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How to Become a Construction Manager – A Career Blueprint

how to become a construction manager

The construction industry can be very lucrative if you have the right skills. While working as a basic carpenter may not yield a lot of money, you can earn much more as a construction manager. Construction managers oversee professionals who run construction sites and projects. They handle hiring and firing, project planning, finances, etc. As a result, they are essential for every construction project and are more in demand now than ever. But how can you become one? There’s much more to becoming a construction manager than earning a degree. Today, let’s look at how to become a construction manager step-by-step.

What is a Construction Manager?

A construction manager is a professional who oversees the progress and completion of a construction project. Specifically, a construction manager ensures that any projects under their purview are completed on time, under certain budget constraints, etc.

Generally, construction managers work in offices. They delegate much of their work and do not do much of the day-to-day physical labor inherent in construction projects. However, they may still spend plenty of time at a construction site. For example, they monitor activities, make on-the-spot decisions, and oversee progress. The various duties of a construction manager include:

  • Submitting bids for construction project contracts. Construction managers must compete with other contractors/construction companies to get jobs. They submit bids by drawing up business plans for how their team/company will complete a construction job.
  • Maintaining and managing construction documents. These are important for legal purposes.
  • Communicating with a contractor’s owners or executive leadership. Furthermore, construction managers may communicate with clients regularly, giving them product updates.
  • Managing their workforces. Construction managers are often in charge of hiring new workers, firing troublesome employees, and similar duties. They may also handle promotions within their contracting company.
  • Filing daily construction reports. These are important for monitoring progress and for sending to clients/executive team members.

Overall, a construction manager is one of the most important individuals for a construction project. They are project leaders and organizers. Without a capable construction manager, a contracting company would have a much harder time meeting its deadlines.

How to Become a Construction Manager Step by Step

Individuals can become construction managers and earn lucrative salaries and professional respect. However, the path to becoming a construction manager can take time. Let’s break down how to become a construction manager step-by-step.

Step 1 – Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

First, most construction managers require a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field. It is possible to become a construction manager without a degree. But doing so is becoming rarer and rarer with time. Construction and contracting companies want educated individuals at the heads of construction projects. And established construction companies want managers with bachelor’s degrees in construction management or similar.

A four-year degree proves that the graduate has the managerial and business experience necessary to succeed in this position. To be a construction manager, one must know more than just how to do the day-to-day work inherent in construction projects. On top of that, a degree may be necessary for the future if one wants to graduate to a more prominent firm with more complex projects.

That said, it’s possible to become a construction manager and skip this step if one owns their own company. Alternatively, if an aspiring construction manager works for a family company, they may attain this position without going to school.

Types of Construction Management Degrees

There are many suitable construction degrees aspiring managers can earn. In general, it’s a good idea to attend a degree program that emphasizes the managerial elements of construction projects. All appropriate degrees will be a bachelor of science rather than of the arts. These degrees include:

  • Construction science degrees
  • Building science degrees
  • Construction engineering degrees
  • Construction management degrees

Regardless of the type of degree earned, future construction managers will learn a variety of topics. Over their education, they will learn how to:

  • Use different types of construction materials
  • Purchase construction materials and where they come from
  • Manage a construction workforce successfully
  • Develop a building project and timeline
  • Build structures while following building codes
  • Check for building code adherence

Types of Classes in Construction Management Programs

The same classes in a construction management degree program vary by school. However, most degree programs include courses on the below topics:

  • Construction scheduling. These classes should teach future construction managers how to estimate time correctly, as well as how to plan construction projects. This ability is essential for construction managers who want to avoid going over deadlines.
  • Construction finance and accounting. These classes teach future construction managers how to measure project cash flow, time value, payment processing, etc. This understanding is crucial, so they don’t go over budget.
  • Cost estimating and construction project bidding. These classes teach construction managers how to bid for different projects and calculate their budget requirements.
  • Construction methods and materials. Of course, construction managers need to know what materials and techniques are used for typical projects. They also need to know how much those materials cost on average.
  • Construction soils. Students of construction management must know how soil types can affect projects. They also need to know how to deal with potential setbacks like sinkholes or unusually dry or wetland.

