demolition industry. In fact, this is one of the most heavily regulated industries, thanks to the fact that demo experts have to remove potentially harmful and toxic materials and dispose of them properly. Also, working with explosives and working in urban areas means that safety protocols have to be much more strict than with other fields.
Depending on your position in the industry, you may have to get certified by OSHA. Safety supervisors and technicians usually require ongoing certification. In many cases, you can take these courses online.
Hazardous Material Certification
When demolishing a building, you’ll likely come into contact with hazardous elements like lead, asbestos, and mold. Because these materials affect both the health and safety of personnel and the environment, supervisors have to get certifications and training from OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As usual, these certificates require ongoing training, meaning that they are not a one-time thing. Some states may need additional requirements for this type of removal.
Tips for Starting Out in the Demolition Field
Fortunately, being a hands-on job means that almost anyone can begin a career in demolition with little experience. Unfortunately, since this industry isn’t growing as fast as others, demand for laborers and skilled demolition experts are not going to be that high.
Still, here are some ways that you make sure you get into the position you want.
Find Your Specialty
Before you begin your career in demolition, it will help immensely if you know where you want to go. For example, becoming a site supervisor is much different than working with explosives. Thus, having an idea of the area of expertise you want to be in will help you find a job that can facilitate that transition.
No matter what, when you’re first starting, you have to take general labor jobs. Since you can’t learn to blow up buildings or operate a crane by attending college classes, no degree can help you. Instead, you want to find a job and work your way up. The sooner you know where you want to go, the easier it will be to get experience doing that.
Check Out a Vocational School
While going to a university won’t help get a job in demolition, attending a vocational school may be a better option. The primary benefit of going to one of these schools is that they usually work with local businesses to help graduates find jobs. Thus, if you want to have a leg up when starting your career, this may be a good option for you.
That being said, vocational school training is limited, so you may not be able to start out in a higher position.
Ask Questions and Be Flexible
For the most part, general laborers on a demolition site simply do what they’re told. Its managers and supervisors who determine the best way to demolish the structure - it’s the grunts that do the heavy lifting.
If you want to stand out and show your skills, then you want to talk to your supervisors and try to get as much training as possible. Asking questions is an excellent way to find out more details about the job, and offering to help with different projects can make you more valuable to your managers.
As we mentioned with trade shows, it’s all about building connections. If you can establish a rapport with your supervisors, they will be much more likely to recommend you for training in your desired specialty, as well as consider you for promotion into higher-paying positions.
If you just do your job, follow orders, and don’t talk to your supervisors, you’ll likely be treated with the same engagement. If you don’t seem to care about the work, why should they?
Learn, Learn, Learn
Rising in the ranks of the demolition industry requires knowledge and experience. While you can’t expedite the latter (i.e., you can’t get five years of experience in less time), you can learn new details about your desired position.
There are plenty of online resources, including the National Demolition Association’s website. You can learn about safety regulations, proper procedures, and other details that will help you do your job better. Also, being more knowledgeable on the job site will make your supervisors take notice and respond accordingly.
Overall, this is your career - be passionate about it! If you want to work in demolition for the long-term, then you want to make sure that you know as much about it as possible.