Construction managers are salaried or self-employed managers who oversee construction supervisors and personnel. They are often called project managers, constructors, construction superintendents, project engineers, construction supervisors, or general contractors. Construction managers may be owners or salaried employees of a construction management or contracting firm, or they may work under contract or as a salaried employee of the property owner, developer, or contracting firm managing the construction project.
These managers coordinate and supervise the construction process from the conceptual development stage through final construction, making sure that the project gets completed on time and within budget. They often work with owners, engineers, architects, and others who are involved in the process. Given the designs for buildings, roads, bridges, or other projects, construction managers supervise the planning, scheduling, and implementation of those designs.
Large construction projects, such as an office building or an industrial complex, are often too complicated for one person to manage. Accordingly, these projects are divided into various segments: site preparation, including clearing and excavation of the land, installing sewage systems, and landscaping and road construction; building construction, including laying foundations and erecting the structural framework, floors, walls, and roofs; and building systems, including protecting against fire and installing electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating systems. Construction managers may be in charge of one or several of these activities.
Construction managers determine the best way to get materials to the building site and the most cost-effective plan and schedule for completing the project. They divide all required construction site activities into logical steps, estimating and budgeting the time required to meet established deadlines. Doing this may require sophisticated scheduling and cost-estimating techniques using computers with specialized software.
Construction managers also manage the selection of general contractors and trade contractors to complete specific phases of the project—which could include everything from structural metalworking and plumbing, to painting, to installing electricity and carpeting. Construction managers determine the labor requirements of the project and, in some cases, supervise or monitor the hiring and dismissal of workers. They oversee the performance of all trade contractors and are responsible for ensuring that all work is completed on schedule.
Construction managers direct and monitor the progress of construction activities, occasionally through construction supervisors or other construction managers. They are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, for directing or monitoring compliance with building and safety codes, other regulations, and requirements set by the project's insurers. They also oversee the delivery and use of materials, tools, and equipment; worker safety and productivity; and the quality of the construction.
Construction managers held about 448,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of construction managers were as follows:
- Self-employed workers - 36%
- Specialty trade contractors - 17%
- Nonresidential building construction - 17%
- Residential building construction - 11%
- Heavy and civil engineering construction - 8%
Construction managers may have a main office but spend most of their time in a field office onsite, where they monitor projects and make decisions about construction activities. Those who manage multiple projects must visit the different worksites, which may require travelling out of state or being away from home for extended periods.
Most construction managers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Construction managers’ work schedules may vary. They may need to work extra hours to meet deadlines, and they may have to be on call 24 hours a day to respond to project emergencies.Education & Training Required
For construction manager jobs, a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, building science, or civil engineering, plus work experience, is becoming the norm. However, years of experience, in addition to taking classes in the field or getting an associate’s degree, can substitute for a bachelor’s degree. Practical construction experience is very important for entering this occupation, whether earned through an internship, a cooperative education program, a job in the construction trades, or another job in the industry. Some people advance to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craftworkers—carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians, for example—or after having worked as construction supervisors or as owners of independent specialty contracting firms. However, as construction processes become increasingly complex, employers are placing more importance on specialized education after high school.
More than 100 colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in construction science, building science, and construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and development, site planning, design, construction methods, construction materials, value analysis, cost estimating, scheduling, contract administration, accounting, business and financial management, safety, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and information technology. Graduates from 4-year degree programs usually are hired as assistants to project managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. An increasing number of graduates in related fields—engineering or architecture, for example—also enter construction management, often after acquiring substantial experience on construction projects.
Several colleges and universities offer a master's degree program in construction management or construction science. Master's degree recipients, especially those with work experience in construction, typically become construction managers in very large construction or construction management companies. Often, individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field seek a master's degree in construction management or construction science to work in the construction industry. Some construction managers obtain a master's degree in business administration or finance to further their career prospects.
A number of 2-year colleges throughout the country offer construction management or construction technology programs. Many individuals also attend training and educational programs sponsored by industry associations, often in collaboration with postsecondary institutions.
Construction managers should be flexible and work effectively in a fast-paced environment. They should be decisive and work well under pressure, particularly when faced with unexpected events or delays. The ability to manage several major activities at once, while analyzing and resolving specific problems, is essential, as is an understanding of engineering, architectural, and other construction drawings. Familiarity with computers and software programs for job costing, online collaboration, scheduling, and estimating also is important.
Good oral and written communication skills are important as well, as are leadership skills. Managers must be able to establish a good working relationship with many different people, including owners, other managers, designers, supervisors, and craftworkers. The ability to converse fluently in Spanish is increasingly becoming an asset, because Spanish is the first language of many workers in the construction industry.