California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Stonemasons in San Diego County

May also be called: Granite Setters; Stone Derrickmen and Riggers; Stone Setters

What Would I Do?

The rustic look of a river cobble fireplace or the stone facade of an upscale boutique is the work of the Stonemason. Stonemasons build stone walls, as well as set stone exteriors and floors. They work with two types of stone—natural cut stone, such as marble, granite, and limestone and artificial stone made from concrete, marble chips, or other masonry materials. Stonemasons usually work on nonresidential structures, such as houses of worship, hotels, and office buildings, but they also work on residences.

Stonemasons begin construction only after carefully planning their project or by using detailed blueprints. Stonemasons often work from a set of drawings in which each stone has been numbered for identification. Helpers may locate and carry these prenumbered stones to the Masons. A derrick operator using a hoist may be needed to lift large stone pieces into place.

When building a stone wall, Masons set the first course of stones into a bed of mortar. They then align the stones with wedges, plumb lines, and levels, and work them into position with various tools. Masons continue to build the wall by alternating layers of mortar and courses of stone. As the work progresses, Masons remove the wedges, fill the joints between stones, and smooth the mortar to an attractive finish using a pointed metal tool called a tuck pointer. To hold large stones in place, Stonemasons attach brackets to the stone and weld or bolt these brackets to anchors in the wall. Finally, Masons wash the stone with a cleansing solution to remove stains and dry mortar.

When setting stone floors, which often consist of large and heavy pieces of stone, Masons first use a trowel to spread a layer of damp mortar over the surface to be covered. Using crowbars and hard rubber mallets for aligning and leveling, they then set the stone in the mortar bed. To finish, workers fill the joints and clean the stone slabs.

Masons use a special hammer and chisel to cut stone. They cut stone along the grain to make various shapes and sizes. Valuable pieces often are cut with a diamond blade saw. Stonemasons also repair imperfections and cracks and replace broken or missing masonry units in walls and floors.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Lay out wall patterns or foundations, using straight edge, rule, or staked lines.Equipment Selection
Set vertical and horizontal alignment of structures, using plumb bob, gauge line, and level.Near Vision
Mix mortar or grout and pour or spread mortar or grout on marble slabs, stone, or foundation.Trunk Strength
Remove wedges, fill joints between stones, finish joints between stones, using a trowel, and smooth the mortar to an attractive finish, using a tuck pointer.Building and Construction
Set stone or marble in place, according to layout or pattern.Design
Clean excess mortar or grout from surface of marble, stone, or monument, using sponge, brush, water, or acid.Manual Dexterity
Lay brick to build shells of chimneys and smokestacks or to line or reline industrial furnaces, kilns, boilers and similar installations.Static Strength
Replace broken or missing masonry units in walls or floors.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Smooth, polish, and bevel surfaces, using hand tools and power tools.Stamina
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Stonemasons usually work outdoors and are exposed to the elements. They stand, kneel, and bend for long periods and often have to lift heavy materials. Common hazards include injuries from tools and falls from scaffolds, but accidents can often be avoided when proper safety equipment is used and safety practices are followed. Workers customarily provide their own hand tools while the employer provides the larger equipment.

Due to the seasonal nature of the work, Stonemasons rarely work steadily. In rainy or cold weather, there is little construction work. However, protective sheeting around the work area allows Stonemasons to work in harsh weather. Most work between 35 and 40 hours per week. Sometimes, evening or night shifts are required for emergency repairs, to avoid peak traffic times, or to work overtime to complete a project on schedule. They usually travel to their work sites.

Some Stonemasons are members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Stonemason may appeal to those who enjoy working independently and outdoors while performing physical activities. Stonemason occupations involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions, working with details, and include activities that involve little paperwork.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Earnings for these workers can be reduced by poor weather or slowdown in construction activity. Beginning apprentices or helpers earn considerably less wages than experienced workers. Employers usually increase apprentices’ wages about every six months based on specific advancement criteria.

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Stonemasons in California was $38,458 annually, or $18.48 hourly. The median wage for Stonemasons in San Diego County was $31,080 annually, or $14.94 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$29,824$38,458$53,334
San Diego County$28,040$31,080$55,523
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance, as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Those who are self-employed are responsible for purchasing their own insurance and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Population and business growth will create a need for new houses, industrial facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, and other structures requiring masonry workers. Moreover, the use of stone for decorative work on building fronts, sidewalks, and in lobbies and foyers is increasing. Applicants who take masonry-related courses at technical schools will have better opportunities than those without these courses.

Employment of Masons, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to changes in the economy. When the level of construction activity falls, workers in these trades can experience periods of unemployment. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Stonemasons is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Stonemasons are expected to increase by 54.5 percent, or 600 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Stonemasons
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
1,1001,70060054.5100
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 60 new job openings per year is expected for Stonemasons, plus an additional 10 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 70 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Stonemasons
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
601070
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most employers prefer a high school diploma. Most people enter this trade through on-the-job training, first assisting Stonemasons by carrying materials from pallets to the installation location. They generally do other unskilled work until they learn enough to assist the fully trained worker in the more highly skilled aspects of the job. Industry-based training programs offered through construction companies usually last between two and four years.

Other Masons go through an apprenticeship program covering all aspects of the occupation—brick, block, and stone. While those working with a Mason who constructs only light residential structures or landscaping, will only be exposed to that type of work.

Experience

The amount and type of experience required to become a fully trained Stonemason varies from company to company. Most apprenticeship programs for Masons require 144 hours of classroom instruction and 1,500 hours of on-the-job training for each year. The learning period on the job could be longer than if trained in an apprenticeship program.

Early Career Planning

High school classes that can help a new worker find a job include basic mathematics, algebra, geometry, as well as wood and metal shop.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

A formal apprenticeship program consists of classroom training and practical, on-site education. The training period lasts from three to four years, depending upon the program.  For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Some Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) offer training for entry-level positions in masonry. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Many unionized Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees offer continuing education courses for those members who want to advance their technical knowledge and their careers. Some professional associations offer training, seminars, and instructional material to meet the changing demands of the construction work setting and increase the marketability of the Mason.

Licensing and Certification

Self-employed Masons must have a contractor’s license. The California Contractors State License Board issues a specialty contractor’s license for masonry to those who pass an exam and fingerprint background check. Specialty licenses are active for two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Certification is offered by some trade associations, such as the Mason Contractors Association of America. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Stonemasons are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Building Foundation/Exterior Contractors 64.1%
Building Finishing Contractors 5.0%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Union Stonemasons can find work through their local union office. Nonunion workers can contact others in the trade and those at supply houses, construction companies, residential and commercial builders, or construction sites. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Stonemasons.

  • Building Contractors, Commercial, Industrial, or General
  • Commercial Building
  • Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing
  • Employment Placement Agencies
  • Masonry Contractors

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

In larger companies, experienced Stonemasons may supervise other workers. Others may move into construction estimating, building or home inspection, or construction management. More often, fully-skilled workers begin their own businesses and either employ a few or many workers.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Stonemasons with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Brickmasons and BlockmasonsGuide
CarpentersGuide
Drywall and Ceiling Tile InstallersGuide
Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble SettersProfile
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar WorkersProfile
Tile and Marble SettersGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification47-2022
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Stonemasons47-2022.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RAE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Mason/Masonry 460101
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Masonry, Tile, Cement, Lath and Plaster095260