Qualifications for Construction Management Programs

Most construction management programs have similar requirements as other bachelor’s degree programs. Specifically, students need:

  • Minimum GPAs, usually above 2.0 or more. More academically rigorous schools may have higher GPA requirements
  • High school transcripts or GED equivalents
  • Test scores from the SAT or ACT. Note that some programs allow students to waive these scores in exchange for taking a school-specific test
  • At least one letter of recommendation. However, multiple letters are preferred by most universities

Suppose a student has taken some construction classes at a community college before. In that case, those classes may allow them to waive other class requirements for a degree program. But this waiver is by no means a guaranteed option.

Online vs. In-Person Degrees

Potential construction managers don’t need to attend a degree program in person. Plenty of online construction management degrees provide the credentials one needs.

Online construction management and similar degree programs can be advantageous for several reasons. Online degrees are often asynchronous and more flexible in terms of their scheduling. This flexibility allows students to complete their education without abandoning other responsibilities. Furthermore, many online degrees can be attended part-time and from far away. Thus, students can get the degree they want without moving to another state.

That said, some students may benefit from in-person education instead. In-person degrees may give students more opportunities to connect with professors and peers. Ultimately, students should consider what educational experience they want before signing up for a given degree program.

Step 2 – Take an Entry-Level Job in Construction

After earning a degree in construction management, graduates must gain an entry-level job in the construction industry. Alternatively, they may already have an entry-level position. If they take an online degree program, they can work the job simultaneously while finishing their education. In any case, an entry-level job in construction provides valuable on-the-job experience. On-the-job experience is necessary to become a skilled construction manager. Only by working on a construction job site will graduates learn:

  • The practical realities of construction projects, including how things get done and how people work
  • How to communicate and lead construction workers. These individuals are skilled but respond better to certain leadership styles than others.
  • How different building materials work in a practical sense when applied to construction projects
  • How to propose and follow reasonable yet efficient building timelines. This ability prevents future construction managers from over or under-promising to clients.

All of this information is incredibly important for one’s future career. In essence, a future construction project manager has to know how a construction site works before they can lead effectively. Generally, getting a few years of on-the-job experience is a good idea before applying to construction management positions.

Step 3 – Work as an Assistant Construction Manager

The next major step to becoming a construction manager is to become an ACM or assistant construction manager. This apprenticeship provides even more on-the-job experience for future managers. Over a few years, ACMs have learned more about the realities of managing worksites. But unlike entry-level construction jobs, ACM positions teach future managers more specific skills related to their upcoming positions. This step is crucial. Any worthwhile construction firm will only hire a construction manager with some experience as an assistant or apprentice. Those firms need to know that any candidate knows how to handle risk management, construction deadlines, and other elements of the position.

This step will take a few years from start to finish. However, by the end, aspiring construction managers will be well equipped to manage worksites effectively. One’s teacher can also impact the quality of this educational timeframe. Working for a skilled construction manager will allow future managers to improve their positions.

Step 4 – Earn Construction Manager Certification

Technically, construction managers don’t require specific certifications. That said, it’s always a good idea to get a certification. It looks better on one’s resume and can make a job candidate more attractive when applying to competitive managerial positions. For example, many big construction firms want at least one or two certifications before considering a manager candidate. There are multiple certifications available, including:

  • The Construction Management Association of America’s Certified Construction Manager program. The program awards the Certified Construction Manager designation. This catchall certification is excellent for establishing general skills in the industry. The certificate requires that candidates complete a self-study course and pass a technical exam.
  • The American Institute of Constructors. This institution awards the Associate Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor designations to job candidates. These also require candidates to pass different construction exams.

Furthermore, certain states may require specific licenses for legal construction workers. All future construction managers should consult their state’s licensing boards for more information.

Step 5 – Get a Construction Manager Job

At this point, one can apply for and get construction manager jobs. These positions can be highly competitive, especially in major metropolitan areas. However, the proper certifications and job experience can prepare candidates for competitive options for hirers.

Alternatively, college graduates can start their own businesses. Contracting companies are prevalent in America, especially in smaller towns. However, owning a contracting company means that the construction manager will need to fill multiple roles simultaneously. They must be business owners, construction managers, customer service representatives, etc. Therefore, this pathway is only suitable for highly driven entrepreneurial personalities.

Step 6 (Optional) – Earn a Master’s Degree

One’s professional journey doesn’t have to end here. College graduates can pursue a master's degree in the field if they so choose. A master’s degree isn’t required to become a construction manager at any point. However, it may become a requirement if one wants to work at some of the country’s most profitable and largest construction firms. Depending on the degree one chooses, a construction manager could set themselves up for further success down the road by earning a graduate degree. A graduate degree may qualify one for executive positions at construction firms or design companies.

