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Construction Superintendent vs. Project Manager

Newsroom | Articles June 8, 2020
Project manager reviews construction budget.

Whether building bridges and highways or houses and buildings, leaders in construction oversee the process from beginning to end. The roles of construction superintendents and project managers are vital for the completion of a construction project. Those looking to pursue careers in the industry should first understand the similarities and differences in a career as a construction superintendent versus a project manager.

Comparing Construction Superintendents and Project Managers

There are many differences and similarities between roles for construction superintendents versus project managers.Those working in these jobs are in charge of ensuring that construction projects have a budget and adhere to it. Both construction superintendents and project managers must have an education and several years of experience in the field. Even though their jobs vary, these two types of construction leaders should demonstrate excellent communication skills, as they both work with their employers, administrators, and construction workers.

The primary difference in a construction superintendent versus a project manager is that construction superintendents work on construction sites alongside their construction workers, while project managers typically oversee the administrative aspects of a project and work off-site. A construction superintendent supervises a job site as the construction manager or foreman, whereas a project manager monitors the process and progress from a distance, handling problems and making decisions.

Roles and Responsibilities of Construction Superintendents

A construction superintendent is the individual who oversees every step of the construction process, from planning to completion. They are in charge of conducting interviews and selecting the workers they want on the job site. Some construction superintendents specialize in a certain type of construction, whether residential, commercial, or industrial. They take full responsibility for their jobs sites, overseeing everything from making schedules to selecting materials. The following essential skills are required for construction superintendents:

  • Construction Experience: Many employers prefer hiring construction superintendents who have a good command of the construction process, including the tools, tasks, and roles involved.
  • Productivity Software: Construction superintendents need to be adept at using word processors, spreadsheets, and other software for keeping track of details on a job site or for completing progress reports to be lodged with the company.
  • Knowledge of OSHA Standards: Organizational safety knowledge is a prerequisite for holding many construction superintendent jobs, since workers and unions alike tend to take special interest in seeing that these standards are upheld.
  • Communication Skills: Dealing with civil engineers or architects, as well as communicating their decisions with project managers and other construction workers, requires strong communication skills.
  • Scheduling: Construction superintendents need to be able to present timelines of their jobs along with estimations for costs. Scheduling, either manually or through software, is necessary for construction superintendents to create and maintain these timelines.

Roles and Responsibilities of Project Managers

A project manager is the person who plans, schedules, and executes a project. Their duties involve preparing the team for work, forecasting and determining what work needs to be done for various stages of the project, and estimating project completion costs. Some of their critical responsibilities include budgeting and helping to procure land for a project. The following essential skills are required for project managers:

  • Contract Management and Procurement: Project managers are typically aware of the entire contracting framework in order to deliver the project per contract specifications. This requires legal knowledge as well as procurement and contract management familiarity.
  • Risk Management: An efficient project manager will always see each project as a trade-off between risk and reward. Risk management involves risk identification, risk analysis, and risk prioritization and control.
  • Budgeting: A project manager is responsible for keeping track of a project’s funding and how much it has consumed thus far. Budgeting is necessary for a project to come in under the estimated amount.
  • Communication: Both verbal and written communication skills are necessary for success, as project managers communicate within the company as well as with other companies for support.
  • Negotiation: Pursuant to budgeting, the project manager may need to negotiate with clients, for either more funding or more time.
  • Leadership: Project managers need to be able to resolve conflicts between members of their teams to move the project forward at a reasonable pace.
  • Organization: Project managers need to be organized, as they are responsible for ensuring access to tools and building materials, arranging meetings with clients, and setting worker schedules.
  • Problem-Solving: Occasionally, a problem may arise that requires unconventional thinking. Project managers need to be able to think outside the box to solve problems efficiently.

Job Outlook: Construction Superintendent vs. Project Manager

As long as people continue to need houses, buildings, freeways, parks, and bridges, there will remain a need for construction superintendents and project managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of construction managers to grow 10% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than most careers. The annual median salary for construction managers, according to the BLS, is $93,370.

The Value of an Education in Construction Management

Gaining experience in construction management is important for achieving a leadership position in the field. While employers may look for different amounts of experience in construction superintendents versus project managers, construction workers typically need around four years of experience before they can move into leadership roles. To manage projects effectively, construction managers should be familiar with the process of construction projects and how to engage with other workers on the job site.

Education is also essential for a leadership position in construction management. Most employers will expect a construction superintendent or project manager to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, construction science, or construction management. Individuals can pursue an online Bachelor of Science in Construction Management and prepare for careers in construction management by completing general education coursework and taking specialized courses such as Construction Surveying, Construction Materials and Methods, Construction Contracting, and Construction Project Management.

Individuals who have already developed an educational foundation in the field can pursue a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Construction Management. They can take specialized courses in construction estimating, construction scheduling and cost control, and structural principles and practices.

Learn More About Construction Management

Since experience and education are necessary for leadership roles in construction management, many individuals choose to pursue an online education that allows them to continue gaining professional experience in the field.

Students starting off their educational journey in the field can earn the Bachelor of Science in Construction Management to develop a foundation of knowledge. Individuals who have already completed their undergraduate degree can further develop their knowledge and skills by earning the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Construction Management. Explore how LSU Online can help you discover your options and prepare for a rewarding career in the field.

Recommended Readings

A Construction Management Certificate vs. Degree: Two Paths to Building the Future

Building Tomorrow’s World: What Can You Do With a Construction Management Degree?

Building With a Purpose: An Introduction to Lean Construction

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