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Construction Manager Career Guide

What is a construction manager?

A construction manager, often referred to as a project manager, site manager, or building manager, is an essential member of the construction industry. These professionals oversee various construction projects, ensuring they are completed accurately, timely, and within budget. At its core, the role exists to guide a construction project from start to finish, making sure every phase flows smoothly and problem-solving any obstacles that may emerge.

They are a cross between a planner, a mediator, and a supervisor. Their responsibility is to facilitate the physical construction and manage the teamwork between various stakeholders like architects, engineers, and tradespeople. The role is pivotal to the construction industry, adding value by confirming that the highest quality standards are met, time constraints are strictly adhered to, and financial budgets are not exceeded.

Duties and responsibilities

The construction manager plays a complex role encompassing several responsibilities. They plan and coordinate construction projects, which involves defining the scope of work, setting timelines, and selecting project teams. Their duty involves reviewing blueprints and construction documents and ensuring compliance with local building codes and regulations. They also handle the procurement of resources like labor, materials, equipment, and services necessary for project completion.

One of their critical tasks is to determine and monitor budgets, making certain the project costs do not overrun. As part of this, they evaluate labor costs, material prices, and other associated expenses. Another vital part of their role is managing relationships with clients, architects, engineers, and subcontractors to ensure a smooth flow of communication and collaboration. They are also responsible for handling onsite issues or problems and meeting health and safety regulations.

Work environment

The work environment of a construction manager is dynamic, and it frequently changes depending on the stage and location of the construction project. They typically split their time between a project site and a main office. On the construction site, they monitor progress, oversee workers, and manage onsite issues, often in varying weather conditions. Safety is a crucial concern on construction sites, and managers must be aware of potential hazards and ensure all safety protocols are upheld.

In the office, these professionals spend time planning, coordinating, and dealing with administrative tasks such as budgeting, scheduling, and reporting. They experience high-pressure situations regularly, especially when juggling multiple projects, confronting delays, or facing unexpected problems or changes to a project. Therefore, this role demands individuals who can work under stress, solve problems, and multitask.

Typical work hours

The work hours for a construction manager can be long and unpredictable due to the nature of construction work. The cycle of a project often dictates their schedule. It’s not uncommon for these managers to work beyond the typical 40-hour workweek, especially during peak building seasons or when project deadlines are looming. They may also be on call 24/7 to respond to emergencies or unexpected developments on a construction site. Flexible scheduling and weekend work may also be required based on the needs of each project.

How to become a construction manager

Becoming a construction manager involves a combination of formal education, relevant experience, certification, and skills. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma

The journey begins with obtaining a high school diploma. In high school, you should focus on subjects that will benefit your future career, such as mathematics, physics, and technical drawing. High school completion is often the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in the construction industry.

Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree

Most manager positions require a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as construction science, architecture, or engineering. These programs will provide a solid foundation in construction principles, project management, and business essentials. Courses can range from construction materials and methods, building codes and standards, and contract administration to blueprint reading.

Step 3: Gain practical experience

Hands-on industry experience is crucial in construction management. Consider starting as an assistant or intern while you’re still in school. This can provide you with practical knowledge of the construction process, site management, and safety protocols. After graduation, you will be expected to work within the construction industry for several years to acquire further practical experience.

Step 4: Seek certification

While not always required, professional certification can enhance your credentials and job prospects. Consider getting a certification from recognized organizations like the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) or the American Institute of Constructors (AIC). These certifications showcase your competence, commitment, and professionalism in construction management.

Step 5: Develop the necessary skills and knowledge

Apart from formal education and hands-on experience, excellent soft skills are vital. These include leadership, time management, problem-solving, and strong communication skills. A solid understanding of construction-related software and technology will also give you an edge. Further, staying updated with the latest industry trends and regulations is essential for success in this role.

Step 6: Apply for positions

After attaining the required education, certification, and skills, the final step is to apply for construction manager positions. Networking can be beneficial in finding job opportunities. Join professional organizations, attend networking events, and keep an eye on job postings on industry-specific job platforms.

How much do construction managers make?

For construction managers, compensation is largely influenced by factors such as level of education, amount of experience, type of project, geographical location, and company size. More specifically, acquiring advanced degrees and extensive industry experience can lead to higher pay. Similarly, larger, more complex projects typically offer higher compensation. Other factors impacting earnings include the cost of living and labor demand within certain regions, as well as the financial capacity of the employing company.

Highest paying industries

  • Oil and Gas Extraction – $109,680
  • Magnetic and Optical Media – $101,120
  • Specialty Hospitals – $99,450
  • Office Administrative Services – $98,560
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $95,500

Highest paying states

  • New Jersey – $117,410
  • New York – $111,370
  • Delaware – $97,410
  • Alaska – $106,760
  • Rhode Island – $102,100

Browse construction manager salary data by market

Types of construction managers

There are many areas and specializations within the broad field of construction management. These roles vary significantly, each with its unique focus and responsibilities. This diversity provides a wide range of potential career paths for those attracted to the construction management profession.

