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Career Profile: Construction Manager

Career Profile: Construction Manager

Find out if you have what it takes to be a construction manager.

November 22, 2011

Work environment. Working out of a main office or out of a field office at the construction site, construction managers monitor the overall construction project. Decisions regarding daily construction activities generally are made at the job site. Managers may travel extensively when the construction site is not close to their main office or when they are responsible for activities at two or more sites. Management of overseas construction projects usually entails temporary residence in another country.

Often “on call” 24 hours a day, construction managers deal with delays, the effects of bad weather, or emergencies at the site. Most work more than a standard 40-hour week because construction may proceed around-the-clock. They may need to work this type of schedule for days or weeks to meet special project deadlines, especially if there are delays.

Although the work usually is not considered inherently dangerous, construction managers must be careful while performing onsite services.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Employers increasingly prefer to hire construction managers with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, building science, or civil engineering, although it is also possible for experienced construction workers to move up to become construction managers. In addition to having education and experience, construction managers must understand contracts, plans, specifications, and regulations.

Education and training. For construction manager jobs, employers increasingly prefer to hire individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, building science, or civil engineering, plus work experience. Practical construction experience is very important, whether gained through an internship, a cooperative education program, a job in the construction trades, or another job in the industry. Traditionally, people advanced to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craftworkers—carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians, for example—or after having worked as construction supervisors or as owners of independent specialty contracting firms. However, as construction processes become increasingly complex, employers are placing more importance on specialized education after high school.

About 105 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in construction science, building science, and construction engineering. These programs 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, safety, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and information technology. Graduates from 4-year degree programs usually are hired as assistants to project managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. An increasing number of graduates in related fields—engineering or architecture, for example—also enter construction management, often after acquiring substantial experience on construction projects.

About 60 colleges and universities offer a master’s degree program in construction management or construction science. Master’s degree recipients, especially those with work experience in construction, typically become construction managers in very large construction or construction management companies. Often, individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field seek a master’s degree in construction management or construction science to work in the construction industry. Some construction managers obtain a master’s degree in business administration or finance to further their career prospects. Doctoral degree recipients usually become college professors or conduct research.


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