What Does a Construction Management Career Entail?
Though construction projects are a team effort, construction managers lead the charge. In this role, managers oversee projects from the earliest stages to the finishing touches. Generally speaking, this role involves in-depth knowledge of budgeting, blueprints, managing staffing, and working under time constraints. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 5% increase in employment for construction managers spanning a period between 2014 and 2024.
Job prospects may vary based on your training. Below, we’ll look at the different types of construction management programs available, as well as some of the job opportunities that exist for grads.
Vocational Trade School & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Construction Management Career
A construction manager oversees the building projects like roads, commercial structures, housing, and more. In this role, you’ll need to be a critical thinker with excellent leadership skills. Ideally, you’ll be a great communicator and strategist who also knows their way around the job site. You’ll need to gain construction experience, too. Beyond developing the skills required to become an effective project manager, draftsperson, and budgeting/costing pro, you need to have experience working hands-on in construction.
Prospective managers might work as an assistant after graduation or take an internship working alongside an experienced construction manager.Read More
In other cases, experienced construction workers may choose to become a certified professional in the field. Certification is awarded through the Construction Management Association of America or the CMAA. To become a certified manager, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree, plus work experience on the job site. Those without a degree must complete eight years of construction experience, four of which must be in a management role.
If you’d like to level up your expertise beyond a certification, you can earn a master’s degree. Graduate level studies in this field emphasize management principles. This option is ideal for managers who want to advance to the C-suite, rather than deal directly with workers. You’ll develop a more strategic approach to construction management studying labor relations, safety, materials, alongside business theories and management techniques.
Overview to Earning a Construction Manager Trade Certification
What Does A Construction Manager Do?
Construction managers coordinate and supervise a range of projects such as residential, commercial, and industrial structures, plus roads, infrastructure, schools, and bridges. The primary role of a construction manager is to oversee contractors and make sure projects run on time and according to budget. Usually, this person works behind the scenes and rarely will they work in a hands-on capacity. Still, it helps to have a strong understanding of all of the pieces involved in construction.
Aspiring managers can work their way into the role but we’d advise earning a traditional degree if you’re on the younger side, as the business has shifted. Those with several years of experience in the field may be able to qualify for higher paying roles by sitting for certification exams, which also require either work experience or a degree.
These days construction managers have a more strategic role than ever. With advances in technology, global bidding processes, and hairpin margins a construction worker can do well with a background in business or a bachelor’s degree in construction management.
Typical Construction Management Trade School Requirements
It’s important to understand that there are a few different ways you can become a construction manager. You might do it by working your way up in a role or earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in construction management. If you plan on attending a trade school, however, you’ll need a GED or high school diploma to get in.
Trade school options for aspiring construction professionals cover several specialties. For example, you can learn how to become a carpenter, a roofer, operate heavy equipment, or become a mason/bricklayer. Construction management, specifically, is less concerned with fine-tuning your carpentry skills and covers the business side of the job.
Many junior or community colleges offer trade programs, too—which provides a happy medium between traditional college and trade school. There, you can choose to earn an associate or a certification in construction management, while potentially diving deeper into the hands-on aspects of the vocation.
Typical Construction Management Certifications Needed
No law requires construction managers to hold certifications, but it’s not a bad idea to seek out credentialing opportunities. Designations like Certified Professional Constructor or Certified Construction Manager offer some assurance to clients and employers. Certifications show that the holder has an understanding of safety, management, and regulatory rules, as well as some skills that prove they can offer more than an extra pair of hands on the job site.
In some cases, states require contractors to have certifications related to abatement issues like removing hazardous materials from a job site. Or, there are options like LEED certification for those who want to demonstrate skills related to green building. Most credentials are awarded through professional organizations and there are many designations. If you’re interested in obtaining certifications, it’s smart to look into the associations that cater to your interests within the construction profession.
Academic Standards for a Construction Management Degree/Certification
Construction management programs at the vocational or associate level typically admit any student with a GED or high school diploma. Those seeking a bachelor’s degree may need to submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation.
Exam/Experience Needed for a Construction Management Degree/Certification
To earn any of the certifications previously mentioned, you’ll need to have experience in the construction field or a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to study for an exam and pay the associated fees. Again, there are several options; OSHA certifications demonstrate competency in safety compliance or you can become a Certified Construction Manager. CCMs must meet minimum work experience requirements and pass an exam. Earning an Associate Construction Certification requires a bachelor’s degree or a certain amount of work experience.
Most certifications ask for college degrees or a certain amount of time in the field. One reason for this is, millennials and Gen Z construction managers/students are expected to earn a degree in a competitive field—traditional college presents a combination of management and business classes, as well as coursework centered around the technology used in the space.
