Remember the day that high school juniors and seniors flocked to the gym that was packed with booths and banners designed to entice promising youth to their college? Recruiters lined the walls, and the smart ones had free candy on their tables. They were ready to sell the next generation on their school, promising plenty of fun and education to catapult them in the direction of their dreams. Students walked around, their minds buzzing with ideas of their future career path: Doctor? Lawyer? Teacher? Astronaut? Dentist? Banker?
Generally, not many walked around buzzing with dreams of designing and building decks for a living. But, truth be told, maybe they should be. Here are a few questions for those wondering if designing and building decks could be a viable career path:
- Do you enjoy being outside?
- Do you enjoy working with your hands?
- Do you enjoy being active?
- Do you enjoy drawing and designing?
- Do you enjoy making money?
We are not mind readers, but the answer to that last one is probably a big yes, right? The buzz in the air is that there is a shortage of skilled laborers in America. Plenty of students walked around that gym and picked more traditional paths in medicine, education, or finance. Those are wonderful careers, but those people still drive cars, get clogged toilets, and like to relax on their deck at the end of the day. And they will have to pay someone to build that deck. That’s where you come in.
To be a successful deck builder and designer, there are two main areas to explore:
One of the beauties of the career of building decks is that there are multiple paths to arriving where you want. Being a doctor or lawyer involves one specific kind of school, but there are lots of educational directions you can pursue to become a deck designer or builder: construction management, architecture, landscape design, and others. There is more to deck design than being able to hammer a nail; you will want to have a grasp of designing a deck that fits in the space and matches the needs of the client.
Studying architecture will provide a deep background in elements that will help you become a unique and sought-after deck builder. Landscape design will enable you to take in the big picture of the space and create a deck that will blend in with the outdoor space of the home. And construction is a big piece of the puzzle. Construction management will also educate you in management skills. You won’t be building those decks all alone.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all major for deck design and building. Do your research to find the program that fits you best and try to fit in as many extra classes as you can that will enrich your skills and education.
Deckbuilding is a hands-on endeavor and so becoming the boss is a hands-on path. After you complete your education there will be a training process to get certified. This is a key part of the learning process. There is so much to learn from more experienced builders. Absorb all you can!
Some paths will require a more formal internship process. Becoming a licensed architect requires three years of training. Some states will allow any internships completed during your college years towards the three-year requirement. The licensing requirements vary from state to state but will require a degree, internship, and an examination. Continuing education will be required in most states as well. That’s a good thing because this is a field that is always changing, and there is plenty to learn.
Whatever education path you choose, at the end of the day, your set of skills won’t do you much good if you can’t earn any money with them. That’s where a good business sense comes in.
Getting a degree takes work, dedication, and talent. And still, it is no guarantee of financial success. A math teacher might be a whiz in geometry, but if they don’t know how to keep order in the classroom, their career will probably be very short. Likewise, you might master design and construction elements, but if you don’t know how to turn that into a profitable business, you will have a hard time succeeding on your own if your goal is to build your own business. There will always be work for a good set of hands and a strong back, but your career will last longer if you employ other hands and backs besides your own.
An easy way to prepare for this part of the career is to add some business classes to the mix as you pursue your degree. You don’t need an MBA, but a few classes on marketing, human resources, and financial management will go a long way.
Once you graduate, make a plan to learn as much as possible before embarking on your own. Be a sponge! Find a company that is doing what you want to do and see if you can join their team. Then, pay attention to everything they do. Make note of their successes and failures. You’ll learn from both. Ask questions and work hard. You can also research on your own. Professional Deck Builder is a fantastic magazine to subscribe to. This will not only help you learn skills but give you a good idea of the trends in the market.
The college and career fair might not have had a deck-building program on display, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering. Finding the right fit for your future takes time, but your future is worth the investment. Good luck!