A master’s degree is an extra credential showing further skill and expertise in construction management. Particular master’s degrees may allow concentrations in areas like:

  • Finance in construction
  • Construction project risk assessment
  • Management strategies for construction

Bottom line: more college education is not necessary. But it can be beneficial for one’s long-term career prospects.

Average Salary for Construction Managers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers have a median annual wage of $98,890 as of May 2021. It is a lucrative average wage, as it’s above the national average.

The lowest 10% of construction managers earn approximately $60,000, and the highest 10% earn more than $163,000. Because of this salary range, it’s clear that construction manager salaries can vary based on experience, employer, location, etc. Overall, the highest-paid construction managers work in the heavy and civil engineering industry. Lower-paid construction managers tend to work in the residential building construction industry. Note that construction managers may also earn significant bonuses to their salaries. Construction firms may award bonuses based on performance, finishing projects ahead of deadlines, or under budget.

Most construction managers work full-time, and many work over 40 hours per week. That said, construction manager work hours can vary heavily. During downtime, they may work less than 40 hours a week. But during crunch time or near the end of a project’s deadline, they may be on call 24 hours a day if emergencies pop up.

Ideal Skills for Construction Managers

Construction managers need various skills to succeed in their critical positions. Students who aren’t sure whether construction management is right for them should consider if they have these skills before entering a degree program.

Decision-making skills

Since construction managers have to make many decisions in their day-to-day lives, those who fill these positions must be strong decision-makers. Construction managers need to decide who does specific tasks and jobs. They also have to determine what takes precedence on their daily to-do lists.

Analytical Skills

Construction managers do a lot of analysis in terms of budget financing, deadline estimating, etc. Construction managers also have to plan project strategies frequently and handle any unexpected delays or issues on worksites.

Customer Service Skills

Construction managers often have to maintain contact with company owners, executives, the public, and their employees. In other words, they have to know how to work well with many people simultaneously.

Leadership Skills

The most successful construction managers are strong leaders. They delegate tasks to their workers and subcontractors. But they also inspire those workers to do great jobs, even when the going gets tough.

Technical Skills

Naturally, skilled construction managers need to know all the technical elements of their industry. They need to understand how buildings are constructed, the materials used in projects, etc.

Initiative

The best construction managers have a lot of initiative since they are in charge of starting and finishing projects. No one looks over their shoulders to make sure deadlines are met. When deadlines loom, construction managers need to be able to put their noses to the grindstone and get things done.

Time Management Skills

Since all construction projects have strict deadlines, construction managers need to be able to meet objectives promptly and without going over budget.

Business Skills

Generalized business skills are vital, such as coordinating workers or performing simple accounting. Similarly, construction managers must choose competent staff members and maintain good working relationships with them.

Is It a Good Idea to Become a Construction Manager?

The construction management field is multiplying due to the increased need for housing, industrial complexes, and commercial buildings. Also, according to the BLS, construction manager employment opportunities should grow by 11% until 2030. This growth rate is faster than the job growth rate overall for all occupations.

This growth rate translates to approximately 39,000 new openings for construction managers each year. Thus, future construction managers should have many opportunities to find gainful positions, provided they have the experience and credentials. The construction industry is poised to expand soon due to population and business growth. All kinds of new businesses will need to be built, from residences to office buildings to schools, hospitals, and restaurants. On top of that, many national projects focused on improving national infrastructure should continue over the next decade. Construction managers will be needed to preside over essential projects to repair roads, bridges, sewer pipe systems, etc.

Overall, suppose you believe you have the mindset and temperament to be a good construction manager. In that case, this is a great time to get into the field. As a construction manager, you’ll have the opportunity to earn an excellent salary and lots of different job options no matter your state of residence.

How to Become a Construction Manager-Start Today!

All in all, it is a great idea to become a construction manager. Construction managers will become more vital as the years go on. Even now, these professionals earn excellent salaries compared to other jobs in the construction industry.

Luckily, there are many ways to become a construction manager. For example, you can attend a quality online bachelor’s degree program. Online bachelor’s degrees in construction management are accessible, accredited, and valuable for your professional future.

To learn more, check out the GetEducated.com list of construction management degrees online today!

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