How to Become a
Construction Manager

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

There is currently a shortage of construction workers in the United States at different levels. Real estate developers are looking for construction managers to oversee major projects and ensure successful completion. If you want to join the fold and learn how to become a construction manager, this article is for you.

Keep in mind that construction managers are required to get an education, and most employers will demand years of experience.

What Is a Construction Manager?

A construction manager is an individual who plans and executes construction projects. They are responsible for all the other construction workers, ensuring that the client’s demands are met within the deadline and budget.

These professionals are also charged with workers’ safety. If someone gets injured due to the manager’s negligence, he or she will be liable. If a worker makes a mistake and does the wrong thing, the construction manager will also be held responsible.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Construction Manager?

You can’t simply become a construction manager overnight. You need to seek higher education from a vocational school, community college, or university. Each education path has a unique structure, timeline, and cost. Learning about your options will help you choose the ideal route for you.

Best Construction Manager Education Tracks

First things first: you need a high school diploma or GED. Your transcript should have credits in math, physics, English, and business-related subjects. Every employer wants a construction manager who has an aptitude for business.

Below are the main options for prospective construction managers.

1

Vocational School

A vocational or trade school for construction management in the US runs for about two years, but it can take anywhere from eight months to four years. You will learn all the specific skills you need to work in construction management, focusing on practical training.

Vocational schools also offer internships in reputable construction companies so that students can get real-world experience.

An excellent example of a vocational school for construction management is Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona. You can start looking for a job right after you complete your vocational education, but you will need a lot of experience to climb the ladder quickly.

2

Community College

These are similar to vocational schools. However, they don’t just focus on giving you specific hands-on skills. Theoretical work is mixed with the practical, and you will earn an associate degree upon completion. Some community colleges may also offer a bachelor’s degree to those who opt for extended programs.

The Community College of Philadelphia offers a great Construction Management Program. From a community college, you can go right into the job market and start building your portfolio. These colleges are often more affordable than regular universities.

3

Construction Manager Degrees

You can gain a Bachelor of Applied Science in Construction Management at a university. It offers a well-rounded education rich in the technical, business, and even legal aspects of construction management. Most employers prefer to hire people with a bachelor’s degree.

There is also a Master’s Degree in Construction Management available for those looking to specialize. While you cannot get a PhD in construction management, you can opt for one in civil engineering.

4

Construction Manager Courses

If you already have a business or related degree and you’re trying to dive into construction management, you can take massive open online courses (MOOCs). In partnership with the University of Columbia, for example, Coursera offers a five-course series on construction management. It runs for seven months, it’s free, and you don’t need any prior knowledge.

Most individual MOOC courses cost less than $100 and many are free. Note that some free program providers may expect you to pay for a certificate of completion.

How to Become a Construction Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Construction Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide

Like many other management positions, you will need a bachelor’s degree and years of experience before getting a high-paying job. However, there is always an exception to the rule. You can make yourself one of those exceptions by actively improving your skills.

This step-by-step guide will help you stand out.

Complete high school

Whether you want to chase a bachelor’s degree or not, complete your high school education and get a diploma. If you can’t get a diploma, apply for a GED.

Start gaining in-field experience

Without a bachelor’s degree, you can rise from regular construction work to a managerial role in about eight years. Getting this experience in consecutive years would improve your resume, but you may also spread it out.

Take a specialized course

Years in the field might give you the technical know-how of the construction business. However, taking a specialized management course would make an employer have more confidence in you immediately. You will also learn the non-technical aspects of construction management.

Get an undergraduate degree

If you’re still having trouble reaching the management position you want, you might want to get a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees are completed in four years but you could finish in three if you carry enough credits every semester.

Get a Master’s Degree in Construction Management

Some companies may be comfortable giving you a management position if you have a bachelor’s degree combined with years of experience. However, some other companies will accept nothing less than a master’s. You can hold on to a job while you study.

Key Construction Manager Skills

Key Construction Manager Skills

A good construction manager needs a combination of strong interpersonal skills and technical skills to excel in the industry. The good news is that you can work on developing most of these skills from the comfort of your home.

Three of the most vital skills for a construction manager are financial management, technological affinity, and risk management.

Financial Management

Construction managers must have financial management skills to ensure that all projects are completed within the client’s budget. You need to learn how to supervise financial resources at different stages of the project while keeping track of all expenses.

You can take a free online course like Finance Theory 1 by MIT. Another good option is the New York Institute of Finance’s Fundamentals of Financial Mathematics and Capital Budgeting, which you can take through edX. These will help you to brush up on your financial management skills.

Technological Affinity

The construction industry is still one of the few that are yet to be completely digitized, but digital technology still plays a role in many aspects of construction.

Technological affinity means that you are proficient in using technology. It can boost collaboration in the workplace and improve the overall success of projects. The best way to increase your technological affinity is to make daily use of available technology.

