How to Become a Construction Manager
Construction managers make sure their projects comply with building codes.
Large construction firms increasingly prefer candidates with both construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. However, some managers may qualify with a high school diploma and by working many years in a construction trade, although most will qualify primarily as self-employed general contractors.
It is increasingly important for construction managers to have a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering. As construction processes become more complex, employers are placing greater importance on specialized education.
More than 100 colleges and universities offer accredited bachelor’s degree programs in construction science, building science, or construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, cost estimation, building codes and standards, and contract administration. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also relevant.
A number of 2-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs. An associate’s degree combined with work experience is typical for managers who supervise smaller projects.
A few universities offer master’s degree programs in construction management.
Those with a high school diploma and several years of relevant work experience may qualify to become a construction manager, although most will do so primarily as self-employed general contractors.
All new construction managers are initially hired as assistants and work under the guidance of an experienced manager. This training period may last several months to several years, depending on the firm.
Practical construction experience is important when entering the occupation, because it reduces the need for initial on-the-job training. Internships, cooperative education programs, and previous work in the construction industry can provide that experience. Some construction managers become qualified solely through extensive construction experience, spending many years in carpentry, masonry, or other construction specialties.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, certification is becoming increasingly important for construction managers. Certification is valuable because it can demonstrate knowledge and experience.
The Construction Management Association of America awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to workers who have the required experience and who pass a technical exam. It is recommended that applicants for this certification complete a self-study course that covers the professional role of a construction manager, legal issues, the allocation of risk, and other topics related to construction management.
The American Institute of Constructors awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations to candidates who meet its requirements and pass the appropriate construction exams.
Some states require licensure for construction managers overseeing a public project. For more information, contact your state licensing board.
Analytical skills. Most managers plan a project strategy, handle unexpected issues and delays, and solve problems that arise over the course of the project. In addition, many managers use cost-estimating and planning software to determine how much materials are needed and the time and cost required to complete projects.
Business skills. Construction managers address budget matters and coordinate and supervise workers. Choosing competent staff and establishing good working relationships with them is critical.
Customer-service skills. Construction managers are in constant contact with owners, inspectors, and the public. They must communicate work plans clearly, and explain work stoppages when they occur.
Decision-making skills. Construction managers choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks and jobs. Often, these decisions must be made quickly to meet deadlines and budgets.
Initiative. Self-employed construction managers generate their own business opportunities and must be proactive in finding new clients. They often market their services, bid on jobs, and must learn to perform special home improvement projects such as installing mosaic glass tiles, sanding wood floors, and insulating homes.
Leadership skills. Managers must effectively delegate tasks to construction workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers.
Speaking skills. Managers must give clear orders, explain complex information to construction workers and clients, and discuss technical details with other building specialists, such as architects. Self-employed construction managers must get their own projects, so the need to sell their services to potential clients is critical.
Technical skills. Managers must know construction methods and technologies, and must be able to interpret contracts and technical drawings.
Time-management skills. Construction managers must meet deadlines. They ensure that construction phases are completed on time so that the next phase can begin as scheduled. For instance, a building’s foundation cannot be constructed until the land is completely excavated.
Writing skills. Construction managers must write proposals, plans, and budgets, as well as document the progress of the work for clients and others involved in the building process.