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Road Worker

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Road Worker

The Work

As a road worker or highways operative, you would build and repair roads in towns, cities and rural areas. You might also work on the country's motorway networks. Typical duties include:

  • road building, widening and re-surfacing
  • repairing potholes and cracks
  • laying pavements and kerbs
  • maintaining roadside verges and central reservations
  • painting road markings
  • putting up crash barriers, road signs, traffic lights and street lamps
  • digging access trenches for cable and pipe laying
  • gritting roads and clearing snow in winter.

You would do some of the work by hand, using picks and shovels. For heavier jobs, you would operate power tools and plant machinery, for example pneumatic drills, 360-degree excavators and road rollers.

Working safely is very important, and you would be responsible for setting up warning signs and cones, as well as managing traffic and pedestrians close to the work site.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work around 37 hours a week, often starting early. You may have to work overtime, including evenings, nights and weekends, in order to minimise disruption to traffic.

You would work in all weather conditions and the work is noisy, dirty and physically tough. Your employer would provide you with ear protectors, a hard hat and safety boots.

You could be travelling from site to site, which could involve overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests

  • a good level of fitness
  • practical skills
  • the ability to follow written and spoken instructions
  • good teamworking skills
  • a willingness to work flexibly when required
  • an awareness of health and safety.


You do not need any set qualifications to be a road worker, but employers may want you to have some on-site experience. If you have not worked in construction before, you could get this experience by finding work as a construction operative (labourer). Once you are working, your employer may be willing to offer you further training to progress.

You may be able to get into this career by completing an Apprenticeship with a construction company. To get on to a scheme, you may need GCSEs in subjects like maths, English and design and technology, or equivalent qualifications.

The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

Alternatively, you could take a college course before looking for work, which would teach you some of the skills needed. Relevant courses include:

  • City & Guilds (6217) Basic Construction Skills 
  • BTEC Diploma in Construction
  • Intermediate Construction Award (Highways Maintenance and Operations)

You will need to be 18 or over and have a driving licence to operate plant machinery. You may also need an LGV licence for some jobs. See the job profile for Construction Operative for more information about this area of work.

For more general information about construction careers and qualifications, visit the ConstructionSkills website.



You would be given on-the-job training when you start work, with day or block release at a local college or training provider. You could take several work-based NVQ qualifications, including:

  • Roadbuilding (Construction) levels 1 and 2
  • Highways Maintenance Level 2
  • Construction Operations Level 2.

The NVQs contain options in excavation, re-surfacing, drainage, laying kerbs and pavement construction. Contact Construction Skills for details of colleges and training providers offering these qualifications.

If you drive gritters and snowploughs for the Highways Agency or a local authority, you could take the City & Guilds Winter Maintenance Operations award (course code 6159).

All roadworks must have at least one fully qualified worker present on site. You can apply to the Street Works Qualifications Register to get a card that shows you are qualified to do the job safely. To register, you must have completed one of the following Street Works Training courses:

  • City & Guilds (6156) award in Streetworks, Excavation and Reinstatement
  • SQA national award in Excavation and Reinstatement
  • CABWI Streetworks award certificate.

Contact the Street Works Qualifications Register for details about how to apply for a card and find your nearest assessment centre.


Typical employers include civil engineering companies, construction firms, utility companies and local authorities. Jobs may be advertised through local press, Jobcentre Plus and Directgov (Jobseekers page).

With experience and qualifications, you could become a road works team supervisor, known as a 'ganger', or train to work on specialised plant machinery.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries can be between 12,000 to 14,500 a year.
  • With experience, this can rise to around 18,000.
  • Road workers with supervisory duties can earn up to 24,000 a year.

Overtime and shiftwork can increase these amounts.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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