If you’re interested in a career in construction management, it’s important to understand the many different paths you can take.
There are many specialties within construction management, and each one offers its own unique set of challenges and rewards.
In this post, we’ll explore four common career paths in construction management: field supervision, project management, estimating, and engineering. We’ll also take a look at some of the specific coursework you can expect to complete for each career.
1. What Is Construction Management?
Construction managers may work on a variety of building types, such as commercial or residential properties, hospitals, or sports arenas. Some construction managers handle only administrative tasks such as hiring subcontractors and participating in pre-construction meetings, while others lead the entire process from beginning to end.
2. What Do Construction Managers Do?
Construction management is a diverse industry. The responsibilities of construction managers depend largely on their specialty and level of expertise:
Estimating: Construction estimators use historical data and basic arithmetic to determine how much it will cost to build a project, such as a bridge or commercial building.
Engineering: Civil engineers design and plan construction projects. They may study the existing conditions of nearby buildings and roads in order to prepare blueprints for new additions.
Field supervision: Construction managers with field supervision responsibilities oversee the coordination of individual workers on-site and inspect completed work for accuracy and compliance with state and local building codes.
Project management: Construction project managers are in charge of planning, budgeting, timetabling, and coordinating different parts of the construction process to ensure that projects stay on schedule. They also inspect completed work for safety and quality.
Site management: Site managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a construction site, including coordinating with subcontractors to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. Site managers also handle paperwork such as insurance claims in the event of an accident or injury at the job site.
3. How Do You Become a Construction Manager?
Aspiring construction managers should expect to complete formal education requirements, although these requirements can vary depending on the type of construction manager you want to become.
Most entry-level construction managers begin as laborers, equipment operators, or carpenters and gain experience working on actual building projects before pursuing a career as a supervisor. Construction management degrees help prepare students for leadership roles by teaching them how best to allocate resources and complete projects efficiently and safely. An associate’s degree in vocational-technical education can provide the necessary knowledge to secure an entry-level position as a supervisor.
4. What Are Construction Management Degrees?
Construction Management degrees can be found at the associate, bachelor, and graduate levels. In high school, students should focus on math, science, and business courses to prepare for a career as a construction manager. Most colleges also require some form of general education distribution as part of their degree requirements.
Associate degrees in construction management provide a basic level of education and are best suited for students who want to gain entry-level construction management positions. Associate degrees usually take two years to complete and cover fundamental topics such as law, business ethics, and mathematics, much like the first two years of a bachelor’s degree in construction management.
Bachelor’s degrees in construction management provide more comprehensive education, allowing students to learn about the legal issues that construction managers face and take part in hands-on learning activities such as building scale models. Construction management bachelor’s degrees usually take four years to complete.
Graduate degrees in construction management provide advanced education for those who plan to become project managers or site supervisors. While not required for some higher-level construction management jobs, a graduate degree can help applicants stand out from other candidates and boost their earning potential. Construction management master’s degrees typically take one to two years to complete and may include an internship or practicum as part of the education requirements.
5. Where Do Construction Managers Work?
Construction managers are employed by commercial contractors, government agencies, trade associations, and building material suppliers. Commercial construction managers often oversee entire projects from beginning to end, while government construction managers typically work on specific design or renovation projects like schools, prisons, or office buildings.
6. What Is the Average Construction Manager’s Salary?
The median annual wage for all types of supervisors in the construction industry was $58,340 as of May 2012. Those who worked for general building contractors tend to earn the most, with median wages of $59,210 per year or $28.87 per hour. Government construction managers were the next highest earners at $56,120 per year or $26.97 per hour.
Construction managers working for specialty trade contractors averaged $54,010 per year or $26.08 per hour, while those employed by non-building contractors averaged $46,640 per year or $22.17 per hour.
7. What Are Advancement Opportunities Available to Construction Managers?
Supervisors in the construction industry can advance their careers by gaining experience and attending graduate school. Experienced supervisors may be promoted to project managers, who oversee multiple projects at once or sit on a panel of experts that provide advice to management. With additional education, some construction managers with bachelor’s degrees go on to become construction managers with master’s degrees and land jobs at architectural and engineering firms.
Construction managers who want to work in government or higher education can advance their careers by earning professional certifications such as the Project Management Professional credential from the Project Management Institute. Certified Public Accountant, certified management accountant, and safety programs such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) General Industry Outreach Training Program also provide opportunities for advancement.
Construction managers can advance their careers by meeting with local and industry professionals and attending seminars, workshops, and training courses that offer information on construction management topics such as personal development, teamwork, and finance. They can further their career education by reading trade publications such as “Construction Executive,” “Construction Equipment Guide,” and “Engineering News-Record,” attending educational conferences, or by enrolling in online courses taught by universities such as Harvard University.
8. What Is the Average Construction Manager’s Length of Employment?
According to a study published in May 2012, 57 percent of supervisors in the construction industry expected to be with their current employers for at least three years, while 19 percent expected to be there for five or more years.
Some construction managers are looking at shorter-term employment, including working in the industry for just one additional year.
9. What Is the Job Outlook Like for Construction Managers?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that jobs in the architecture and engineering field were expected to increase by 10 percent through 2020, which is about average compared to other professions. The BLS also reported that job opportunities for supervisors in the construction industry would be limited because most contractors have operating managers and assistant superintendents they prefer to promote from within.
According to “Construction Executive,” many workers with no prior experience, such as former military personnel and art school graduates, entered the construction field after the housing crisis began in 2007. This surge in new employees allowed contractors to take on more projects but led to an increase in construction managers who were less experienced and had lower salaries. New entrants’ lack of experience will lead to a decrease in demand for construction managers.
10. What Types of Companies Do Construction Managers Work for?
Construction Manager positions can be found in the following types of companies:
- Residential building contractors
- General/Commercial building contractors
- Non-building contractors
- Manufacturing, service, and mining establishments
Construction managers can be found in any type of industry, but construction management is often an entry-level career for those looking to pursue a Project Management Program. Construction management schools equip students with tools and techniques to pursue careers as project managers (PMP), estimators, risk managers, safety directors, superintendents, or other construction roles that do not necessarily include hands-on work.
11. Best Colleges to Study Construction Management
There are a number of colleges that offer construction management courses. Some of the best colleges include:
- Pennsylvania State University
- Clemson University
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale
- Texas A&M University
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Each of these colleges has a well-developed program that offers students the opportunity to learn about all aspects of construction management. They also provide students with access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.
The construction management career path is an interesting and ever-changing one. It can be challenging to break into, but it’s definitely worth it if you love working with your hands and are interested in the building process. We hope this article has given you a good overview of what a construction manager does and some tips on how to start down this career path. Are you ready to take the next step? Let us know in the comments!