Skip to main content

What Do Construction Managers Do?

Go Back

Published on:

January 15, 2019


What Do Construction Managers Do?

Trade Insight, Educational Summary & Career Outlook

For undergraduates considering a profession in construction management, it’s important to determine if this career path is a good fit for you based on your person strengths and skill-set. Successful construction managers are natural leaders and possess excellent business and interpersonal acumen. Personality types that thrive in this role are independent risk-takers who take pleasure in seeing projects through from start to finish. Additionally, they’re often individuals who enjoy applying their problem-solving abilities and taking a hands-on approach throughout their daily routine. People who consider a position within construction management tend to prefer working outdoors and using real-world materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. In this article, we’ll explore the role of a construction manager in greater depth, including their job description, commonly-asked questions, educational requirements and duties entailed.

Below, a checklist of important qualities required for a career in construction management:

  • Analytical Acumen: Construction managers are required to plan project strategies, as well as deal with unexpected delays and other issues. They also must use their problem-solving abilities to handle conflicts that arise over the course of a project. Additionally, most managers use planning and cost-estimating software in order to determine the price of materials and time entailed to complete projects while satisfying client objectives.
  • Business Savvy: A construction manager (CM) is responsible for addressing budget matters while coordinating and supervising workers and other professional staff involved in a project. Due to the level of expectations, it is crucial to select highly-qualified staff and establish successful professional relationships while maintaining a strong work ethic.
  • Communication Proficiency: Another key element of the CMs day-to-day routine entails clear communication: in order to see a project through to its completion, they must give concise orders, explain complex information and discuss technical details with clients, construction workers, building specialists, architects and other industry specialists. Because self-employed construction managers are responsible for obtaining their own projects, their ability to pitch their services to potential clients is critical.
  • Customer Service Skills: Because CMs are in frequent contact with inspectors, owners, landlords, management, industry professionals, and the general public, they must form smooth working relationships to ensure needs are met and project guidelines are adhered to.
  • Decision-Making Abilities: CMs must choose subcontractors, personnel, and other industry experts to complete specific jobs and tasks; therefore, they are not only responsible for selecting the best person for the job, but able to make swift choices that satisfy budgets and deadlines.
  • Leadership Skills: CMs are required to delegate tasks effectively to the staff they collaborate with, including but not limited to subcontractors, construction workers, crew members, and other lower-level management and staff.
  • Technical Prowess: In addition to an expert knowledge of construction methodologies and technologies, CMS must have the ability to interpret blueprints, technical drawings and contracts in both digital and traditional formats. They are also required to have an intermediate to advanced level of comfort using computers and various software programs.
  • The Ability To Take Initiative: In the instance where a construction manager or general contractor is self-employed, they are responsible for generating new business opportunities and need to be proactive in scouting prospective clients/projects. Duties may entail marketing their own services and bidding on jobs, as well as fulfilling specialized home improvement or commercial renovation projects (such as custom woodwork, installing mosaic glass tiles, or framing a bespoke architectural feature for a hotel lobby).
  • Time-Management Skills: When it comes to construction management, time is of the essence – CMS are constantly required to meet pending deadlines; therefore, their time-management skills are penultimate to their success. In order to ensure the next phase of construction can begin as scheduled, CMs must adhere to timelines and enforce deadlines among all staff they supervise.
  • Writing Abilities: Because they are responsible for writing proposals, budgets, plans and other documentation that charts the progress of each project, construction managers must possess excellent writing abilities in order to communicate efficiently with clients, staff and other individuals involved in the building process.

What Is Construction Management?

Construction Management (CM) is defined as the management activities that take seniority over normal architectural and engineering services conducted during the pre-design, design and construction phases of a project. This professional service uses specialized project-management techniques to oversee the planning, design and construction of a project from inception to completion. The purpose of CM is to control a project’s time, cost and quality.

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

A Construction Manager (also known as a general contractor or project manager) oversees and allocates resources for a wide range of construction projects, from private residences and corporate buildings to bridges and skyscrapers. If you choose to major in construction management, your coursework will encompass a broad array of topics. Due to the multidimensional nature of the occupation, students will need to learn a variety of skills needed to manage, coordinate and supervise construction projects from beginning to end, including budgeting, scheduling and managing people & materials.  

A construction manager has a great deal of responsibilities, as he/she is required to oversee the day-to-day operations of a construction site. They are also responsible for meeting the quality standards and objectives of the client, while ensuring work is done safely, on time, within budget.

Typical functions of a construction manager may include:

  • Specifying project plans & objectives (including delineation of project scope)
  • Creating budgets
  • Scheduling duties & timetables
  • Purchasing & project scheduling
  • Setting performance requirements
  • Choosing project participants
  • Preparing & negotiating cost estimates
  • Reporting work progress & budgeting issues to clients
  • Collaborating with architects, designers, engineers and other construction/building specialists

Types of projects construction managers work on:

  • Residential projects: The construction of housing facilities like single or multi-family homes, apartment complexes, and apartment buildings.
  • Commercial projects: The construction of business structures like shopping centers, restaurants, department stores, or theme parks.
  • Public work projects: The construction of government and federal infrastructures like recreational facilities, public housing, public education

A Degree In Construction Management: What To Expect

If you’re considering pursuing your studies in construction management, you can expect to learn a host of skills needed to work within a supervisory capacity, as well as completing a general core of degree-requirement coursework. In addition to gaining leadership skills in the burgeoning global construction industry, you’ll learn what it takes to successfully manage construction projects, from day-to-day operations and conceptual budget applications to project turn-over and completion.

