How to Become a Construction Manager
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- Construction management requires a strong foundation in math and engineering.
- Aspiring construction managers study construction management, business, or engineering.
- Some states may require a state license, and professional credentials are available.
Construction managers oversee building projects from start to finish. They work on both residential and commercial builds, as well as infrastructure projects like roadways, bridges, and tunnels. Construction managers need a bachelor's degree and construction experience. Degrees in business, engineering, and construction can lead to entry-level jobs. These construction specialists need organizational, customer service, and budgeting skills.
On-the-job training can supplement skills gained from a construction management degree. Many work in residential and commercial construction companies or heavy construction firms. About 36% of construction managers own their own business. Read on to learn how to become a construction manager.
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What Does a Construction Manager Do?
Construction Manager Responsibilities
- Prepare construction bids based on projected supply and labor costs
- Review blueprints or construction plans to determine the scope of work and project timelines
- Prepare permit applications and ensure compliance with building codes and inspections
- Oversee construction activities and supervise staff
- Purchase materials and negotiate with suppliers to ensure timely delivery
Construction managers typically begin as construction supervisors or assistant construction managers. On-the-job training or an advanced degree prepares a construction manager to take on more responsibility for projects. Expect to spend time in the office and at job sites, with hours that may vary due to deadlines and project needs.
Construction managers with experience and additional education may move into project management or construction superintendent jobs. Professionals in leadership positions are responsible for finding jobs, completing bids, and supervising employees.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% increase in construction management employment from 2020-2030. The projected growth is linked to a need for more homes, hospitals, schools, and infrastructure projects like roads and water systems.
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What Are the Steps to Become a Construction Manager?
A construction management degree can provide a strong foundation for successful construction management careers. Classes cover business duties, building processes, and emerging technology like green energy. However, new construction managers must also learn about construction processes and gain on-the-job experience.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Construction Management
Earning a bachelor's in construction management typically requires 120 credits, including general education requirements and construction management courses. Online programs usually do not require on-campus attendance. Learners may also pursue degrees in business management or engineering.
A construction management degree requires a strong foundation in math and engineering. Classes may include construction finance, cost estimating, and soils in construction.
Students also develop important skills related to time management, communication, and organization. Schools may offer electives or degree concentrations in topics such as residential construction management or commercial construction management. Many schools incorporate hands-on learning through co-op or internship programs.
Students may pursue construction management degrees in standalone programs or in divisions of a school of engineering or business. Some schools may offer credit for prior learning, skilled trades training, or professional experience. This credit can reduce the time required to complete a bachelor's in construction management.
Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Construction Management Job or Apprenticeship
After completing your construction management degree program, you can apply for jobs or seek out an apprentice program. Apprenticeships offer on-the-job training, allowing you to earn a paycheck while learning. Job titles for early career professionals may include:
- Field Coordinator
- Assistant Project Manager
- Construction Estimator
Job applicants need a resume and professional references. An entry-level construction manager earns an average of $59,710, according to Payscale data from August 2022. Pay increases to $66,840, as of August 2022, for construction managers with 1-4 years experience.
Students having difficulty finding an entry-level position may contact their school's career services office or connect with alumni. Some schools offer college-to-career bridge programs to help students find employment, or they offer internship opportunities for new graduates.
Step 3: Earn Your Master's of Construction Management
After gaining professional experience in the construction industry, students may pursue a master's in construction management. A master's degree program can also help career changers prepare for a new line of work. Master's programs typically require two years to complete.
Many schools offer online master's in construction management degree programs. Some schools offer an MBA with a construction management concentration. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), graduate tuition and fees averaged $19,792 a year in 2019-2020. Many students take out loans to cover the costs, though schools may offer fellowships or scholarships.
The curriculum incorporates business, technology, and management, with opportunities to tailor the degree to individual career goals. Popular concentrations include:
- Facility Management
- Sustainability and Green Construction
- Project Management
- Real Estate Development
Students may also consider a graduate certificate program, which typically requires one year.
