Demolition operative

Construction and building

Career outlook for demolition operative

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would safely demolish and dismantle old and derelict structures and buildings. You’d responsibly remove hazardous materials like asbestos so buildings are safe for people to use.

You’d remove items from a building or structure for salvage or recycling so they can be re-used.

As a labourer you would:

  • Prepare the site
  • Put up rails and safety screens
  • Lay dustsheets
  • Separate out re-usable building materials after demolition

As a mattockman / mattockwoman you would:

  • Strip out fittings
  • Remove doors and windows
  • Dismantle roof structures

A topman/topwoman does all of the same tasks. In this role you would also:

  • Cut steel framework at heights
  • Strip off fragile roofs
  • Instruct others in safe demolition practices

You would use tools like hammer drills, oxyacetylene cutting equipment, plant machinery and explosives.

You might also use crane-mounted industrial magnets to recover metals and burners to incinerate materials. You would put concrete slabs through crushers to make aggregate for building roads.

You would follow strict health and safety regulations at all times. You’d use your training to remove of hazardous materials like asbestos and toxic chemicals safely. A knowledge of construction methods will help you to take down buildings safely.

Working conditions


You would work a basic 39-hour week, but you may be required to work overtime and weekends


You could expect to work in all weather conditions, and the work can be dirty and dusty. You would always wear protective clothing on site. You might use specialist equipment, for example breathing apparatus when removing asbestos, or a safety harness when working at heights.


Work will involve travel from site to site and this may include overnight stays away from home.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Problem solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Managing resources
  • Taking responsibility

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


Entry varies for the three different types of work:

  • There are no formal qualifications required to become a labourer but some employers may ask for qualifications at SCQF level 4/5.
  • Entry as a mattockman or mattockwoman would require two years experience, knowledge of demolition and some units from Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Demolition (Construction): Demolition or Plant level 2 (SCQF level 5).
  • As a topman or topwoman you would be expected to have at least two years' experience, extensive knowledge of demolition and completed the SVQ level 2 (SCQF level 5).

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Practical technologies subjects

You will also need

  • To be at least 18 years old. 
  • To be physically fit with good eyesight and hearing

You will need a Certificate of Competence for Demolition Operatives (CCDO). This is linked to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) to work on most sites. 

You may have to take an aptitude test before entry.


Helpful to have

Qualifications that show an understanding of construction and practical skills, such as Skills for Work Construction Engineering (SCQF level 3) or Construction Crafts (SCQF level 4/5).

A driving licence can be useful. 

It is also useful to not have dust allergies.