To get a construction management job, a candidate is now expected to complete a bachelor’s degree program rather than a technical degree or apprenticeship. This expectation is due in part to the increase of construction laws. Furthermore, construction requires knowledge of more advanced technology that may demand a series of software courses to master. These new requirements demand at least a bachelor’s—if not a master’s—degree from management job candidates.
Construction manager positions are unique because they largely do not require hands-on construction work at the job site. Naturally, there is no question that construction managers must have practical building knowledge. Yet, construction managers primarily delegate duties to construction workers. It is an administrative job that mainly involves obtaining construction permits or licenses, hiring main contractors, subcontracting specialty construction workers, filing paperwork, performing safety and quality inspections, and overseeing the prompt delivery of all construction materials.
Construction managers are alternately known as project managers because they supervise the construction project from start to finish. They initiate the project when they first conceptualize it and terminate it after the final cleaning of the building. Like all project managers, they are responsible for breaking the project into workable increments. They create and reinforce deadlines, pushing contractors and subcontractors to work overtime if need be. They also interact with clients and co-workers such as architects to touch base on the project and respond to concerns. If they are government contractors, they communicate with government agents.
Another major responsibility of construction management is compliance. Construction managers ensure that contractors follow all federal and state regulations for environmental hazards, occupational safety, and cleanliness. Many of these regulations come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which issues many laws concerning the types of materials used in construction as well as the correct use of equipment. During construction projects, managers prepare their contractors for OSHA audits. Therefore, it is essential that construction managers implement OSHA and other state regulations, urging their importance on all construction workers. Often, construction managers arrange pre-construction safety and health seminars held by OSHA instructors to equip workers with this knowledge before they start building.
As part of project management, construction managers carry out risk management principles. That is, they look at the projected costs of their project and try to streamline those costs. Often, they use computer-aided design (CAD) software to determine the most efficient construction processes. Besides helping them envision the construction project, CAD software also enables construction managers to select which materials best suit the project and organize budgets. CAD software, in fact, is the single most important technology construction-management students can learn before they seek jobs.
There is such a lack of construction managers today because many people shy away from the hazardous nature of construction work. In fact, because it is so highly regulated, construction management is safer now than in other historical era. Yet, it is up to construction managers to arm themselves with safety and health knowledge. For instance, they need to know that OSHA forbids the driver of a construction vehicle from driving in reverse until the path behind him is completely void of workers and materials. Knowing regulations like these empowers construction managers to imbue utmost safety into their construction project.
It is now a bona fide necessity for construction managers to have bachelor’s degrees in a construction field before gaining entry-level construction jobs. Most universities offer programs in construction science or construction management, along with many engineering programs. These programs teach future managers not only building science and compliance, but also administrative procedures such as cost analysis and scheduling. As a side note, it is becoming more essential for construction managers to know Spanish, so candidates are well-advised to gain fluency in that language.
While completing their baccalaureate programs, future construction managers would do well to obtain internships that allow them to apply their classroom knowledge. These internship opportunities are not hard to find, but require an intensive commitment from the prospective manager. Moreover, these internships often teach future managers the basics of CAD, which is now de rigueur for construction management.
Construction managers who want to head small construction projects usually have no need to complete more than a bachelor’s degree. Certification programs are recommended, however, since they testify to a manager’s know-how. The American Institute of Constructors and the Construction Management Association are only two examples of certification-granting construction institutions.
However, construction managers who want to lead large-scale projects often complete master’s degrees in construction science or construction management. A small number of them even decide to teach construction science, in which case they usually obtain doctorate degrees.
As befits their executive positions, construction managers earn high salaries. A typical starting salary for a new manager is about $50,000, while the average salary for managers with five or more years of experience is about $74,000. In general, it is common for managers who work residential construction jobs to earn smaller salaries than commercial construction jobs. Furthermore, many managers opt to become self-employed, which means they have more freedom to set their salaries and schedules.