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How to Become a Concrete Finisher

A concrete finisher is a skilled tradesperson who deals with construction projects made from concrete. They create the concrete, set up the molds, and pour and set the concrete in construction projects. They may also maintain, etch, color, and waterproof concrete after the job is done. 

To learn more about role of a concrete finisher, we spoke with Practice Lead Rick Cirilo who has over nine years of recruiting experience in the construction industry. He’s helped many job seekers find the construction opportunities that match their skills and goals. Cirilo provided several keen insights about becoming a concrete finisher and what it takes to be successful. 


How to Start a Concrete Finishing Career

“From my experience, someone usually starts their career as a concrete finisher working for a concrete subcontractor as a laborer. I’ve had the opportunity to partner with companies that are willing to take individuals with little to no experience in concrete and teach them everything they need to know from start to finish. There’s always the route of going through an apprentice program that larger companies and other organizations offer,” says Cirilo.

Becoming a concrete finisher does require some education and qualifications. However, unlike specialized trades like plumbers, electricians, and carpenters, most concrete finishers don’t require a specific apprenticeship or certification. A high school diploma and/or GED will usually open the door.  

Most concrete finishers start off in construction as laborers and then move into concrete jobs after building some experience. This has both its advantages and disadvantages — since there is no defined linear pathway like in other trades, people interested in concrete finishing can immediately enter the workforce. But when it comes time to train, the quality and depth of education can vary because of this lack of standardized education. 

As training is done on the job, there is no set method or qualification required to handle and finish concrete. That said, becoming a certified concrete finisher by the American Concrete Institute is a nice way to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd. After some experience as a concrete finisher, you might find yourself becoming experienced in relevant construction jobs — machine operation, masonry, and after more experience, possibly even management.

Since concrete finishing is not as specialized as something like carpentry, you’re not so locked into a particular career choice and can shift your career as you gain experience. This makes it easier to gain multiple diverse skills, helping differentiate yourself even further, and giving you experience to become a better project manager or leader. Like other trades, you can also go full circle and become an instructor. It’s a very physically demanding job, so later in their careers, they might prefer to transition into more instructional or administrative roles.

How Much Does a Concrete Finisher Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cement masons and concrete finishers receive a median compensation of $48,300 annually, or about $26.00 per hour. Note that this can vary depending on location and company. Private companies and contractors may pay differently, depending on the demand for a concrete finishers’ skills in a location or project. It’s worth noting there isn’t usually any travel involved, though hours can vary by project/location, and can often start quite early in the morning. There is projected to be a small decline of 2% by 2030. Despite the slight decline in demand, job openings are expected to remain steady due to the consistent efflux of workers retiring. 

Is Concrete Finishing Hard Work?

“Concrete finishing is an art. The prepping aspect of a concrete job is the most physically demanding considering you’re dealing with raking/shoveling stone, setting the forms, and tying the rebar. The finishing phase of a concrete job is both physically and mentally draining because it’s your responsibility as a concrete finisher to make sure your customer likes the finished product. Whether your finishing concrete to have a smooth/polished surface or textured surfaces. You have to be very precise and passionate about each job you’re doing big or small,” says Cirilo

Most trades and construction jobs are hard work, but concrete finishing is often considered one of the harder ones. Concrete workers must be as tough as the concrete that they work with — and here’s why. 

First, concrete is one of the hardest building materials out there. It takes a lot of strength to mix, pour, and lift, whether it’s in powdered, liquid, or solid form, because of its weight. It takes very heavy and powerful tools to work concrete. Tools like concrete saws, concrete drills, heavy shovels and chisels take a lot of strength to use. You’ll also be on your feet for some time and may be required to lift heavy loads. Concrete dust and the chemical additives can be potentially harmful. Therefore, you’ll need to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) daily.  

You’ll also be working outdoors primarily and so most finishers are accustomed to working in the elements. This is something Cirilo emphasizes to the people he works with. It’s more than being prepared to work on hot days. Inclement weather can also delay construction projects which might interrupt your normal work schedule.

“Working in the concrete industry has its ups and downs like any other trade. My biggest advice for someone getting in the concrete industry is to be aware that this is, for the most part, an outdoor position. I always tell individuals that are getting in this industry to expect to work 12+ hour days when the weather permits but also expect to get called off work due to rain, snow, or below freezing temperatures,” says Cirilo.

When you’re ready to find work as a concrete finisher — explore our job board.