How to Become a Construction Manager

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Construction projects require the coordination of a vast number of people, materials and logistics. Behind every successful construction project is a construction manager: that is, a person who coordinates and plans the project to ensure it is carried out on time and on budget. These leaders in construction must not only have a good working knowledge of construction and design, but must also be effective leaders. Because it touches every aspect of a construction project, a job in construction management can be a great fit for those who are interested in building and design, but don’t want to specialize in a field like architecture, civil engineering or carpentry.

Construction Manager Job Description

Sometimes called general contractors or project managers, a construction manager is in charge of projects and ensuring they are finished within the specified parameters, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job duties include:

  • Preparing cost estimates
  • Managing personnel
  • Interpreting technical information for those who report to them
  • Selecting subcontractors
  • Working with architects and other professionals in the industry

A big part of a construction manager’s job is planning a project, including estimating costs. This allows the contractor to determine the materials and personnel required to complete the project.

Construction managers exist in every facet of construction, from public to residential, and work on homes, office buildings, government buildings, bridges, roads, monuments and more. While many projects have a single construction manager in charge of overseeing the entire project, some large, complex projects might have multiple contractors working on different aspects, all reporting to a single, top-level construction manager.

Construction Manager Education

Experience is necessary for any construction manager, but most large construction firms also tend to prefer contractors with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in an appropriate field, according to the BLS. Fields like construction science, architecture or engineering are all appropriate degrees for a construction manager.

Construction managers typically gain many of their skills through job experience by working on construction projects in other capacities. In most firms, aspiring contractors work as assistants to more experienced construction managers, learning for several months or years before they step into the role themselves.

No licensure is explicitly required nationally for construction managers; however, certification is becoming more important to attaining desirable projects or positions within firms. Certifications — such as the Construction Management Association of America’s Certified Construction Manager designation or the American Institute of Constructors’ Associate Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor designations — can help a construction manager find work more easily. Some states require licensure.

In addition to the baseline technical skills required to run a construction project, a construction manager needs good business and analytical skills, as well as the ability to work with customers and clients effectively. Decision-making skills and leadership skills are also necessary, and a construction manager must be able to manage not just their own time, but the time of all of the workers reporting to them.

Construction Manager Salary

Bar graph depicting the median annual wages for construction managers

A construction manager’s median annual salary is around $89,000, the BLS reports. While the bottom range is around $54,000 per year, the top range is around $158,000 per year; these numbers are affected by experience and education. Of the various subfields of construction management, civil engineering pays the best, while residential construction is the least lucrative. Construction managers may be salaried or hourly employees, and they may get bonuses or overtime pay in addition to their annual wage.

Education is becoming more and more important for construction managers. An online master’s in construction management from Jefferson can help you get the construction management job you want and may help you command a better salary. Jefferson’s flexible online program allows you to earn your degree on a schedule that works for you.

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