How To Become A Concrete Finisher

If you're looking for a rewarding career that involves the construction industry, why not work as a concrete finisher?
Career Overview
Median/Average Annual Salary$46,600
Median/Average Hourly Salary$22.12
Job Growth or Decline2% decline through 2030
Job Outlook
Certifications/LicensesACI Recommended

In this post, we’ll explore the process of becoming a concrete finisher (also called a cement finisher). Learn the steps and get the knowledge you need to jumpstart your career today.

Join the professionals who work hard to ensure the high quality of concrete surfaces or structures and employ various techniques to keep them in excellent condition for a long time. 

Do these responsibilities sound appealing? Read on and learn how to become a concrete finisher.

What Does A Concrete Finisher Do?

Concrete finishers are construction workers who work primarily with cement and concrete. 

They normally begin each project by mixing the materials according to a blueprint or recipe. From there, they use hand tools such as screeds and floats to smooth out freshly poured concrete and other base materials.

Finally, these professionals carefully apply sealers or waterproof membranes to protect fresh surfaces from stains and other forms of damage. 

Other typical duties and responsibilities you might encounter as a concrete finisher include:

  • Conducting concrete finishing inspections according to established safety guidelines, including checking materials for quality before using them so they meet specifications
  • Communicating with the concrete team about the timing and completion of each phase of the project
  • Applying sealers or waterproof membranes to concrete surfaces using brushes, rollers, or spray equipment
  • Removing paint, adhesive, glue, oil, grease, or other undesirable substances from concrete surfaces using chemicals and steam-cleaning equipment
  • Cleaning and preparing concrete surface areas to be ready for finishing work
  • Repairing concrete surfaces as needed to restore them to a smooth finish

Concrete finishers can often be found working in the homebuilding career path, which is a strong sector to be a part of for growth and security.

How To Become A Concrete Finisher

Landing a concrete finisher job is usually very achievable with a bit of dedication. First, you need to obtain the necessary training by applying for an apprenticeship with a construction firm. You will learn how to mix and place concrete, apply sealers and waterproof membranes to protect surfaces from corrosive substances, and other useful skills. 

Afterward, you have the option to expand your career options by becoming a certified sealer, and there are two ways to do this. One, attend an undergraduate degree program in construction trades technology, engineering, architecture, and other related fields like construction management and project management. Two, go through voluntary testing with the International Concrete Protection Association (ICPA).

High School Diploma or GED

While not always required, many employers do now look for this level of education. To increase your chances of employment we always recommend earning a GED or high school diploma.

Certification

Not required, but it is highly recommended you take classes and earn a certification through the American Concrete Institute (ACI).

Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship can help you refine your craft and make you more desirable to potential employers.

Continuing education

Continuing to learn about your craft and take additional courses and certifications can help you go far.

Career Path

After working as a concrete finisher you can move up to positions like construction foreman or project manager.

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of how to become a concrete finisher.

Basic Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Valid drivers license

The educational requirements to become a concrete finisher vary by employer, but many journeymen today were able to successfully build their careers without a high school diploma. 

Keep in mind that most companies prefer hiring workers who have completed formal training programs in the field. Many vocational schools and community colleges that focus on construction trades will offer programs that specialize in construction skills. 

Internship or Apprenticeship

Concrete finishers typically learn the trade by pursuing an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship is a federally approved program that combines practical on-the-job training with related classroom instruction, and it typically lasts four to five years. 

You can find out if your state has an apprenticeship program by checking with the Association of State Workforce Agencies (ASWA).

Testing or Certification

Certifying as a concrete finisher is optional but can make finding work easier. You can certify two ways: either take the American Concrete Institute certification exam or the International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI) certification exam. Both tests cover different sections of the industry and require some prerequisites before you can take them, including a background check and a drug screening.

In order to be eligible for either exam, you must also have at least four years of experience as a concrete finisher working with sealers or waterproof membranes. You can find out more about these exams by visiting the ACFA website and the ICRI website. 

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Recommended Skills For Concrete Finishers

Since concrete finishing is a construction trade, it’s helpful to possess related skills such as:

Physical Strength

Concrete finishers often work in outdoor conditions for long periods of time, so you should feel comfortable standing or crouching while working.

Communication Skills

Strong speaking and listening skills are a plus because you will be working with a team of people, including other concrete finishers, builders, architects, designers, engineers, and project managers.

Manual Dexterity

Concrete finishing involves using different hand tools like shovels, pneumatic air compressors, concrete saws, masonry hammers, and concrete finishing trowels.

Detail Oriented

A part of a concrete finisher’s work is to inspect the output of others. You will need to look out for any potential problems and make corrections before they grow into bigger issues.

Pros & Cons Of Being A Concrete Finisher

Like every career, concrete finishing has its perks and drawbacks. 

PROS

  • The majority of concrete finishers enjoy their work and feel that it’s rewarding. Many also have good working relationships with their coworkers and supervisors.
  • Concrete finishers work in a variety of conditions, but most jobs take place indoors or outdoors in moderate temperatures. 
  • Starting pay is often above average.
  • Work hours tend to be regular and predictable.
  • Travel is typically minimal.

CONS

  • Concrete finishing can be physically demanding work, so injuries are more likely than in some other careers.
  • You might face additional hazards on the job that you wouldn’t encounter in an office setting, including exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals and fumes.

How Much Do Concrete Finishers Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a concrete finisher was $46,600 per year in 2020. This is equivalent to an hourly wage of $22.12.

Higher-paid concrete finishers often have special skills or work on difficult projects such as commercial construction. Many finishers also specialize in a specific area of the trade, like window and door sealing or waterproofing.

The median annual salary is $46,000 for a concrete finisher.

Concrete Finisher Job Outlook

There is an expected 2% decline in the amount of concrete finishing jobs available through 2030.

According to the BLS, employment of concrete finishers will likely decline by 2% between 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the average for all other jobs, so expect some competitiveness in the job market.

The BLS also shares that cement masons and concrete finishers who are adept at using computers will have good job prospects because there is a growing demand for computer-aided design.

Frequently Asked Questions

*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics