Careers in Construction Management

Construction workers looking at blueprints on construction site

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Construction management is supposed to boom over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the position of construction manager is expected to grow 16% between 2012 and 2022—a far faster growth rate than the 11% national average.

If you’re looking for a construction management job (or if you’re just curious about the position), you’re not alone. But what goes into being a construction manager, and what can you expect from the job? Below, I break down the ins and outs of construction management so that you can decide if it’s a good fit.

Earning Potential

Let’s answer the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue: how much can you make? The BLS report found that median pay in 2012 was $82,790. The highest 10% earned $144,520+, but even the lowest 10% could expect to make $50,000 or more. Formal education is not required but is increasingly preferred, and there are a slew of books on the subject. Many construction managers start as a plumber or a general contractor and have used their work experience to move up in the field. 

Others got their bachelor’s in architecture, engineering, construction sciences, or a related field and followed up their education with internships. Most employers will consider a construction manager with an associate’s degree and strong work experience.

Construction Management Skills

A construction manager owns a construction project from the beginning to the end, making him or her in charge of ensuring the project is feasible, the designs are all compliant, the project is properly managed, the project remains in budget and in scope, time is managed correctly, contractors do their jobs safely, and the end product is quality. In sum, the construction manager is the lifeblood of any construction project. So when applying to construction management jobs, applicants should focus on these five core traits:

  1. Project management skills: Can demonstrate a history of managing time schedules, coordinating meetings, working with stakeholders, and negotiating agreements.
  2. Communication skills: A strong listener and communicator, able to work effectively with others on a team, and function as a representative of the company to stakeholders.
  3. Document-management skills: Must be able to compose and follow documents through bids, job reports, and proposals, and must be able to understand contract requirements and construction standards.
  4. Technical skills: Must be able to interpret technical drawings. Software skills and experience a plus (such as a familiarity with rugged smartphones and construction management software).
  5. Analytical skills: Can “roll with the punches.” Deal with unexpected delays, manage materials, and keep the project in line.

Additional Certifications

Some states, like South Carolina, require construction managers to receive certification for overseeing public construction projects. Check with your state to see if this condition applies to you. Otherwise, optional certifications in the field of construction management are one way to make an applicant stand out. The Construction Management Association of America offers a Certified Construction Manager (CCM) certification for construction managers who have demonstrated that they can control projects’ time, cost, and quality. 

Plenty of colleges, like Temple, offer certificates in construction management as well—but it tends to come as an extension of a bigger program (in Temple’s case, to their business school). Other construction managers have opted to get a project management certificate, such as from the Project Management Institute, and translated their project management skills into construction.

There are lots of other construction certifications to consider when trying to break into construction management--this article did not attempt to cover all of them. With that said, these essential skills are what every hiring manager looks for in a construction management hire.