Residential construction manager

Residential construction management is a specialty that involves supervising the construction of private residences, including single-family homes, condos, townhouses, and other housing types. The managers in this specialization must demonstrate an excellent understanding of residential building codes, contract negotiation, and customer service to ensure the successful completion of residential projects.

Commercial construction manager

Another professional path is the role of a commercial construction manager. This involves overseeing the construction of commercial buildings such as office complexes, retail establishments, and restaurants. Managers in this line of work should understand various commercial construction methods and regulations and be highly skilled in project management and budgeting.

Industrial construction manager

Industrial construction managers focus on projects related to the industrial sector, including factories, power plants, or oil refineries. Due to the complexity and scale of these projects, they are often highly experienced with a wide range of engineering principles and project management techniques.

Green construction manager

Green construction managers specialize in environmentally friendly construction processes within the emerging field of sustainable building. These professionals emphasize energy efficiency, renewable resources, and minimal environmental impact during construction. This specialization requires a thorough understanding of green building techniques and applicable environmental regulations and standards.

Top skills for construction managers

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a construction manager. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.

Technical awareness

Staying on top of the progress of projects requires an in-depth understanding of construction methodologies and materials. This technical awareness proves critical when inspecting work, adhering to safety regulations, and ensuring the construction aligns with architectural plans. It also assists in identifying and preventing potential issues that could lead to costly complications or delays.

Project management skills

Effectively managing projects is an intrinsic part of their responsibilities. Keeping track of timelines, coordinating with many professionals such as architects, engineers, and subcontractors, and ensuring that progress meets the predefined benchmarks are all integral to successful project execution. Good command over project management principles promotes efficiency, enhances productivity, and drives the project toward successful completion within stipulated timelines and budgets.

Communication and leadership

Strong communication and leadership abilities are essential to successfully coordinating complex construction projects. Managers often rely on a diverse team, necessitating clear, concise, and effective communication. As team leaders, they must inspire, motivate, and guide the team, ensuring harmony, cohesion, and functionality amidst the workforce. These attributes help drive the project forward while preemptively resolving any interpersonal conflicts that may arise.

Problem-solving skills

Resolving unexpected hurdles and complications is an inevitable part of the job. The right reactions and prompt decisions can avert losses and maintain the project’s momentum, whether construction delays due to weather, unexpected cost overruns, or unforeseen field issues. Proficiency in problem-solving can help them adapt and react constructively to such unanticipated roadblocks, ensuring that the project stays on course.

Proficiency in construction software

In a technology-driven era, proficiency with construction software can significantly streamline their job. From project planning and scheduling to resource allocation and budget tracking, efficient software can enhance productivity and drive successful project execution. Familiarity with construction software makes a manager more credible and efficient, contributing to better project management and record-keeping.

Construction manager career path

As a construction manager, there are many career growth opportunities, depending on the individual’s interests and skills. With time and experience, they can grow vertically into senior construction manager or project director roles. These roles involve larger-scale decision-making, increased responsibility, strategic planning, and complex project management. They may also require interfacing with external parties like clients and regulatory agencies.

More experienced managers may also move into self-employment, establishing their own construction management or consulting firms. Here, they would take on the role of entrepreneur, conducting new business development, establishing client relationships, and potentially managing other construction managers. This path offers unique challenges and rewards, including increased income potential and decision-making autonomy.

Beyond traditional career progression, these professionals can also pursue avenues that involve greater specialization. For instance, roles such as a lead architect or civil engineer may be obtainable after enough professional experience and additional educational courses. These roles offer the opportunity to focus more intensely on construction projects’ design and technical aspects. Positions in government agencies overseeing construction standards or teaching construction management at universities are other exemplary alternatives.

This career can also lead to switching to related fields. Opportunities in real estate development, city planning, or facility management are options that can leverage the skills and experience gained from working in construction management. These career shifts often require additional education or certifications like other progression pathways.

As the construction industry moves toward more sustainable practices, construction managers are increasingly required to implement sustainable and eco-friendly methods in project management. Managing waste effectively, using green building materials, adopting energy-efficient technologies, and obtaining certifications like LEED are all trends that demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

Another recent trend is modular and prefabricated constructions, which enable quicker project completion, better quality control, and cost reduction. This, however, requires these professionals to adapt their management strategies to suit these new construction methods. Finally, safety has always been paramount in the construction industry, but the adoption of technology such as wearables and drones has further enhanced safety measures and has become an essential part of the industry standards that managers must adhere to.

Employment projections for construction managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of construction managers is projected to grow 5 percent through 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. They will be needed to oversee the anticipated increase in construction activity over the coming decade. Those with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering and construction experience will have the best job prospects.

