What Does it Mean to Study Construction Management?
A construction manager is responsible for the physical construction of a structure (or a portion of it, as in remodeling or renovations) and works on behalf of the owner or developer. The construction manager can be a staff member, an employee of a management company, or an individual consultant, like almost half of the construction managers in the U.S.
Construction managers are deeply involved in their projects, from concept to ribbon-cutting. They oversee details regarding their workforce, materials, equipment, and safety issues for workers and the surrounding community. This is done by dividing site activities into logical steps during the planning stage, and monitoring each step along the way to ensure the project meets deadline and budget requirements. It's crucial that these professionals understand both the big picture and the small details that go into making the project a reality.
Safety is also a large concern for construction managers, both safety for their team and safety for the surrounding community. It is the construction manager's responsibility to obtain necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, direct or monitor compliance with building and safety codes and other regulations.
In order to manage construction work, you need to have a considerable amount of practical experience -- an apprenticeship can be a good method to earn this -- combined with a business degree in construction management.
Types of Construction Management Degrees
Many employers are looking for candidates who combine hands-on work experience with a bachelor's or master's degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering.
Online Degrees in Construction Management
Professionals in the industry are increasingly turning to online college courses in construction management while they work, in order to gain hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge at the same time. Your studies can begin with a focus on specific trade areas such as building code enforcement, power technology, or electrical work. Online degree programs can include courses in project control and development, site planning, design, construction methods, construction materials, value analysis, cost estimating, scheduling, contract administration, accounting, business and financial management, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics and information technology.
Training in computers and software programs for job costing, scheduling, and estimating also is important in order to keep up with industry innovations and standards. Good oral and written communication skills are important, as are leadership skills. As a manager, you must be able to establish a good working relationship with many different people, including clients, other managers, designers, supervisors and tradesmen.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Construction Management?
More than half of all construction managers (57 percent) were self-employed in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The rest work for specialty trade contractors including plumbing, heating and air-conditioning and electrical contractors; general building contractors; engineering, architectural, and construction management services firms; local governments; educational institutions; and real estate developers. Most people working in construction management have substantial prior experience as tradesmen -- carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians. They may also come from a background as construction supervisors or owners of independent specialty contracting firms, overseeing workers in one or more construction trades.
The most important skills for a construction manager are flexibility and efficiency. You should be decisive and work well under pressure, particularly when there are unexpected occurrences or delays. The ability to coordinate several major activities at once, while analyzing and resolving specific problems, is essential, as is an understanding of engineering, architecture, and construction drawings such as building plans.
Construction Management Jobs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth for construction managers to grow faster than the national average between 2016 and 2026, with the best prospects for those who combine construction work experience with a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field. This is hardly surprising; between advances in building materials and construction methods, the need to replace infrastructure, and the growing number of multipurpose buildings, electronically operated "smart" buildings, and energy-efficient structures, there's certainly plenty for construction managers to do.
Advancement opportunities as a construction manager vary, depending on your performance and the size and type of your company. Within large firms, you may move into upper-level management or executive positions. Highly experienced individuals may become independent consultants or may establish their own construction management services, specialty contracting, or general contracting firm.
Construction Management Certification and Licensure
Certification is not required to work in the construction industry, but voluntary certification can demonstrate competence and experience to prospective employers.
Both the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) have established voluntary certification programs for construction management professionals. Requirements combine written examinations with verification of professional experience.
- AIC awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations.
- CMAA awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to practitioners who meet the professional requirements, pass a technical examination, and complete a self-study course that covers a broad range of topics central to construction management.
- "Construction Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-1
- "11-9021 Construction Managers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119021.htm