Construction projects range widely in terms of both scope and financial investment. A construction manager may be involved in public works (building bridges, schools, hospitals, and roads), commercial projects (industrial plants and office blocks), or residential developments for housing. Given the huge scale of construction projects, a construction manager may find themself responsible for part of a project and ensuring it is completed as forecasted so it integrates with the larger plans.
Construction managers may be employed by a developer or project owner, or may operate on a self-employed contracting basis and are frequently referred to as project managers or construction superintendents. No matter what they are called, they are an integral part of the management team overseeing construction projects.
The prime responsibility of a construction manager is to deliver a quality project on schedule and within budget. To this end, they must ensure that adequate resources are deployed as required to complete the various aspects of a construction project and schedule them so as one part of a project is completed the next may proceed. In practice there are many individual pieces of work that must be scheduled properly to avoid work delays due to earlier aspects of the project not being completed on time.
As a construction manager engages in no physical labor, their key skill set deals with communicating and managing people. Construction managers report to the project owners and architects to ensure progress is occurring on time and within budget. They often work with owners, engineers, architects, construction workers, and contractors. This requires excellent presentation and communication skills as well as an ability to prioritize work and understand the limiting factors that affect how a construction project will proceed.
While a construction manager needs to understand the “big picture,” they also must have an eye for detail and develop a feel for how a project is running and progressing. The ability to plan carefully and handle problems and issues which may arise is also required. Construction managers are on site as much as they are in the office; they are often on call to handle issues that unexpectedly arise, and this may involve atypical working hours.
Required Qualifications and Certifications
Currently there are no requirements for certification as a construction manager though there is a move to certify candidates for the role.
Candidates who have a degree in construction science, construction management, and civil engineering, combined with experience in the construction industry tend to be sought after by employers. Entry-level positions are available for graduates; such positions will be supervised as part of a team assisting the construction manager with career progression and increasing responsibility based on performance and experience acquired.
Historically, construction managers have been drawn from workers who have acquired a thorough immersion in the construction industry and frequently included trade professionals and sub-contractors with hands-on experience. This preference for people with practical experience continues today, though an increasing number of schools provide the opportunity to gain an academic qualification combined with internships and work experience. Thus, their graduates have actually gained hard-hat experience as well as theoretical knowledge of the job requirements.
It is not uncommon for construction managers to continue their academic training and education once in the role, and many have earned an MBA or are working towards gaining some form of recognized management qualification.
The overall outlook for construction managers is highly positive with great demand for the skills and services they provide. Demand is fuelled by relatively large numbers of experienced construction managers retiring or coming to retirement age as well as increasing investment in infrastructure and development projects across the country. This, despite the current economic climate as construction managers are regarded as being key team members and critical factors in the financial success of a construction project, both in terms of cost control and delivering a high quality project result.
Typical salaries begin at an average annual salary of $75,000, with a significant number of construction managers earning in excess of $100,000 a year; the top 10% earning in excess of $135,000. New entrants with a college degree can expect to earn around $50,000 annually after graduation.
Construction managers provide a pivotal project management deliverable in bringing a wide range of construction projects in on time, on budget, and of the appropriate quality.
They must be able to plan and manage large numbers of people and financial resources frequently in the millions of dollars and coordinate these resources effectively. They are problem solvers who are frequently the first port of call when there is an issue with a construction project and form the bridge between those who are actually performing the construction work and the stakeholders in the project. Consequently, they must be able to communicate at all levels effectively and understand the varying needs of the different groups involved in delivering and using the project.
The role of construction manager is a challenging one with heavy responsibilities imposed; however the financial rewards are great with average earnings of around $70,000 a year and frequently much more. The industry trend is positive for candidates with hands-on construction experience with academic qualifications in construction related subjects. The job outlook and earning potential are extremely positive for those with the appropriate skills and qualifications.