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Education and Training: Vocational or technical school

Salary: Median—$36,340 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

An expediter buys building materials and makes sure that the right materials arrive at the job site at the right time. There are many reasons that all the materials used in a construction project are not delivered at once. Usually there is not enough room to store all the materials until they are needed. The materials may also be stolen, damaged by weather, or broken at building sites. For example, if the glass windows are delivered at the same time as the bricks and mortar, many windows might be broken before they are installed.

The expediter's job is important to the success of any construction project. If the expediter does not buy the correct materials, or if the materials are not at the job site at the right time, the work cannot continue. Delays in a building project can be very costly to the contractor.

While a job is in progress, expediters constantly check to make sure that the materials are ready for their scheduled delivery. If there is difficulty buying materials, or if the workers do not have enough of a particular material, the expediters must be able to solve the problem quickly to keep the work flowing smoothly.

Expediters are responsible for many things, and they frequently use filing and computer systems to keep everything organized. Many of them are responsible for returning unused materials. Some expediters work on several jobs at once.

Education and Training Requirements

A prospective expediter should have a high school education that includes courses in mathematics, accounting, and business management. Experience with computers and classes in drafting and mechanical drawing are helpful. Shop courses provide an understanding of tools and materials. Summer work as a construction laborer or a part-time job with a contractor offers valuable experience.

After high school, classes at a technical school will be useful. It is possible to become an expediter by entering a building trade and advancing with experience. However, as construction materials and methods become more complex, an expediter with the most technical training will have the best job opportunities.

In vocational or technical schools, students learn about various building materials, architecture, engineering, plan reading, business management, estimating, and expediting. The schools also offer opportunities to improve communication skills, which are critical on the job. A misunderstanding about the time or place of delivery of a certain material can cause serious problems.

A vocational or technical school graduate may begin with a construction firm as an engineering aide or in some other trainee position. At a construction firm, trainees learn the different aspects of construction, including specifications, scheduling, and purchasing. It is possible to advance from being an aide or trainee to becoming an assistant expediter.

Getting the Job

All construction companies have an expediter. In large companies, there may be a group of people whose only job is expediting. In small companies, the job may be handled by someone who has other duties as well.

Prospective expediters should first contact local construction firms and provide information about their interests, training, and other capabilities. Contractors' names and addresses can be found in the Yellow Pages. Lumberyards, supply houses, stores that sell aluminum products, paint companies, and many other related businesses also offer opportunities. Many expediters start out in material distribution. A background in supplying materials to expediters can be very useful. State employment offices, Internet job banks, and newspaper classified ads are other sources of job openings.

Employment Outlook and Advancement Possibilities

The growth of positions for expediters is expected to be slower than the average for all jobs through 2014. In part, the future of the job is related to the economy. When the economy is strong, there is more construction and more expediters are needed. Technology is also a factor. Because shipments of products used in construction are often tracked by computer, more precise amounts of material and more accurately arranged deliveries are possible. Fewer expediters may be able to handle more projects. Still, building delays are costly, so construction companies may be reluctant to cut their expediting staffs. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace expediters who retire or move to other occupations.

Fully qualified expediters can advance to become purchasing agents. Demonstrated ability, additional education, and the size of the construction company will be important factors.

Working Conditions

Some expediters have offices. During construction, they spend much of the day at the job site checking on materials and visiting materials suppliers to schedule shipments.

Expediters do not always work regular forty-hour weeks. They may work late nights or very early mornings at job sites. An expediter is normally paid to complete the job, whether it takes forty or seventy hours a week.

Because of the great amount of activity required, expediters should be in good physical condition. They should be able to get along well with people. Expediters should be able to keep track of details and enjoy solving problems.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated General Contractors of America
2300 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 400
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 548-3118

National Association of Home Builders of the United States
1201 Fifteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20005-2800
(800) 368-5242

National Association of Women in Construction
327 S. Adams St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104-1002
(800) 552-3506

Earnings and Benefits

Because they work in the contractor's office, many expediters are paid a salary instead of an hourly wage. The size of the firm and its location, as well as the amount of activity in the construction industry, all have a bearing on salaries. The median salary for expediters in 2004 was $36,340 per year. Many contractors offer some form of benefits. Life and health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave, and other benefits may vary with the employer.

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