Step 4: Get a Job as a Construction Manager
Individuals can leverage their education and work experience to find construction management jobs. Job titles may include:
- Safety Director
- Operations Manager
- Construction Engineer
- Construction Project Manager
A master's in construction management can help an application stand out for these higher-level positions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 6% of construction managers complete a master's degree program, but education and experience can increase salary expectations. Payscale reports that a mid-career construction manager with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of $79,710, as of August 2022.
Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or Specialization
Continuing education courses can ensure construction managers stay up to date on construction techniques, building codes, and technology changes. State licensing boards and professional credentialing organizations also require continuing education each year.
Continuing education includes career-specific training on various topics, allowing individuals to choose courses that interest them. Individuals interested in careers in research or academia may continue their education with a doctorate in construction management, typically offered through engineering colleges.
Licensing and Certification
Many states require contractors to hold a valid license before bidding on jobs. Requirements vary by state but typically include an exam on building codes and regulatory requirements. The license will specify the dollar value of construction jobs a contractor can work on.
Construction managers may seek professional certification to highlight their knowledge and skills. Options include the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors certifications. Certification requirements include passing an exam and professional experience.
What to Know About Becoming a Construction Manager
Colleges and universities should hold institutional accreditation, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. This ensures the academic quality of a school and assures that your degree will be recognized by future employers. Online colleges are accredited just like their campus-based counterparts.
Some schools choose to seek accreditation specifically for their construction management degrees. Independent organizations review a program's curriculum, faculty expertise, and student success. Construction management programs may receive accreditation from the American Council for Construction Education, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, and National Architectural Accrediting Board.
According to NCES data, U.S. students paid an average of $19,020 in tuition and fees in 2020-2021. Graduate students paid an average of $19,792 in tuition in 2019-2020. Students should keep in mind that college comes with additional costs. Hidden costs like books, technology, room and board, and other expenses can add up. Scholarships and grants can reduce these costs. Choosing an online program may also save learners money.
Construction manager salary expectations vary by experience, education, location, and industry. The BLS reported a median salary for construction managers of $98,890 in May 2021. However, construction managers in the natural gas pipeline industry reported an average salary of $209,940. Most construction managers work in nonresidential building construction, which reported an average salary of $110,690. Alaska offered the highest pay for construction managers at $150,230.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Construction Manager
Construction managers need analytical, organizational, and communication skills in addition to an understanding of construction methods. Construction managers often work directly with the client or project owner. The manager must understand their needs and goals for the project to be a success.
Construction managers also keep projects running on time and on budget. Careful planning for labor, supplies, and required inspections provides efficiency and keeps the work moving without unnecessary delays.
Earning a construction management degree can take four years or more to complete. However, many schools offer accelerated construction management degree programs. Transfer credits and credit for prior learning or on-the-job training can reduce the credits required for graduation.
Students can make the most of their time in college by gaining on-the-job experience through internships, apprenticeships, or cooperative learning programs. These programs place students with an experienced construction manager, allowing students to gain real-world work experience.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 28% of construction management professionals have a bachelor's degree. About half of construction managers have a high school diploma or some college and no degree. Experience in masonry, carpentry, or other construction will be vital to your success in moving from construction labor to construction management.
However, you may benefit from business, accounting, or engineering classes. An associate in construction management degree can complement your work experience without requiring four years of study.
Yes, several colleges and universities offer online construction management degrees. Online degree programs provide the same rigorous curriculum as on-campus programs, ensuring students graduate prepared for construction management careers.
The flexibility of an online construction management degree can allow individuals to continue working while earning their degree. This flexibility can be especially valuable for construction industry workers looking to expand their career opportunities through a bachelor's or master's in construction management.
Construction management pay will likely increase with experience, but other factors impact salary expectations as well. These factors include the industry and type of construction. The median salary for construction management was $98,890 in May 2021, though top earners reported salaries over $163,800, according to the BLS.
The natural gas pipeline industry reported the highest average salary for construction managers, $209,940, as of May 2021. Construction management careers in Alaska reported an average salary of $150,230, with Anchorage topping the list of highest-paying metro areas for construction management with an average salary of $160,710, according to the BLS.