Topics that are frequently covered in construction management coursework include:

  • Blueprints
  • Building Codes
  • Construction Project Software
  • Materials & Equipment
  • Project Cost Estimation & Control
  • Project Planning & Scheduling  Processes
  • Residential & Commercial building
  • Safety Procedures

How Long Will It Take To Get A Construction Management Degree?

The Bachelors in Construction Management degree program is typically four years long, with a 120-credit course load. Below, a summary of career requirements you can expect within a construction manager major:

[note: for layout, ‘Career Requirements’ info can appear in a grid format]

Career Requirements & Qualifications For Construction Managers:

Degree Level: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Name: Construction management, architecture, engineering or other related field

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in building science or civil engineering

Required Skills: Management, communication, interpersonal skills

Experience: At least five years of experience is typical among employers

On-The-Job Training: Moderate on-the-job training

Certification: Voluntary certifications available

Median Salary (2016): $89,300 per year / $42.93 per hour

Job Outlook, 2014-24: 5% (As fast as average)

Number of Jobs, 2014: 373,200

Education: Planning For Your Future

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a growing trend of construction firms giving preferential treatment to individuals with both a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field and on-the-job construction experience. Although certain individuals with a high school diploma and many years of construction trade experience may be hired as construction managers, they are typically qualified to become self-employed general contractors and don’t go as far in their career as undergrads who pursue their bachelor’s degree. Keeping this information in mind, it has grown increasingly essential for CMs to earn their bachelor’s degree in either construction management, architecture, construction engineering or construction science.

As construction processes become more diversified, employers are putting a greater emphasis on specialized education, such as green architecture. Courses may entail a broad range of topic matter, including construction methods and materials, design, project control and management, building codes and standards, cost estimation, and contract administration, among others. Coursework in statistics and mathematics are also relevant. Statistics show that over 100 colleges and university offer accredited bachelor’s degree programs in construction, while fifty 2-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs. An associate’s degree combined with work experience is common amongst managers who supervise smaller projects. There are also several universities that offer master of construction management programs.

Training & Work Experience

As a newly-hired aspiring construction manager, you will be initially working as an assistant and work under the guidance of an experienced, senior-level manager. This training period may last several months to several years, depending on the firm. For individuals without a bachelor’s degree or other relevant educational backgrounds, practical construction experience is crucial for prospective employers, because it reduces the need for initial on-the-job training. The benefits of holding a degree are therefore far-reaching, as you will not only have the ability to progress more quickly in your field but have a better chance of finding suitable employment. Through your college coursework, you can enroll in cooperative education programs, internships, and other related experience to elevate your success once you are on the job market.

Licensing, Certification & Registrations

As discussed earlier, certification and a formal education is becoming increasingly important for construction managers to succeed in their career path. Although it isn’t necessarily a requirement, prospective employers value certification because it can demonstrate experience and specialized knowledge and expertise.

According to the BLS, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to workers who pass a technical exam and possess the required experience needed to receive this prestigious title. Applicants are advised to complete a self-study course that reviews the professional role of a construction manager, including the legal issues, allocation of risk and relevant topics of the construction process in order to prepare potential CMs for their future career.

The American Institute of Constructors awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designation to individuals who meet their requirements and pass the appropriate construction exams.

Some states require licensure for construction managers; contact your state licensing board for more information.

Work Environment: What To Expect

Although the majority of professional construction managers have a main office they report to. They will spend most of their time working out of a field office at a construction site, where they oversee multiple projects on a daily basis and make important executive decisions about construction plans, activities and related issues. They are also required to meet deadlines and respond to emergencies; therefore, the position often requires long hours and an extensive amount of responsibility.

Work Schedule

Most construction managers work full-time; however, the need to meet deadlines and respond to delays and emergencies typically requires construction managers to work many hours, including overtime. Many managers may also be on-call 24 hours a day.

Job Forecast & Salary Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with a construction management degree had a median salary of $89,300 in 2016. According to 2015 statistics, the highest-paid in the profession made $155,200, and those earning within the lower tier earned approximately $52,350 annually. Employment of construction managers is estimated to grow 5% between 2014 and 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Construction manager jobs will continue to be in demand, as the overall construction activity will experience a projected increase in the upcoming decade. Those with a bachelor’s degree in construction management, construction science, construction education or civil engineering coupled with construction experience will have the best job prospects. In addition, the BLS indicates that large construction firms have shown preference for candidates with both construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. Although individuals with a high school diploma and many years of experience in a construction trade may be hired as construction managers, these individuals are typically qualified to become self-employed general contractors and may not do as well within the corporate sector as those who hold a degree.