Older workers, or those who go straight into construction after high school, often don’t have a degree in construction management, but these certifications allow experienced workers to advance and demonstrate their skill set.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Construction Management Degree or Certification?
It depends on a few things. For one, what kind of school are you looking at? On average, going to trade school to learn carpentry will take about one year. Other programs, like an associate degree, will take about two years to complete. And, if you opt into a bachelor’s degree in construction management, you’re looking at a four-year commitment altogether.
We should mention, a trade school program likely won’t focus on the management side of construction. Instead, the curriculum offers training that will prepare you for hands-on work. So, you may start your career by learning carpentry, roofing, etc., but will need to gain work experience and potentially earn a certification in the field. While a trade school can get you out and into a job in a shorter amount of time, it’s worth considering additional factors—like the time it takes to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, vs. the certificate and work experience required to move forward.
How much does a Construction Management Trade School Degree cost?
This also depends. A for-profit trade school, on average, costs $14,000 for a two-year program. Compared to an in-state two year or four-year college, the costs are relatively low. However, it’s hard to measure the value of a credible, construction management education, as there are so many different ways to land in this role. Community college may be the most affordable option, but there are a specific set of requirements and some students may feel that they don’t have time to take the general education courses and learn the ins and outs of construction.
How many students graduate “on time,” in 12 months or 24 months?
Many trade schools are also for-profit institutions, so you’ll need to be careful about choosing a school. Statistically, you are less likely to graduate from a for-profit school than an accredited university or college. With trade schools, retention rates can provide some insights into how well a school delivers on their promises to offer the resources needed to complete your program and find a job afterward. Look toward sites like the National Center for Education Statistics; here, you’ll find information about retention rates, and can help you shop around for legitimate programs that can jumpstart your career rather than set you back.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Overall, accreditation in the construction field is less about finding the most reputable four-year program and more about learning the tricks of the trade. As a construction manager, the experience is the first step toward becoming a manager. If you plan to attend a trade program, look for a program that your local professional organizations have deemed credible. Often, vocational schools are more expensive than traditional schools, so you’ll need to do some extra research to ensure that you’re getting the best education for your money.
Software, Technology & Skills Needed
- Ability to remain calm under pressure:
Construction projects always come with some unexpected snags. Unexpected delays and disasters come with the job. As such, you’ll need to be able to keep your cool, no matter what challenges crop up, allowing your team to stay the course and band together. A panicky construction manager is not an effective leader.
Communication skills are a hallmark of good managers regardless of industry. But, working in construction presents a whole range of additional challenges, safety concerns, and a ton of moving parts. Construction managers must be able to delegate tasks and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Ensuring no detail goes unnoticed requires excellent communication skills.
Problem-solving is another must-have skill for aspiring construction managers. In this role, you need to be ready to address budgeting issues, worker complaints, and last-minute changes.
A way with numbers is an asset for project managers of all types. In construction management, a lot of the job involves working to squeeze the most profit out of pencil-thin margins. As such, you’ll need to have some understanding of accounting principles, estimating, and construction bidding.
Construction Management Degree & Certification Options
During our research, we found that construction trade school options generally offer students a way to learn the key components of working in a hands-on role. There aren’t many schools that teach management unless you choose to enter a two or four-year program.
Vocational programs often teach a particular specialty. So, you might opt for a program that focuses on carpentry, green building, masonry, or another area of specialization. As you gain experience, you might choose to become a certified construction manager or project manager by sitting for one of the exams we mentioned above. Or, you can opt to enroll in a degree program.
- Project management
- Construction contract administration
Alternatively, you might want to look into pursuing an associate degree. In this case, you’ll study construction management, project management, or business, as well as learn the best practices associated with the trade.
Potential Careers & Salaries for Construction Management Graduates
As mentioned above, job prospects are expected to look promising for construction managers. While job seekers with a bachelor’s degree tend to be preferred over those who do not have this designation, those with significant experience on the front lines of construction projects as well as those who have held previous leadership roles will do well.
Construction Management Occupations
Construction Project Manager
A construction project manager oversees building projects. However, much of their work is administrative. Typical duties include things like estimating, quality controls, scheduling, and creating employee schedules and deadlines. Project managers are usually given a budget and will use those funds to find the best materials for a project, as well as hiring subcontractors, and more. The ideal candidate knows the ins and outs of construction, particularly where pricing, procurement, and vendors are concerned. But, they’re also great with people; tasked with communicating with clients, vendors, and employees.
What’s more, exploring this career path means you won’t be locked into this role until retirement. Instead, project managers can translate their skills into other industries, managing projects in a corporate setting, as well.
