Construction Managers Overview
Construction managers with a bachelor’s degree in a field related to construction combined with construction work experience should find the best job prospects. Nearly 61 percent of all construction managers are self-employed. Certification isn’t required in the field, but it is becoming increasingly important.
Nature of the Work for Construction Managers
Depending on the project, construction managers may coordinate, plan, direct and budget the building of schools, hospitals, wastewater treatment plants, roads, bridges and commercial, residential and industrial structures. These workers sometimes supervise an entire project and other times, just a portion of a project. Typically, construction managers don’t do any hands-on building of the structure, but they do schedule and coordinate all of the construction and design processes as well as the hiring and managing of specialty trade contractors needed for plumbing, electrical and carpentry work.
Workers in this position supervise construction personnel and supervisors. Often, they’re called construction supervisors, general contractors, project managers, constructors, project engineers or construction superintendents. Many construction managers are self-employed, but others are salaried. Some own or work for a construction management or contracting firm while other work as a salaried employee or under contract for a property owner, developer or contracting firm that’s in charge of the project.
From concept through final construction, construction managers supervise and coordinate the building process to ensure it is completed on time and in budget. Often many are involved in the construction process, so managers work with architect, engineers, owners and more. With design plans in hand, construction managers oversee the scheduling, planning and implementation of designs for road, bridge, buildings and other projects.
Because large projects like an industrial complex or office building are usually too complicated for one construction manager to handle, they’re often dived into various segments. This way, construction managers may be in charge of one or more of the segmented activities such as building construction, including laying foundations and erecting the structural framework, building systems including protecting against fire and installing electrical, heating systems, air-conditioning and plumbing, site preparation including clearing and excavation of the land, landscaping and road construction and installing sewage systems.
It’s up to constructions managers to work out the most cost effective plan and schedule to the get the job done on time as well as the best way to get materials to the construction site. All of the construction activities that are required must be divided into logical steps with time and budget estimates for each. Construction managers may choose to do this using specialized computer software to create sophisticated schedules and cost estimates.
Construction managers are also responsible for choosing trade contractors and general contractors to take on certain parts of phases of the project such as installing electricity, painting or structural metalworking. Figuring out labor requirements is part of the construction managers duties and depending on the job, they may also supervise the hiring and firing of workers. They’re responsible for ensuring that work is completed on schedule and that trade contractors are doing their jobs.
Construction managers monitor and direct construction activities as they progress, sometimes with the help of construction supervisors or other construction managers. These works must obtain all permits and licenses as needed to meet constructional arrangements and ensure the site is in compliance with safety codes, regulations and requirements of the project’s insurers. Worker safety and productivity, quality of construction and the delivery and use of tools, materials and equipment is also part of the construction manager’s job duties.
Most construction managers monitor their projects from a main office off site or a field office on site. Though daily decisions regarding the project are usually made at the site, which means that if a site is far from the main office or if one manager is overseeing multiple jobs, travel can be substantial. In the case of construction projects abroad, managers usually take up temporary residence in the country where the site is being built.
Because construction managers have to ready to handle emergencies and contend with delays due to bad weather and other uncontrollable events, they’re often on call 24 hours a day. In fact more than one-third of construction managers worked a normal 40-hour week in 2008 and some projects last though the night. Especially if there are delays, construction managers may need to work a round-the-clock schedule in order to meet deadlines.
The work of a construction manager isn’t particularly dangerous, but injuries can occur and workers should be especially careful on site visits.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Construction Managers
Some construction managers earn the position through years of experience, but bachelor’s degrees in a construction-related field are becoming increasingly important to employers. Certification is also becoming more and more common, though it’s not required. Construction managers must be able to understand regulations, specifications, contracts and plans.
Now, most construction managers have a bachelor’s degree in construction management, building science, construction science, or civil engineering along with work experience. Although, sometimes taking classes in the field or earning an associate’s degree, when coupled with many years of experience, can take the place of a 4-year degree. Ultimately, hands-on construction experience is key for entering this career. Candidates may get the experience though a job in construction trades or elsewhere in the industry, through an internship or through a cooperative education program. Some construction craft workers such as masons, electricians or carpenters, go on to become construction managers after substantial experience. Supervisors or owners of specialty contracting firms often end up as construction managers, too. But because the job and the processes involved are becoming more and more complex, employers are beginning to place a higher importance on post secondary specialized education.
Bachelor’s degree programs in building science, construction science and construction engineering are offered at more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide. Typical course include design, site planning, construction materials, construction methods, value analysis, cost estimation, accounting, business and financial management, contract administration, project control and development, engineering, safety, statistics and architectural sciences. Before earning a spot as a construction manager, graduates of these 4-year programs usually start as a cost estimator, field engineer, scheduler or assistant to a project manager. Also, it’s becoming more common for graduates from related fields like architecture and engineering to enter construction management after gaining lots of experience on site projects.
Masters degree programs are also available in construction science and construction management. This advanced degree, with related experience, often leads to positions in very large construction or construction management companies. Those who have a bachelor’s degree in another type of subject tend to seek a masters degree in construction science or construction management as a way into the construction industry. On the other hand, some construction managers choose to later get a masters degree in finance or business administration to improve their career prospects.