Construction manager career tips

Gain hands-on experience

Gaining hands-on experience is crucial for success. While theory and formal education play an important role in understanding construction principles, practical experience provides real-world examples of these concepts. This will make you more effective in managing projects and teams, solving construction-related problems, and understanding the intricacies of architectural plans and procedures.

Brush up on new construction technologies

The construction industry is continuously evolving, with technological advancements significantly shaping how projects are delivered. Staying updated with the latest tools can significantly enhance your project management abilities, streamline construction processes, and provide more cost-effective solutions.

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM)
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality in construction
  • Drones and laser-based surveying tools
  • 3D printing
  • Prefabrication and modular construction

Build a professional network

Networking is a big success factor as a construction manager. Relationships with peers and industry authorities can provide you with advice, job opportunities, partnerships, and mentorship opportunities. Networking can also help you stay updated with industry trends and regulations. Consider joining professional associations and participating in networking events.

  • Construction Management Association of America (CMAA)
  • American Institute of Constructors (AIC)
  • Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)
  • Construction Industry Networking Groups on LinkedIn
  • Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA)

Pursue relevant certifications

Having professional certifications can enhance your profile and validate your experience as a manager in the construction industry. It shows your dedication to your career and your drive for continuous improvement. Obtaining a certification in a specialized area of construction management can facilitate job advancement and career opportunities.

  • Certified Construction Manager (CCM)
  • Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) from the American Institute of Constructors
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

Adapt to the worksite culture

Every construction site has its unique culture and dynamics. Adapting and respecting the worksite culture is key to effective management. Cultivate clear communication, encourage teamwork, acknowledge good work, and be a fair leader to foster a productive worksite environment. A positive worksite culture can help the project’s progression and the relationships among team members.

Where the construction manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Bechtel
  • Fluor
  • The Turner Corporation
  • PCL Construction
  • Skanska USA

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Washington

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • ConstructionJobs
  • CareerBuilder
  • Monster


What essential skills does a construction manager need?

Construction managers need outstanding communication, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities. They should deeply understand construction methods, materials, and blueprints. More technical skills include proficiency in construction and project management software and knowledge of building codes and laws.

Do construction managers play a role in the design process?

Yes, construction managers often participate in the design process, especially in a method known as “design-build” where a single entity contracts the design and construction services. They coordinate with architects and engineers to make the design functional and efficient.

What are a construction manager’s typical duties during a project?

Construction managers oversee construction projects’ planning, coordination, and supervision from conception to completion. Responsibilities may vary but usually include preparing cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables; interpreting and explaining contracts and technical information to other professionals; reporting work progress and budget to clients; collaborating with architects, engineers, and other construction specialists; and responding to work delays, emergencies, and other problems.

Is certification necessary for a construction manager?

While not universally required, certification can certainly enhance a construction manager’s career. The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) offer multiple certification programs demonstrating expertise and knowledge in the industry.

What is the usual level of education required to become a construction manager?

Construction managers typically hold bachelor’s degrees in construction science, architecture, or engineering. As construction processes grow more complex, employers are placing greater importance on specialized education. Some companies may also prefer candidates with a master’s degree in a construction-related field.

Can construction managers be self-employed?

Yes, many construction managers operate as independent contractors or consultants. In these scenarios, they’re hired by property owners or construction firms to oversee the work of separate contractors. This setup allows them to manage multiple clients concurrently.

How do construction managers ensure health and safety on site?

Construction managers must ensure all workers wear appropriate safety gear, monitor the worksite for potential risks, regularly communicate safety procedures, and conduct safety training sessions. They also play a vital role in developing and implementing safety policies.

What are some common challenges faced in the construction management industry?

Construction managers often face delays caused by bad weather, material shortages, or unexpected complexities within the project. They also manage conflicts, such as contractual issues between clients and contractors or disputes with labor unions. Budget management can also be challenging since construction projects can potentially go over budget due to unforeseen costs.

What is the impact of technological advancements on construction managers?

Technology has dramatically impacted the field of construction management. Tools such as project management software, BIM, VR for immersive project visualization, and drones for easy site inspection have made their role more efficient and precise. They must stay current with technological advancements in the industry.

What is the role of a construction manager in sustainability and green building?

In response to increasing environmental concerns, construction managers have a significant role in promoting sustainability. They can guide the selection of sustainable materials, manage waste effectively, and work to reduce energy consumption on the construction site. They are also involved in efforts to achieve green building certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

What does a typical work week look like for a construction manager?

Construction managers typically work full time, although the job frequently involves overtime to meet project deadlines. The work can be stressful, often requiring coordination among various groups and making decisions quickly. The job typically requires onsite presence where the construction manager will supervise operations and solve problems as they arise.