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Construction Managers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
There is a growing movement toward certification of construction managers. Although certification is not required to work in the construction industry, it can be valuable because it provides evidence of competence and experience. Both the American Institute of Constructors and the Construction Management Association of America have established voluntary certification programs for construction managers. Requirements combine written examinations with verification of education and professional experience. 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 examinations. 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 examination. Applicants for this designation also must 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.

Advancement opportunities for construction managers vary with the individual's performance and the size and type of company for which the person works. Within large firms, managers may eventually become top-level managers or executives. Highly experienced individuals may become independent consultants; some serve as expert witnesses in court or as arbitrators in disputes. Those with the required capital may establish their own construction management services, specialty contracting, or general contracting firms.

Construction managers held 551,000 jobs in 2008. About 61 percent were self-employed, many as owners of general or specialty trade construction firms. Most salaried construction managers were employed in the construction industry—11 percent by specialty trade contractor businesses (for example, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical contractors), 10 percent in nonresidential building construction, and 7 percent in residential building construction. Others were employed by architectural, engineering, and related services firms.

Job Outlook
Faster than average employment growth is expected. Jobseekers who combine construction work experience with a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field should enjoy the best prospects.

Job Growth
Employment of construction managers is projected to increase by 17 percent during the 2008–18 decade, faster than average for all occupations. Construction managers will be needed as the level and variety of construction activity expands, but at a slower rate than in the past. Modest population and business growth will result in new and renovated construction of residential dwellings, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures that require construction managers. A growing emphasis on making buildings more energy efficient should create additional jobs for construction managers involved in retrofitting buildings. In addition, the need to replace portions of the Nation’s infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water and sewer pipes, along with the need to increase energy supply lines, will further increase demand for construction managers.

The increasing complexity of construction projects requires specialized management-level personnel within the construction industry. Sophisticated technology; the proliferation of laws setting standards for buildings and construction materials, worker safety, energy efficiency, and environmental protection; and the potential for adverse litigation have complicated the construction process. In addition, advances in building materials, technology, and construction methods require continual learning and expertise.

Prospects should be best for people who have a bachelor's or higher degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, plus practical work experience in construction. A strong background in building technology is beneficial as well. Construction managers also will have many opportunities to start their own firms.

In addition to job openings arising from employment growth, many openings should result annually from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force for other reasons. A number of seasoned managers are expected to retire over the next decade, resulting in a number of job openings.

Employment of construction managers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Wages of salaried construction managers and self-employed independent construction contractors vary with the size and nature of the construction project, its geographic location, and economic conditions. In addition to receiving typical benefits, many salaried construction managers earn bonuses and are allowed the use of company motor vehicles.

Median annual wages of salaried construction managers in May 2008 were $79,860. The middle 50 percent earned between $60,650 and $107,140. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $47,000, and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $145,920.

According to a July 2009 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, people with a bachelor's degree in construction science or construction management received job offers averaging $53,199 a year.

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