The Definitive Guide to a Career in Construction Management

Even during an economic recession, qualified construction managers are in demand. Construction managers and professionals are highly employable because any delays in either public or private building projects can cost far more than leaving them unfinished.

In fact, the construction industry is one of the largest in the United States and employs over eight million people. Of those people, construction managers are some of the most educated, and are responsible for completing a structure both on time and under budget.

Since so much goes into the work of a construction manager, an adequate education is a must. Knowledge of building codes, procedures, coordination, leadership, and more, are all essentials for a career in construction management. Due to the high demand of construction managers in the workforce, there are many schools and programs dedicated to their education.

Choosing a Construction Management Degree Program

With so much time and money at stake, students should carefully examine the different higher education programs before deciding on which to apply to. Even a two year, or associate’s degree, can still take a considerable amount of time spent in class, studying, and preparing for exams. Click the link to learn more about what to expect from a bachelor’s degree program for construction management.

Building a Career in Construction Management

Many construction managers earn their position by obtaining a degree as well as learning a trade to round out their skill sets. Some of the many trades a construction manager can benefit from are listed below.

  1. Architecture – Literally starting at the drawing board, they create the plans and blueprints that a construction manager will be required to implement. Although many architects have licenses, those who work under them are not required to have one. Architects work closely with construction managers throughout a project to make sure that the vision they committed to paper is the same as what will eventually be built. Being able to read architectural blueprints is important for a construction manager. However, the ability to collaborate with architects, designers, and other producers throughout the project, is a much more valuable skill that a construction manager must have.
  2. Foundation – The first crucial step in the construction process, laying a proper foundation is key to creating a structure that can withstand both natural and man-made disasters. This often involves learning about the different types of foundations, soil mechanics, retaining walls, and more.
  3. Masonry – This construction trade involves knowledge of making and laying bricks, concrete, cement, and others. There are also voluntary certifications for those involved in masonry.
  4. Plumbing – Virtually all structures need some type of plumbing, and many necessitate complex systems that need to work well for a long time. As a result, many states require that plumbing work be done with or under the supervision of a licensed plumber. Although not required for a construction manager, a plumbing license can make any job candidate in the area stand out.
  5. Electrical – Much like plumbing, just about every building has electrical needs, with many having vast and complex electrical requirements. A licensed electrician is often needed to supervise projects to ensure that work is done to code and in a safe manner. With each state having its own electrician license requirements, construction managers are also helped by earning one.
  6. HVAC – The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning trade is inseparably linked to that of construction. Almost any structure being built by a contractor will need some kind of HVAC system installed. The opportunity to learn this skill through a construction management degree program may not be offered. Obtaining supplemental education can prove to help construction managers become familiar with this work in the field.
  7. Design – An interior designer may not always be present, however, design decisions are integral in construction work. A construction manager with an eye for an appealing and efficient design will be a desirable employee. Since a large percentage of construction workers and project managers are self-employed, it helps to have mastered both the design and execution phases of a project.

These are just some of the training, certifications, licenses, and other qualifications a construction manager can earn during their career. If any of these trades interest you, find out if the schools you are applying to offer them in their programs. The graph below shows which industries employ the most construction managers. Keep in mind that there are over 200,000 self employed construction managers, and many of them may not fit precisely into these categories.

Industries highering construction managers 2013

The Career Path of a Successful Construction Manager

Although the amount of schools offering education in construction science and construction management are increasing, a degree in construction management still does not guarantee a managerial job, or even a job at all. There are other factors that contribute to finding and keeping employment in this field, and it pays to start paying attention to them even before pursuing higher education.

  • Portfolio: Construction managers can be evaluated by looking at their previous work. A construction manager with a degree will have school projects to present, but a candidate with actual on-the-job experience and training is likely to have a broader range of experience to apply to a work-cite.
  • References: College is a great place to pick up professional references at the beginning of a career. In addition to doing well on assignments, getting to know the professors and colleagues socially, outside of the academic context, is a student’s first experience with networking. If it is an online program, a student can still network through the use of email and web conferencing. Those connections can lead to excellent references when applying for any job or apprenticeship.
  • Experience: Even one year in a construction-related position will give students a leg up on the job competition after graduation. If that is not possible, then working while taking online courses, or even a summer of construction labor is a good idea. Anything that can make a resume stand out will be helpful in an increasingly competitive job market.

In addition to education and trade-skill development, some firms may require their employees to be certified by a professional organization of construction managers. While these licenses are not legally mandated, they may be privately required to ensure the quality of work that a firm can deliver. These are two organizations that offer construction management certifications.

  1. Construction Management Association of America (CMAA): Anyone with the appropriate education may take a technical exam from the CMAA, and those who pass it will be awarded the Certified Construction Manager designation, which is recognized by many employers as a mark of distinction in the industry. The CMAA website also offers job boards and other tools for professional development as a construction manager.
  2. American Institute of Constructors: This organization offers two licenses, which are Associate Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor. These may be required by some employers, and will enhance a resume even if it is not explicitly requested. Membership in the AIC has other benefits as well, including participating in a mentor program that can help young construction workers build their professional network.

Due to the many responsibilities of a construction manager, it pays to have a detailed understanding of all the different processes that are typically involved in each project. This knowledge will enhance the quality of the product and will reflect positively on the construction manager.

Top Construction Management Schools

Learning both labor and management skills are a great way to work in construction and have excellent career opportunities for growth and pay raises. We have listed several schools below that offer degrees in construction management. Students are advised to research the schools that interest them, and narrow down the choices to the ones that fit them best. Once that has been completed, students can then apply and choose which school to attend. Remember that it is important to consider factors such as educational offerings, cost, and convenience when choosing an institution of higher education.

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