A construction project is a big undertaking that involves extensive planning, budgeting and supervision to get it completed correctly, efficiently, affordably and on time. Construction managers are the professionals responsible for overseeing every part of the project. At the start of a new construction project, construction managers have to develop estimates, budgets and timetables to figure out how long the work will take and how much it will cost. They discuss these details with clients to understand the parameters for the construction project.
Once the actual construction begins, they work directly with construction generalists and specialists, architects and engineers to get the project done. This includes coordinating work schedules, hiring subcontractors as necessary and making sure every professional involved in the project understands the technical details and contracts necessary for their work. Construction managers also interact with clients during the construction process to inform them of the construction team’s progress and any budgetary concerns that arise.
Construction managers are responsible for making sure the work is done right and fixing problems when things go wrong. They handle emergencies and are often on call 24/7. They also keep on top of building and safety regulations to ensure that the project meets all codes and requirements. Because they are involved in so many aspects of the construction process, construction managers are also often called project managers or general contractors. Many are self-employed, which means they must be able to handle the administrative tasks of running their own business as well as the work of managing a construction project.
In the past, a high school degree was sufficient to become a construction manager, providing that the candidate has plenty of construction experience. Today, many employers look for candidates with undergraduate degrees in a relevant subject, such as:
- Building science
- Construction management
- Construction science
As the construction industry increasingly demands professionals with a specialized education, more schools are establishing relevant programs of study at the associate’s, bachelor’s and even master’s level, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that aspiring construction managers should expect to study a wide range of subjects in preparation for their career, including:
- Building codes and standards
- Construction methods and materials
- Contract administration
- Cost estimation
- Project management
Construction managers earn a median salary of $85,630, according to the BLS. Professionals who work in industries like heavy and civil engineering construction and nonresidential building construction have the highest earning potential, making thousands of dollars per year more than their peers in specialty trade contracting and residential building construction. The BLS expects job opportunities for construction managers to increase by five percent – “about as fast as the average for all occupations,” the agency reported – over a decade. Because 40 percent of construction managers are self-employed, many enjoy the perks of being their own bosses as well as the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Construction managers oversee every aspect of the construction process, from the initial plans to ensuring that the finished product meets legal building and safety requirements as well as clients’ budgets and timelines. While the work is extensive, it can also be rewarding financially and otherwise, as the median pay of upwards of $85,000 is nearly two-and-a-half times that of all occupations.