A construction superintendent supervises all aspects of a building project. Typical tasks include planning, scheduling, and coordinating construction projects, keeping projects moving on a reasonable time frame, and supervising construction workers on the job.
This role is similar to that of a project manager, as the superintendent deals with budgets, management, and scheduling. The primary difference, however, is, construction superintendents supervise field work, while project managers typically stay in the office.
Construction managers oversee buildings, roads, and other structural construction projects. Their role is to select the contractors needed to complete the project, manage the supplies, budget, and materials associated with a project, and supervise direct personnel on the job site. Construction managers are also responsible for enforcing safety measures on site, as well as communicating with clients and employees.
A foreman supervises a construction crew on the job. They may make the schedule for their staff, and often have the responsibility of making proposals and seeking out new opportunities. While most supervisors work on a full-time basis, there may be breaks in the schedule between projects.
In this role, the foreperson works to hire, fire, and manage staff, and reports to key stakeholders and management about project processes and employee performance.
Additionally, the foreperson works directly with architects, designers, and other involved professionals. They’ll interpret blueprints and relay the plan of attack to their team. Additionally, they will manage supplies, equipment, and materials and plan around a budget.
Annual Median Salary by Occupation
|Occupation||Entry-Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range||Late-Career Salary Range|
|Construction Project Manager||$59,000||$72,700||$83,000|
Construction Management Trade School Scholarships
Dupree Construction Education Fund Scholarship
Deadline: May 8
The Dupree Construction Education Fund has partnered with the National Housing Endowment to offer qualified construction students a $5,000 scholarship to help with expenses related to an advanced degree in construction. The student should have experience in residential development and intend to become an educator at an ACCE accredited facility.
Construction Education Foundation Scholarships
Applicants must have completed at least one year of an associate or baccalaureate program and have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Awards are offered based on financial need, as well as academic performance and recommendations.
Construction Trades Scholarship Competition
Each year, the NAWIC Founder’s Scholarship Foundation awards $25k in scholarship funds to construction students attending vocational school or community college. Scholarships are for up to $2,500 each.
Professional Construction Management Trade School Organizations
American Council for Construction Education
ACCE is a global advocate of quality construction education and aims to promote, support, and accredit construction education programs. The organization provides many resources to construction education programs and individuals alike. The site features job opportunities, scholarships, forums, and discussions.
American Institute of Constructors
The AIC has been around since the 1970s and is dedicated to the professional development of construction managers. The organization offers a certification, designed to help qualified construction professionals move up in their career. They also provide networking and job opportunities, and access to industry events and publications.
Associated Builders and Contractors
ABC is a national industry trade association that focuses on career development across the construction profession. ABC offers safety training, events, and career development.
Choosing an Accredited Construction Management Vocational School
The best construction programs may be offered in a trade school setting. Compared to a traditional college degree, vocational programs are usually more straight forward, with fewer extra classes. Before enrolling in a trade program, there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of. For one, you’ll need to decide whether you want to get an associate degree in construction management or enroll in a certification program.
Earning your associate degree will involve attending an accredited community college, which offers a few benefits: you’ll have the opportunity to also take classes in management and accounting, as you learn more about construction. You’ll also be able to transfer to a four-year school down the road, if you’d like. This way, you can start getting work experience and pursue your education.
Prospective construction managers should seek out schools that have earning the seal of approval from the American Council for Construction Education. The ACCE sets strict standards for programs, aiming to ensure that students receive an education that positions them as knowledgeable in every facet of construction.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid if Available
Unfortunately, becoming a construction manager involves a lot of hands-on training, at least in the beginning. While this is great for those eager to get their hands dirty and learn on the job, time-constrained students may have trouble finding the time to learn. In some cases, students may be able to take related business, accounting, and project management courses online, but construction training will need to be done in person.
Does the Vocational School Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Assistance?
Job placement is a big deal when you’re weighing educational options. First of all, you’ll want to consider what kinds of apprenticeship programs your school has to offer; the right apprenticeship can help you score a job after completing your training. As can internships, for those seeking a managerial role after graduating.
When looking at programs, take the time to look into the resources offered for job hunters. Many schools have a career center, staffed with counselors who can help guide you through the process.
Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the School and The Effects on Your Career or Salary
Construction managers don’t need to spend a great deal of time in the classroom to do their job well. Instead, they need to focus on hands-on training, which you can find through on-the-job learning, vocational programs, or in the form of an apprenticeship. The national rankings might not be so crucial if you’re planning on starting your career as a construction worker, as being able to prove you have the right skills will matter a great deal more than your degree or where you trained.
That said, if your ultimate plan is to advance to the executive level, academic rigor will come into play more heavily. According to the BLS, those with a construction management degree from an accredited four-year school will have greater prospects, and those who earn a master’s degree can increase earning potential even further.