Skip to Main Content

A Guide to Construction Management

What do construction managers do?

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.

Duties


Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to other professionals
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction specialists
  • Select subcontractors and schedule and coordinate their activities
  • Monitor projects and report progress and budget matters to the construction firm and clients
  • Respond to work delays, emergencies, and other problems with the project
  • Ensure that the project complies with legal requirements, such building and safety codes

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a variety of projects, including building public, residential, commercial, and industrial structures as well as roads and bridges. Either a general contractor or a construction manager oversees the construction phase of a project, including personnel, but a construction manager may also consult with the client during the design phase to help refine construction plans and control costs.

These managers coordinate construction processes so that projects meet design specifications and are completed on time within budget. Some construction managers are responsible for several projects—for example, building multiple homes—at once.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, civil engineers, and tradesworkers, including stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Depending on the project, construction managers may interact with lawyers or government officials. For example, when installing municipal sidewalks, construction managers may confer with city inspectors to ensure that the project meets required material specifications.

For large building projects, such as industrial complexes, a top-level construction manager may hire other managers for different aspects of the project. Each construction manager then oversees completion of a specific phase, such as structural foundation or electrical work, and the top-level manager coordinates with the managers to complete the entire project.

To maximize efficiency, construction managers often perform the tasks of a cost estimator. They use cost-estimating and planning software to allocate time and money for scheduling project deadlines.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Construction Managers, 
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-2‚Äč (visited August, 2023).

How to become a construction manager

Construction managers typically need a bachelor’s degree, and they learn management techniques through on-the-job training. Large construction firms may prefer to hire candidates who have both construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. Firms might hire as managers those who have a high school diploma and many years of experience in a construction trade; however, these people may be more likely to work as self-employed general contractors than to be hired as construction managers.


Education

Construction managers typically need a bachelor's degree in construction, business, engineering, or a related field.

Bachelor’s degree programs in construction-related majors often include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, and cost estimation. Courses in business, communications, and mathematics are also helpful.

Some construction managers earn an associate’s degree in construction management or construction technology. An associate’s degree combined with work experience may be typical for managers who supervise small projects.

Candidates who have a high school diploma and several years of relevant work experience may qualify to become construction managers. However, these people may be more likely to work as self-employed general contractors than to be hired as construction managers.


Training

Newly hired construction managers typically work under the guidance of an experienced manager for up to 1 year. Depending on the firm, however, this on-the-job training may last for several years.


Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Construction experience is important for these managers, especially for ones who do not have a bachelor’s degree. For construction managers to qualify for jobs solely through experience, they must have worked many years in carpentry, masonry, or other construction specialties.

College students who participate in internships and cooperative education programs may gain experience through such programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require construction managers to be licensed. For more information, contact your state licensing board.

Professional certification, although not required, demonstrates a particular level of knowledge and experience.

The Construction Management Association of America awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential to workers who have the required experience and who pass a technical exam. Candidates complete a self-study course that covers topics related to construction managers, including the manager’s role, legal issues, and risk allocation.

The American Institute of Constructors awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) credential to candidates who meet its requirements, which include passing construction exams.


Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Construction managers must be able to plan strategies, investigate project cost variances, and solve problems over the course of a project.

Business skills. Construction managers need to prepare and follow project budgets, hire and manage staff, and coordinate with other workers and managers. Self-employed construction managers must generate their own business opportunities and be proactive in finding new clients.

Communication skills. Construction managers must be able to clearly convey information orally and in writing. In addition to talking with owners and clients, managers must give clear orders and explain complex information to construction workers and discuss technical details with inspectors and other specialists, such as engineers.

Decisionmaking skills. Construction managers need to choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks and jobs. They also must make myriad judgment calls about projects to ensure that they adhere to deadlines and budgets.

Leadership skills. Construction managers must effectively delegate tasks to construction workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers to ensure that projects are completed accurately and on time.

Technical skills. Construction managers must have an applied knowledge of concepts and practices common in the industry, such as construction technologies, contracts, and technical drawings.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Construction Managers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm (visited August, 2023).