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May 8, 2020
Drive through any metropolitan area of the United States, and one thing stands out: Construction is happening everywhere. According to the Association of General Contractors of America, construction spending in the U.S. hit $1.3 trillion in 2018, a 4.1% increase from the year before. Construction projects range from small houses to public infrastructure, with costs reaching well over $1 billion for one modern skyscraper. As cities continue to expand and populations move and shift, construction needs will only grow along with them.
Twenty-first-century construction is a complex process, involving design teams and contractors who specialize in specific areas of construction. Construction managers play a crucial role in ensuring the entire process runs smoothly. They need a combination of technical skills and leadership abilities; a thorough understanding of construction science, architecture, and engineering; and the ability to manage others. Learn how to become a construction manager and discover the job outlook, salary, and demands of this potentially rewarding career.
Construction managers oversee large and small projects, working with crews of all different sizes. They might manage a couple of general contractors redesigning a home kitchen or dozens of specialized workers designing and constructing a new library for a university. Construction managers work with architects and engineers to design buildings and ensure they are structurally sound. They consult with other team members throughout the process, troubleshooting any issues and overseeing all efforts to carry out construction plans. Construction managers might hire subcontractors with different specialties, such as plumbing, electricity, and concrete pouring.
Construction managers also oversee an entire project’s timeline and budget. They often work overtime hours or stay on call around the clock, as challenges and changes can come up at any time.
Professionals interested in how to become a construction manager should understand that the path to landing a high-level management position in the field can take time. Construction managers must have an advanced education, including multiple degrees, as well as on-the-job experience. Equipped with such a background, these professionals are ready to tackle large, complex projects.
The first step toward becoming a construction manager is to complete a relevant bachelor’s degree. Degrees in architecture and engineering are useful, as they offer students an in-depth understanding of the design process and the reasoning behind such decisions. Where it is available –– for example, through LSU Online –– a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management sets students up for further study, or to enter the field in entry level positions. Through undergraduate study in any of these disciplines, professionals learn more about the various elements of construction, from the initial design phrases to troubleshooting engineering issues.
After completing an undergraduate degree, future construction managers should gain experience by working for a construction company. Through entry-level work, they can see what daily life is like on a site, interact with the different types of professionals who contribute to construction and structural design, and observe construction managers at work. Aspiring construction managers can also begin working in the field before college, starting off as a part-time laborer in high school.
During or after the process of gaining experience, aspiring construction managers need to go back to school to earn a degree that will take their expertise to the next level. A program such as the LSU Online Master of Science in Construction Management, with courses in project delivery, decision-making tools in construction management, and advanced construction productivity, is designed to train individuals seeking high-level positions in construction.
Candidates don’t need an industry credential to become a construction manager. However, the Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI) offers a certification for professional construction managers. This credential demonstrates to prospective employers that a candidate has verifiable skills and knowledge in the industry. LSU Online also offers the unique opportunity to earn micro-credentials relevant to the field, including the Introduction to Construction Management Micro-Cred. These credentials are designed to teach students skills that can be applied immediately in the workplace, as well as offer an edge through digital badges that can be shared on sites such as LinkedIn.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 471,800 construction managers –– also known as general contractors and project managers –– worked in the U.S. as of May 2018. They earned a median annual salary of $93,000, with the bottom 10% earning around $55,000, while the top 10% earned as much as $162,000.
Construction managers who worked in heavy and civil engineering construction earned the highest median annual salary ($97,000), followed by those who worked in nonresidential building construction ($95,000), specialty trade construction ($90,000), and residential building construction ($84,000). According to the BLS, construction managers often earn bonuses, especially if they bring in new business, work overtime, or complete tasks ahead of time or under budget.
The BLS projects the job market for construction managers will grow by 46,200 jobs, or 10%, between 2018 and 2028. That growth rate is double the national job market average. The BLS expects certain areas will see growth above the general average for construction managers. Heavy and civil engineering should add around 5,200 jobs (14.3% growth), residential building should add 6,100 jobs (13.9% growth), and overall building construction should add 15,000 jobs (13% growth). The only fields in which construction management jobs will decrease are in smaller markets, such as coal mining and nuclear electric power generation.
Becoming a construction manager means understanding not only elements of business but also the ins and outs of building design and on-the-ground construction. Construction managers are key players in ensuring projects of all types are completed safely, efficiently, and to specification. Explore how LSU Online’s Master of Science in Construction Management can help you expand your skills and step into a rewarding position in this important and growing field.