Guide to Construction Management

Construction managers plan, direct, coordinate, and budget a wide variety of construction projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, and schools and hospitals. They schedule and organize all design and construction processes, including the selection, hiring, and oversight of specialty trade contractors, such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. A construction manager is in charge of various aspects of construction and may go by different titles, including; construction superintendent, production manager, project manager, general construction manager, general contractor, and subcontractor. In some cases, construction managers could also be the owner of a construction contracting company or just an individual contracted to work for the owner, developer, or management firm responsible for a given project (Read more).

Often on call 24 hours a day, construction managers deal with delays, such as bad weather, or emergencies at the jobsite. More than one-third worked a 40-hour week in 2008, and some construction projects continue around the clock. Construction managers may need to work this type of schedule for days or weeks to meet deadlines, especially if there are delays.

You can receive a construction management education several different ways. Available options include formal degree programs (one-year associate degree; four-year baccalaureate degree, master’s degree); on-the-job training; and continuing education/professional development. According to the American Council for Construction Education (the academic accrediting body of construction management educational programs in the U.S.), the academic field of construction management incorporates a wide range of subjects. These range from general management skills, to management skills specifically associated to construction, to technical knowledge of construction procedures and practices.

There are many schools offering construction management programs, including some that offer a master’s degree. For information on degree programs, reference the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE) or the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC).

Construction Management Degree Programs

These construction management degree programs are offered by accredited colleges. You can request information from about any program by clicking the college's logo.

Ashford University
Ashford University – Ashford University's highly-rated online BA in Operations Management and Analysis program is fully accredited and provides a broad based curriculum that prepares students for a variety of management careers. This degree can be completed on your own timeline and in an environment of your choosing. Ashford also offers a BA and MBA in Project Management.
DeVry University</span>
DeVry University – DeVry has two online courses that include skill development for time management, safety awareness, risk assessment and management, task prioritization, and communication and interaction. Students can pick from either a BBA in Project Management or a BBA in Operations Management.
Kaplan University
Kaplan University – Kaplan is a leading online educator with hundreds of accredited courses available in various fields of study. KU provides two Bachelors of Science in Project Management: one is a BSBA degree that is for students starting their education while the other is an MBA designed for student who have had prior education.
Everglades University
Everglades University – Everglades University offers a fully online Bachelors in Construction Management program which includes accredited courses in essential skills and tools such as construction contracts, construction law, building construction drawing and drafting, construction scheduling, and project management.

Click Here to see more schools offering Online Construction Management Programs

What is Construction Management?

Construction management (CM) is the overall planning, coordination and control of a construction project from its inception to its completion. Construction managers must aim to meet a client’s requirements and direct a functionally and financially feasible project. With an advanced degree you can manage very large construction projects or construction companies. You’ll manage employee schedules, material’s acquisition, and generally be responsible for making sure everything gets done on time and on budget. Arranging for the delivery of materials, figuring out the most cost and time effective ways to do projects, and overseeing the selection of contractors, subcontractors, and workers are also common duties or a construction manager.

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) lists 7 core competencies and responsibilities for a construction manager. These responsibilities fall into the following 7 categories: Project Management Planning, Cost Management, Time Management, Quality Management, Contract Administration, Safety Management, and CM Professional Practice. Duties within these categories include organizing and leading by implementing project controls, defining the responsibilities and management structure of the project management team, outlining roles and responsibilities, developing communication protocols, and identifying elements of project design and construction likely to give rise to disputes and claims.

Degrees Used for Construction Management

A degree specifically in construction management offers the best skill-set when pursuing a position for this career choice. Programs will not only explore general management competencies like project management and planning, risk assessment, human resources, and communication but also industry-oriented elements like attention to safety, regulations, and laws. That said, various other majors like project management, general management, and contract management can be applied to jobs in this field.

Associate's Degrees in Construction Management & Related Fields

Bachelor's Degrees in Construction Management & Related Fields

Master's Degrees in Construction Management & Related Fields

Postgraduate Certificates in Construction Management & Related Fields

What Educational Options Exist for Construction Management Degrees?

There are a variety of different construction management degree options. These options depend on how much education you wish to receive, and what kind of job you hope to obtain. For undergraduate degrees there are one to two-year associate degree programs and four-year baccalaureate degrees. You can continue your education through a master’s or doctorate degree in construction management if you already have an undergraduate degree in a related field.

The more advanced the degree is the better your job opportunities and salaries become. Employers are beginning to hire CMs who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. You can get a qualifying bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, building science, or civil engineering. Usually if you have a bachelor’s degree you’ll first be hired as an assistant to project managers, or as a field engineer, scheduler, or cost estimator. Work experience is also a plus for most construction management positions, so typically degree programs offer you an internship or cooperative educational programs.

