Construction management, which is one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, isn’t a program of study that’s only available at the graduate level. In fact, the number of universities that offer construction management programs at the master’s level pales in comparison to the number of schools offering construction-related programs at the undergraduate level, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Degree Titles in Undergraduate Programs of Study in Construction
At the bachelor’s level, you are more likely to encounter degree programs with titles like building science, construction science and construction engineering. There are over 100 schools in the United States offering programs of this nature, the BLS reported. Programs with the specific title of construction management do exist at the bachelor’s level, as well.
Although any of these undergraduate programs could be a strong starting point for a career in construction management, there are some distinctions you should consider. An engineering program is likely to include a lot of math, science and design work, which may be somewhat out of your area of focus if you want to be a construction manager. Before you enroll in a program just because it includes “construction” or “building” in the title, you should take a look at the curriculum and learning outcomes to decide if that program is the right choice for you.
You can also opt to study construction management or construction technology at the community college level, where programs in this field are available at more than 50 schools, according to the BLS.
What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Construction Management
In an undergraduate construction management program, you’re likely to complete a series of courses in building systems. Studying structures and structural systems is another aspect of the curriculum. Some classes in a construction management program are really specialized, such as the reading of analog and digital building plans and construction graphics and documents. Other courses are a little less specialized, such as classes in project management and life cycle cost accounting.
A bachelor’s program in construction management is likely to introduce you to residential and light construction as well as heavy and civil construction and the commercial construction practices used to build large structures like hospitals and major office buildings. An introductory course in construction management may focus on topics like team building. You might also complete foundational coursework in construction scheduling and in cost estimation.
Don’t be surprised to find classes that look at the construction industry through various lenses, such as construction law, construction finance and accounting and construction safety. Some classes emphasize leadership and management strategies for the construction site while others focus more on methods of managing information about the built environment. Before you finish school, you may have the opportunity to take some advanced courses, including studies in advanced scheduling and advanced computer-aided design.
To give you the business background that’s fitting for a construction manager, it helps to take some general business courses in addition to your business-focused construction management classes. Often, your curriculum will include studies in business law, financial and managerial accounting, economics and management principles and strategies. Some programs also include courses specific to real estate, which can be particularly relevant for construction managers.
A bachelor’s in construction program may culminate in a senior capstone project that may entail, for example, putting together their own construction company, a bid to do a construction job or a plan for completing a construction project.
Choosing to Go to Graduate School for Construction Management
Since you can study construction management at the bachelor’s level, you may wonder why you should consider earning a master’s degree in construction management at all. You’re not required to pursue a graduate education to be qualified to work as a construction manager.
The number of construction managers who have a master’s degree is actually very small. Around 90 percent of construction managers report having a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education, O*NET reported, and most of the remaining construction managers have a less extensive formal education.
Some construction managers are still able to move up to this role with only a high school diploma and a lot of construction experience, but that career trajectory has become less common than it used to be. More companies that employ construction managers and clients who hire self-employed contractors now look for candidates to have more specialized education, according to the BLS, and this often means a formal degree program.
Earning a master’s in construction management may not be required, but it can be valuable, assuming that you also have enough industry experience to be a serious candidate for construction manager roles. If you want to work in an industry that requires more specialized knowledge or manage particularly large construction projects, you may benefit more from earning a master’s degree than someone whose goal is to serve as construction manager for smaller projects of a more general nature. You might also find it worthwhile to earn a master’s degree if you aspire to hold the most senior-level roles available, like senior construction manager of a large project or even vice president of construction services.
Deciding whether to go for your master’s degree in construction management requires you to weigh factors like the cost of the degree and what you want out of your education. Many students earn their degree part-time, so they can continue working at their day job.
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