Construction management and construction technology programs are also offered at a number of 2-year technical schools and community colleges throughout the country. Students can also take courses sponsored by industry associations, which are often in conjunction with postsecondary institutions.
Key traits for successful construction managers include decisiveness, ability to work well under pressure especially when last minute changes or delays arise, ability to handle a fast-pace environment and flexibility. Construction managers also need to be able to multi-task while analyzing and resolving problems. An understanding of architectural, engineering and construction drawings is also important. They should also be able to use computer software for scheduling, cost estimation, online collaboration and job costing.
Communication skills—both oral and written—will be needed along with leadership skills. Managers must develop and maintain relationships with a variety of people from craftworkers to owners. Increasing, knowledge of conversational Spanish is an asset to work with the large number of Spanish-speaking construction workers.
Currently, the construction industry doesn’t require certifications, though more and more construction managers are seeking certifications to prove competency and experience. Voluntary programs are offered through the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors and requirements include a verification of education and experience along with written exams. The two organizations give the designation of Certified Professional Constructor (CPC), Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Construction Manager (CCM) to those who meet the requirements and pass the appropriate exams. For the CCM designation, applicants must also complete a self-study course that covers topics related to construction management including legal issues, allocation of risk and the professional role of a construction manager.
Depending upon the size and type of company and an employee’s performance, advancement opportunities can vary widely. At large companies, construction managers can move up to top-level manager or executive positions. With extensive experience, some go on to become independent consultants, others serve as expert witnesses or arbitrators in disputes or court cases. With sufficient capital, some may even start their own construction management companies or general or specialty contracting firms.
Top 10 Most Popular Construction Management Schools
1. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
2. Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)
3. Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
4. Arizona State University, Tempe (Tempe, Arizona)
5. Brigham Young University, Idaho (Rexburg, Idaho)
6. Wentworth Institute of Technology (Boston, Massachusetts)
7. Ferris State University (Big Rapids, Michigan)
8. Southern Polytechnic State University (Marietta, Georgia)
9. University of Wisconsin, Stout (Menomonie, Wisconsin)
10. Clemson University (Clemson, South Carolina)
See All Construction Management Schools
Most Popular Online Construction Management Schools
1. South University’s Online programs
2. ITT Technical Institute Online
3. Arizona State University - Online School
4. University of Florida - Online School
5. San Joaquin Valley College
6. Everglades University - Online School
7. Sullivan University - Online School
Employment and Job Outlook for Construction Managers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
In 2008, 551,000 construction managers were working. About 61 percent of those workers were self-employed, many as owners of general or specialty trade construction firms. Most construction managers earning a salary were employed in the construction industry with 7 percent in residential building construction, 10 percent in nonresidential building construction and 11 percent in specialty trade contractor businesses such as electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning contractors.
Employment growth for construction managers is expected to be faster than average. Candidates with both a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field and related work experience should find the best opportunities.
Overall, employment should increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than average when compared to all occupations. The amount and variety of construction activity will expand, those slower than in the past, increasing the demand for construction managers. New construction and renovations will occur due to modest population and business growth. Residential dwellings, retail outlets, schools, restaurants, hospitals, office buildings and other structures will need construction managers. The growing desire for energy efficient buildings is also projected to increase demand for construction managers who retrofit buildings. Also, many parts of the country’s roads, bridges, energy supply lines and water and sewer pipes need to be replaced under the supervision of construction mangers.
As construction projects become more complex, specialized management-level personnel will be in demand. Complexities are dues to the potential for adverse litigation; changes in building technology, materials and construction methods; sophisticated technology; and new laws for safety, energy efficiency and environmental protection.
Construction managers with at least a bachelor’s degree in construction management, construction science or civil engineering in conjunction with practical work experience in the field will find the best job prospect. There will also be many opportunities for construction managers to start their own businesses.
Beyond employment growth, job openings will result from workers who retire or leave the industry. Many seasoned managers are set to retire during the next decade, which will open the door for many new construction managers to take over.
The economy can have a big impact on the employment of construction managers. Some unemployment will occur when there isn’t enough construction happening, but on the other end of the spectrum, shortages of construction managers can occur during peak periods.
Earnings and Salary for Construction Managers
Earnings vary for both salaried and self-employed construction managers based on the size and nature of the project, current economic conditions and the geographic location. Many salaried employees receive benefits with the addition of bonuses and access to company vehicles.
Salaried construction managers earned median annual wages of $79,860. The highest 10 percent earned above $145,920, the lowest 10 percent earned under $47,000 and the middle 50 percent earned somewhere in between $60,650 and $107,140. Broken down by the top industries employing construction managers is as follows—self-employed workers excluded:
Residential building construction: $74,770
Foundation, structure and building exterior contractors: $76,880
Other specialty trade contractors: $78,410
Nonresidential building construction: $79,950
Building equipment contractors: $81,590
Those with a bachelor’s degree in construction management or construction science received job offers with average annual salaries of $53,199 according to a July 2009 salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Annual Salary for Construction Managers
On average, Construction Managers earn $82,330 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook