While there are no specific education requirements for cement masons and finishers, terrazzo workers must usually have a high school diploma. High school courses in math, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading are considered to helpful.
Although most cement masons learn informally on the job, some learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship. Most on-the-job training programs consist of informal instruction in which experienced workers teach helpers to use the tools, equipment, machines, and materials of the trade. Trainees begin with tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly placed concrete. As training progresses, assignments become more complex and trainees can usually do finishing work more quickly.
Some cement masons learn their trade through a three-year apprenticeship. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. After completing an apprenticeship program, cement masons are considered to be journey workers, qualifying them to do tasks on their own.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school education or equivalent
- Physically able to do the work
Some contractors have their own cement masonry or terrazzo training programs. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, many start out as helpers or construction laborers. For more information, see the profile on construction labourers.
Cement masons must be able to lift and carry heavy materials. For example, the forms into which concrete is poured are often large and heavy. Cement masons must be able to spend a lot of time kneeling, bending, and reaching.