Aligning Coursework, Personal Interests, and Economic Forecasts.

When I enrolled in the Construction Management program at my local university in the late 80’s there were not many construction management programs offered in the country, let alone locally. Today there more than 150 schools that offer degrees in Construction Management and the number is growing. Bachelor degrees are the most prominent offerings, although Colleges and Universities confer Associate, Master, and Doctorate degrees as well.

I was curious as to how similar the courses offered today are with the courses I completed in the 80’s and 90’s. Over the course of a few weeks, I reviewed about a dozen Bachelor degree plans from Universities throughout the country. I also read a few research articles on the subject of curriculum content in the current decade. Surprisingly, much of the core curriculum has not changed since I began studying Construction Management.

This is not to say construction science has not progressed. Construction Materials, a common course offering, is an area that has advanced with lighter and stronger material driving down labor costs and increasing the size of building projects. My Construction Document course was a mixture of paper and electronic formats. Today 3D CAD and BIM dominate the field. Our surveying department owned a Total Station Survey System. However, I completed my course work using a conventional transit and plotted maps by hand. I could go on comparing the technological advances over the past 25 years, but I am sure you get the idea; while some curriculum has remained the same, the content has changed with technological advances.

According to a study conducted by Gravitt (2013), there is no “typical” construction program. In fact, the researcher points out that “Content…change(s) due to many reasons including industry trends, state policies, institutional initiatives, and program faculty.” Yet, the study does highlight some popular offerings. Surveying and Structural Design are two courses that lead the construction science courses. At least half the schools surveyed taught Construction Materials, Soils, Electrical and Mechanical courses. Scheduling, Estimating, and Safety courses led the list of construction courses followed by Drawings and Specifications, Law, and Project Management.

An emerging Construction Management content area is sustainability. Society as a whole seems to be more conscious of the impacts of construction and buildings on the environment and Universities are responding with curriculum in this subject area. The construction community has also responded through the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council and their LEED certification program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The Council certifies buildings that achieve sustainable goals through the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings.

When considering a Construction Management program it is important to consider what type of work you will be interested in pursuing and the availability of work after you obtain a degree. According to the FMI Consulting the construction activity in 2016 will increase 6% overall with gains in the manufacturing, retail, office, residential, and power sectors. Forbes magazine reported the construction industry is one of the fastest growing small industries in the U.S. with firms specializing in structural and foundation work topping the list of growing sectors. Aligning course curriculum with personal interest and economic forecasts is a sound strategy for assuring a successful career in Construction Management.