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In this essay, a Construction Materials Technician shares the positives of the Construction Industry when coping with his disability.

As a high-functioning autistic person, finding a job that offered stable income without the hassle and frustration of coping with other people all the time seemed almost impossible for me. Sudden paradigm shifts and people who demanded I be able to move from one task to another in the middle of my work flow seamlessly and with no notice drove me more than a little crazy, and I often reacted to such demands with outbursts of anger or frustration. This resulted in a very checkered resume.

Ten years ago, I hired on with a geotechnical firm in Las Vegas, Nevada as a sample pickup driver. I had a high-school education and at my interview, my soon-to-be-boss asked, "What do you know about concrete?" To which I replied, "It's hard and you can drive on it." Shockingly, I actually got the job.

This was a perfect job for me, because I had very few demands other than to get the samples from A to B. There was enough routine to keep me calm, but enough variety to keep me interested, as I rarely followed the same route twice. My job consisted of driving to construction sites, picking up concrete cylinders for compressive strength testing and soil samples to establish theoretical maximum density and a wide variety of other earth science-related information, as well as dropping off necessary testing materials to field technicians all over the Las Vegas Valley and occasionally elsewhere. Simple, right? Pick it up here, put it down there, fill in the paperwork, go on about your business.

About a month after I started, however, I was pulled away from sample pickup to assist a senior field technician who had injured himself badly in his off hours. For the next three months I followed him around, using a large steel pin and a metal plate to punch test holes in compacted soil and running the nuclear density gauge which told us what the actual compaction of the material was. During this time, I learned a great deal about the trade and what it took to do the job properly.

The glitch, of course, was the fact I had to deal with people once again. Instead of the very limited pool of staff at my company, I now had to deal with the often-draining demands of a customer-service based business. This situation was not improved by the fact many contractors viewed field technicians as "The Enemy," someone to be appeased and prodded off the site as quickly as possible so they could get back to doing business however they wished. Although the actual testing aspect was fascinating to me, since I've always had a natural aptitude for science and technical work, dealing with several new sets of people every day led to a lot of irritation for me.

However, the pay was good and the time off policy was generous, so I decided to make the best of the parts of the job that stressed me out and focus on the parts that I actually enjoyed. By the time I left the firm in 2009, shortly after the building boom in Las Vegas turned to bust, I was a senior field technician with almost five years' experience in the field and carrying five different professional certifications, including the American Concrete Institute Field Technician Grade One, National Institute of Construction Engineering Technicians Level One, radiation safety certification, and two certifications issued by the State of Nevada for work on major roadways and other heavy transport projects.

Five years later, I found myself working in the field again, this time in Southern Utah. While some of the base requirements had changed, the basics of the job remained largely the same, and I felt quite comfortable stepping into this role again. Dealing with contractors is still a stressful part of the job, and some of the paperwork various government agencies can be extremely frustrating. One of the hardest parts is that construction in this area is very much feast or famine, making it very difficult to plan anything during the work week. I like routine and a certain amount of structure, so not having a set schedule is tough to work around sometimes. It does involve a certain amount of physical labor, including lifting objects up to 75 pounds or more, but as I've often remarked, it's my mind that's thrown off, not my back.

The pay for a construction materials technician varies greatly depending upon the area, experience and certifications. I make $12 an hour. If I were to return to Las Vegas I could expect to make $20-22 an hour, the same pay I left at. The spring, summer and early fall is prime construction season. Motivated technicians who want to learn more about the back-end work performed in the lab can often arrange to work splitting and preparing samples for testing during slow times, as well as assisting with other facets of testing such as breaking concrete cylinders and heating asphalt samples to burn off the oil in them for particle size analysis.

Earned vacation time is usually two weeks a year, and sick or personal leave pay depends on the company. Senior field technicians often get more, as much as 4 weeks a year at some companies. Likewise, health insurance is usually a guaranteed benefit but you may do better going through your state insurance brokerage from a cost perspective. Most companies also provide work vehicles, which function as limited mobile laboratories in their own right. Each company varies as to whether you can take your work vehicle home, though.

Being a construction materials technician has a lot of advantages and a lot of opportunities for advancement, but it comes at a price. Long hours and the occasional confrontation with contractors make this job difficult, especially during peak construction times. Even so, for someone like me who functions better when the job parameters are well-defined and my interaction with others is limited, it's well worth considering as a career option.