There are also master’s degree programs in construction management or construction science. Master’s degree students typically go into the field if they’ve already had experience in construction. After graduating they can become construction managers at large companies. Sometimes individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field seek a master’s degree in construction management or construction science to change their career to be able work in the construction industry. Occasionally students also get a master’s degree in business administration or finance to further their construction management career prospects.

According to the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE), which is the academic accrediting body of construction management educational programs in the U.S., the academic field of construction management encompasses a wide range of topics. Coursework within construction management degree programs includes:

  • 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
  • Information technology

What Other Qualifications are there for Construction Managers?

Flexibility and working effectively in a fast-paced environment are two qualifications that construction managers need to have. If you’re considering this career you should be decisive, work well under pressure, and be willing to adjust when faced with unexpected events or delays. Multi-tasking is a huge component, too, as you’ll need to manage several major activities at once while analyzing and resolving specific problems. A degree in construction management is crucial, as you’ll need to understand engineering, architectural and other construction drawings. A familiarity with computers and software programs used for job cost estimation, online collaboration, and scheduling are also important since technology is becoming a bigger part of our everyday world.

You must possess good leadership abilities to become a manager. Even though construction management is in the science and technology field, you also still must have good oral and written communication skills. You’ll need to have good working relationship with a variety of people—owners, managers, designers, supervisors, craftsmen (and craftswomen), coworkers, and more.

You may also need certification as a construction manager. It’s not always legally required to work in the industry, but employers like to see evidence of competence and experience. Some contractors even require their construction managers to have certification. The American Institute of Constructors and the Construction Management Association of America both have voluntary certification programs. Requirements for these certifications combine written examinations with verification of education and professional experience.

Career Outlook with a Construction Management Degree:

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for construction management jobs is great, with employment projected to increase by 17 percent during the 2008 to 2018 decade. Construction managers held 551,000 jobs in 2008. About 61 percent were self-employed, many as owners of general or specialty trade construction firms. Although the majority was employed in the construction industry, others were also employed by trade contractor businesses (plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical contractors), nonresidential building construction, residential building construction, and architectural, engineering, and related services firms.

In a construction management career you’ll be responsible to act on behalf of an owner, contractor, or designer at every step of a construction project. Your career duties as construction manager will include:

  • Define and translate project specifications into action and progress.
  • Develop a project budget and schedule.
  • Select a project architect, other design professionals and the contractor.
  • Control disbursement of funds as construction progresses.
  • Coordinate and supervise the work of all contractors and subcontractors to be sure the job’s specifications are being followed.
  • Facilitate communication among team-members.
  • Respond to changing circumstances, from weather to funding fluctuations.
  • Avoid delays, disputes, accidents and cost overruns.
  • Coordinate the “commissioning” process, the final delivery of a completed project with every element accomplished according to the job specifications.
  • Oversee the development of project documents that potential contractors and others will need in order to bid on the work.
  • Review bids and bidder qualifications.

Advancement opportunities also exist in construction management jobs. They vary depending on your performance and the size and type of company that you work in. For example, within large firms you may eventually become a top-level manager or executive. As a highly experienced individual you may become an independent consultant, serving as expert witnesses in court or as arbitrators in disputes. You could also establish your own construction management services, specialty contracting, or general contracting firms.

Wages depend on the size of company you work with and the nature of construction project you’re working on. Factors such as geographic location and economic conditions are also important players. Typically CMs receive benefits, bonuses, and permission to use company motor vehicles in addition to their salaries. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of salaried construction managers in May 2008 were $79,860. The median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of construction managers were as follows:

  • Building equipment contractors: $81,590
  • Nonresidential building construction: $79,950
  • Other specialty trade contractors: $78,410
  • Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: $76,880
  • Residential building construction: $74,770

Other Resources for Construction Management Degrees

The CMAA has compiled several resources for those interested in studying construction management:

  • The Construction Management Career Brochure: This PDF brochure explains what a CM does on a day-to-day basis. It also includes what skills and education a CM needs.
  • CMAA Career Headquarters: This is a forum that provides candidates and employers a resources to post resumes and job openings.
  • What is Construciton Management?: This is an article that will help you understand what the CM career is like.
  • Glossary of CM Terms: This glossary provides a quick overview of popular words used in the CM industry. This is a good resource to use if you’re looking at different CM degree program’s websites and you don’t understand the language they’re using.

Other outside sources for CM include:

  • Wikipedia: A general overview of construction management education and career.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research: This is a not-for-profit education foundation created to develop standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable, nationally-recognized credentials.