Bricklayer and Plasterer

Bricklayers and plasterers are usually the first tradesmen employed on a building project where they are responsible for the building of the inner and outer walls of the building as well as the finishing of these structures. The bricklaying and plastering trade is one of the oldest trades in the building industry and has not changed much since the early days. The walls of the Egyptian tombs constructed 3000 years ago were plastered with a material very similar to that used on the walls of modern buildings. Bricklaying still consists mostly of placing bricks and blocks on top on one another whilst following the three rules of plumb, level and straight.

Bricklayers are skilled journeymen who construct and repair walls, partitions, steps, free standing piers, arches, fireplaces and other structures made of brick, concrete block or masonry materials. They may specialise in one type of masonry material such as firebrick or cinder block work. They first study the blueprints or building plans to check specifications and determine the most accurate layout. Mortar is then mixed and a layer or bed of mortar is spread as a base, after which bricks are positioned by hand to assure a neat, uniform appearance. Excess mortar is cut off. Mortar joints are then finished off so that moisture cannot penetrate.

Bricklayers must have a thorough knowledge of the different types of bricks that are available, also of the correct mortar mixtures and of how to adapt building methods to different weather conditions. They need to know how to weld metal supports for bricks. In addition, they may supervise helpers.

Plastering comprises the artistic and functional covering and finishing of the interior and exterior walls of building according to specifications and design. Plasterers’ work generally entails protecting, strengthening, covering and decorating brickwork and concrete by plastering the surface. They spread sand-cement plaster on the walls and a sand-cement screed on the concrete sub-floors with a trowel. Walls are finished off until smooth, or may even have a brushed or patterned finish. After levelling the concrete floor with the screed, ceramic tiles or other floor finishes are laid. The wall surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms may then be tiled. 

The work includes tasks such as the plastering of concrete ceilings and the cutting and fixing of plasterboard ceilings. Plasterers not only apply but also prepare coatings to walls and other surfaces. Some plasterers also do complex decorative and ornamental work, using mouldings or other design accessories.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate
  • Grade 10 Certificate or N1 is recommended

What to Study

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET( Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • building trade, general contractors
  • government concerns
  • construction businesses
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience can trade on a private basis or start own business

Further Information

Construction Education Training Authority (CetaSETA) 
P O Box 1955
Halfway House, 1685
1st Floor, Building No.5
Midrand Business Park
Old Pretoria Road 
Midrand, 1685
Tel: (011) 265-5900 Fax: (011) 265-5924

Master Builders South Africa (MBSA)
P O Box 1619
Halfway House, 1685
CMA Office and Conference Park
234 Alexandra Avenue
Tel: (011) 205-9000 Fax: (011) 315-1644

Getting Started

  • try to obtain part-time or vacation work as an assistant to a bricklayer or plasterer
  • obtain information on learnership programmes in your area
  • make an appointment to speak to a bricklayer or plasterer about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations