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. This professional oversees various construction projects, ensuring they are completed accurately, timely, and within budget. At its core, the role exists to guide a construction project from its start to finish, ensuring every phase flows smoothly and problem-solving any obstacles that may emerge.
The construction manager is a cross between a planner, a mediator, and a supervisor. Their responsibility is not only to facilitate the physical construction but also to manage the teamwork between various stakeholders like architects, engineers, and tradespeople. The role is pivotal to the construction industry and adds 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 that encompasses several responsibilities. They are charged with planning and coordinating 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 any on-site issues or problems and ensuring health and safety regulations are met.
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 on-site 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, construction managers 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, are problem solvers, and can 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 construction managers to work beyond the typical 40-hour workweek, especially during peak building seasons or when project deadlines are looming. Managers 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 individual project.
How to become a construction manager
Becoming a construction manager is a fulfilling career path that combines technical proficiency with managerial skills. This role requires a strong understanding of architecture, engineering, and construction combined with leadership skills. The path to becoming a construction manager involves formal education, gaining relevant experience, getting certified, and honing vital skills needed for the job. Some companies may require their construction managers to hold additional qualifications or licenses depending on their specific projects.
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma
A construction manager 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 graduate is often the minimum educational requirement for entry-level positions in the construction industry.
Step 2: Pursue a bachelor’s degree
Most construction 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 the field of 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 before becoming a construction manager.
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 construction management 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 the size of the company. 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
On a geographical scale, here are the top five highest-paying states for construction managers:
- New Jersey – $117,410
- New York – $111,370
- Delaware – $97,410
- Alaska – $106,760
- Rhode Island – $102,100
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. This may include 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, these managers 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
Success as a construction manager demands technical proficiency, strategic prowess, and interpersonal skillset. A keen understanding of construction methods, project management, budgeting, estimation, and troubleshooting skills is vital. Proficiency in using construction software also leverages efficiency. Effective communication and leadership skills ensure smooth team collaboration and better client rapport, contributing extensively to the projects’ success. Lastly, problem-solving aptitude aids in effectively dealing with onsite complexities and unexpected challenges.
Staying atop 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 a construction manager’s 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. A construction manager often relies on a diverse team, necessitating clear, concise, and effective communication. As a team leader, the manager 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.
Resolving unexpected hurdles and complications is an inevitable part of a construction manager’s job. The right reactions and prompt decisions can avert losses and maintain the project’s momentum, whether it’s construction delays due to weather, unexpected cost overruns, or unforeseen field issues. Proficiency in problem-solving can help a construction manager 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 a construction manager’s 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.
As a construction manager, there are many career growth opportunities, depending on the individual’s interests and skills. With time and experience, a construction manager can grow vertically into roles such as senior construction manager or construction project director. 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 construction 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, construction managers 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. Furthermore, positions in government agencies overseeing construction standards or teaching construction management at universities are other exemplary alternatives.
Lastly, a career as a construction manager can also lead to a switch into related fields. Opportunities in real estate development, city planning, or facility management are options that can leverage the skills and know-how gleaned from working in construction management. These career shifts often require additional education or certifications like other progression pathways.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook
The construction management sector has witnessed several trends in recent years. One significant aspect includes the growing adoption of digital technology, revolutionizing construction managers’ operations. The use of predictive analytics, augmented reality, Building Information Modeling (BIM), project management software, and cloud-based solutions have become indispensable tools for successful construction management.
As the construction industry moves towards 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 a construction manager’s 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 construction managers 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 construction managers must adhere to.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of construction managers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Construction managers 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, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects.
Construction manager career tips
Gain hands-on experience
Gaining hands-on experience is crucial for success as a construction manager. While theory and formal education play an important role in understanding the principles governing construction, 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 playing a significant role in shaping how projects are delivered. Staying updated with the latest tools can significantly enhance your project management abilities, streamline construction processes, and allow for 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 jobs are
- The Turner Corporation
- PCL Construction
- Skanska USA
- New York
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 they 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 the 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, 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?
Typically, construction managers hold a bachelor’s degree 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 construction managers to manage multiple clients concurrently.
How do they 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 industry?
Construction managers often face delays caused by bad weather, material shortages, or unexpected complexities within the project. They also manage any 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?
Technology has dramatically impacted the field of construction management. Tools such as project management software, BIM (Building Information Modeling), VR (Virtual Reality) for immersive project visualization, and drones for easy site inspection have made the role of construction managers more efficient and precise. Construction managers must therefore 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.