Risk Management

Another critical skill you need is risk management. No matter how perfect your construction plan might be, there will always be potential risks. The construction manager must anticipate these potential risks and make plans to overcome them in the event that they arise.

You should also know how to evaluate risks and rewards in every significant decision you make during the project. There are several online resources that can help you master risk management in construction.

Construction Manager Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for construction managers in the United States is $114,224. According to Salary.com, the top 25 percent earn $130,282 or more, while the bottom 25 percent earn $98,603 or less. This is above the national average and is subject to increase depending on your experience.

There is currently a skill shortage in the American construction industry. During the 2007 economic crisis, many construction workers lost their jobs. When the situation improved, the majority of these workers did not return to the industry. Since then, there has been a significant skill gap in the industry and you can take advantage of it.

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Min salary

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114224
Average salary

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145348
Top salary

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Entry-Level Construction Management Job Requirements

Entry-level workers need a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management or a related discipline. You will not work as a manager right away, but you will work closely with the management team while you gain experience.

Your tasks will include assisting with budget planning and scheduling. With time and experience, you will earn the right to oversee projects yourself. The average entry-level construction manager earns around $58,000, according to PayScale.

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

A construction manager oversees construction projects. The job description of all construction managers is the same for both residential and commercial projects. Below are the three primary duties of construction managers across industries.

Liaising with Other Key Players in The Project

A building project takes more than one type of department to complete. There are architects, engineers, plumbers, and many contractors involved in supplying all the materials required to complete the project. The construction manager liaises regularly with all of these collaborators to ensure that the overall objective is achieved.

Following Budgets and Approving Expenses

The construction manager does not draw up the project budget. You will create a breakdown of the estimated cost for the project and hand it over to the client. The client then establishes a budget based on the estimated costs.

If there is room for haggling on the estimated cost, the client and the construction manager will negotiate. After that, the construction manager will be responsible for ensuring that the project does not exceed the client’s budget unless there is no other choice.

Quality Assurance

You are responsible for ensuring that every single tool used during the construction process is up to standard. It doesn’t matter if contractors provide these items or you make direct purchases yourself. If the building collapses or the client finds out that you deliberately used a substandard tool, you will be held liable.

Construction Manager Certifications

Construction managers in the United States can increase their credibility significantly with the proper certification. These professional certifications are awarded by third-party agencies. They prove that your knowledge of construction management is in line with the nationally established practices of construction management.

Certified Construction Manager (CCM)

This credential is provided by the Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI), a division of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). CCM is the most popular certification for construction managers in the US. You can apply if you have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of four years of experience in construction management.

Without a degree, you will need eight years of construction experience and four years of construction management experience. The application cost for the certification is $325 for members of the CMAA and $425 for non-members. The exam fee is $275.17.

How to Prepare for Your Construction Manager Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Construction Manager Job Interview

A typical construction interview usually assesses technical skills. Since you are targeting a management position, the discussion will include questions about your technical and non-technical skills. To ace your interview, you should be able to answer questions about your leadership qualities, plus your organizational and time-management skills.

Construction Manager Job Interview Practice Questions

  • In your years as a construction manager, what has been your most significant project?
  • What is your ideal work environment and do you think this company fits your needs?
  • If one of your workers disregards your direct instructions, what action will you take?
  • During negotiations of contract rates, what are the most critical factors you consider?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Construction Manager?

You can become a construction manager in six to eight years, depending on the path you take. If you opt for a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management or a related field, you can get the degree in four years. After that, get your master’s degree and apply for an entry-level position.

Without a bachelor’s degree, you need at least eight years of construction experience before you can apply for a management position. During this time, you can improve your other skills with online classes. When you’re ready to apply for a job, get certified by the CMAA.

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Associate degree

years

4
Bachelor’s degree

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6
Master’s degree

years

Should You Become a Construction Manager in 2021?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for construction managers will grow by nine percent by 2029. This translates into about 517,100 job openings. This is higher than other occupations.

The career path will be lucrative whether you work under an organization or create your own way as a freelancer. All you have to do is make sure that you’re good at your job.

Construction Manager FAQ

How much do senior construction managers earn?

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for senior construction managers is approximately $117,500.

How long does it take for me to move from entry-level to senior management in construction?

Eight to 15 years. After you’ve secured your first entry-level job, you will need to work under the senior management team for a period of years. During this time, you can attend an online college on the side and improve your educational qualifications. The more you prove yourself, the higher you will rise in the industry.

Do construction managers work on-site?

Yes, they do. You can’t work with the supervisor on the construction site if you’re not physically present to monitor the project’s progress. You may have an office for paperwork, but your daily interactions will be in the field.

What else can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management?

You can work as a building engineer, estates manager, estimator, building control surveyor, fire risk assessor, or arbitrator, among other roles. However, you might need to take a few specialized courses or get certified to branch out.

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