Overview of Degree and Program Rankings
Construction Management is not a new field, but advanced degrees in the subject are a relatively recent development, and those degrees have only come to be offered online in the past decade or so. With such a short timeline and relatively few schools offering the degree, it is hard to find high-quality rankings of educational programs. However, there are a few ways to tell which programs are high-caliber and worthwhile.
Accreditation for Construction Management Degree Programs
The primary marker of quality for any higher education program is its accreditation status. To become accredited, schools must go through a rigorous, multi-year process and provide a great deal of proof that the education they provide is useful and will serve the students well.
The accreditation process usually requires a school to submit a letter of intent, followed by extensive self-study in which the school must prove that their institution is aware of the needs of students and the communities they serve, and has built those needs into its system of education. After submitting these papers, the school may enter a period of provisional accreditation, which lasts several years. Only after all these steps, and many in-between, have been completed can a school be awarded accreditation. A construction management degree program would have to prove that its courses taught the most up to date construction methods, including providing knowledge of modern materials and regulations.
All of the colleges mentioned on this site are accredited, but if you want to double check the accreditation status of another school, the Department of Education keeps a database of all the accredited postsecondary education providers in the U.S. The online database is conveniently searchable and updated regularly.
How College Rankings Work
Even though there aren’t a lot of great ranked listings for construction management schools, there are still ways to evaluate the quality of a given program. College rankings like the U.S. News and World Report’s annual list rely on myriad factors to generate their rankings, and you can use the same factors to decide whether a program seems good enough for you. Some of the factors that are considered in college rankings include:
- Post-Graduation Job Rates: This one is probably the most important to students at technical or vocational schools. Many universities keep in touch with their students after graduation, to find out how the students fare in the job market, among other things. Some schools publish the percentage of their students who have attained employment in their field within a year after graduating. This number can be a great gauge of how good the education provided by the school really is.
- Amount of Financial Aid Awarded to Students: Since higher education is so expensive now, most students take on some debt to finance going to college. Colleges are proud to show off how much financial aid they are able to secure for their students, and the more financial aid you can get, the better. Not all financial aid is the same though. Scholarships and grants are much more valuable to a student than loans that will eventually need to be repaid with interest.
- Academic Contributions: Many universities employ PhDs who both teach courses and do academic research in their fields. If you’re interested in rising to the top of your field, it is worth finding out who the most well-known people in that field are, and getting to know their body of work. While construction management isn’t an industry known for creating celebrities, there are certainly famous and reputable architects and interior designers. Find out whether the colleges you are applying to have contributed significant innovation or have trained high-profile individuals in the field.
- Standardized Testing Scores: While there has been controversy over the years about the efficacy of standardized testing, many schools still use it to measure the performance of their students. Rating providers like the U.S. News and World Report occasionally look at standardized test scores as one component of their ranking algorithm.
Career Focus in a Construction Management Degree Program
Construction management might sound like a pretty specific career field to be going into, but there are different paths you can take in this career. Some of the possible directions you can go after earning a degree in construction management include:
- Architecture: Knowing how to manage a team and get them to build a structure as ordered is not the same as knowing how to design a structure in the first place. Someone with experience as a construction manager will likely be accepted into architecture school, and will already possess some of the skills necessary to succeed there.
- Sustainable Materials: Knowing about the materials used in construction is a major part of construction project management. Choosing the right lumber for a particular climate, and buying high quality fasteners, insulation, siding, and even paint can all be deciding factors in whether a building lasts forever or crumbles. As sustainable building practices grow more important and less expensive, construction managers who know how to source recycled and renewable materials, and how to salvage materials from old structures, may have an advantage in this area.
- Entrepreneurship: Someone who knows the zoning laws and systems that govern construction work, and knows the business side of construction as well, would be in a great position to start their own real estate, renovation, or construction business. Many construction managers are self-employed, and it is not unusual for someone with some years of experience in the business to strike out on their own.
Choosing A Program Without Relying on Rankings
Given the wide variety of programs available in construction management and related fields, and the relative shortage of reliable ranking systems for them, it is probably best to do your own research and decide which program will best help meet your goals. Cost, timeframe, and course availability will likely all play large parts in this choice. The following is a checklist to help you ask the right questions and get the information you need when you contact colleges about their program offerings:
- Scholarships and Loans: How much can the school offer you? What percentage of the total cost will be covered by student aid? How much will your total costs be if you finish the program in the predicted timeframe?
- Timeframe: How many terms per year does the college offer? How many credits per term? On a full-time schedule, how quickly can you complete the program? How long will it take to finish if you’re working a job as well as taking classes?
- Campus Requirements: Does the program have any on-campus requirements, or can it be finished entirely online? Is there an internship or hands-on course requirement that can’t be completed online? How flexible are the schedules of these course elements?
- Certification Prep: Does the program prepare students for the technical certification exams from the Construction Management Association of America or the American Institute of Constructors?
Making sure the above questions have satisfactory answers before you enroll in a program is important because if you decide partway through that the program doesn’t actually meet your needs, you may already be on the hook to pay for a few expensive semesters. Looking at the average salary of the career you’re aiming for is another good way to decide if going back to school is worth it. This graph, which uses numbers provided by The Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the average salary that is paid to construction managers in a variety of industries.
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