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Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Construction Managers




Persons interested in becoming a construction manager need a solid background in building science, business, and management, as well as related work experience within the construction industry. They need to understand contracts, plans, and specifications, and to be knowledgeable about construction methods, materials, and regulations. Familiarity with computers and software programs for job costing, online collaboration, scheduling, and estimating also is important.

Traditionally, persons advance to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craftworkers—, carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians, for example—or after having worked as construction supervisors or as owners of independent specialty contracting firms overseeing workers in one or more construction trades. However, employers—particularly large construction firms—increasingly prefer individuals who combine industry work experience with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering. Practical industry experience also is very important, whether it is acquired through internships, cooperative education programs, or work experience in the industry.

Construction managers should be flexible and work effectively in a fast-paced environment. They should be decisive and work well under pressure, particularly when faced with unexpected occurrences or delays. The ability to coordinate several major activities at once, while analyzing and resolving specific problems, is essential, as is an understanding of engineering, architectural, and other construction drawings. Good oral and written communication skills also are important, as are leadership skills. Managers must be able to establish a good working relationship with many different people, including owners, other managers, designers, supervisors, and craftworkers.

Advancement opportunities for construction managers vary depending upon an individual’s performance and the size and type of company for which they work. Within large firms, managers may eventually become top-level managers or executives. Highly experienced individuals may become independent consultants; some serve as expert witnesses in court or as arbitrators in disputes. Those with the required capital may establish their own construction management services, specialty contracting, or general contracting firm.

Many colleges and universities offer 4-year degree programs in construction management, construction science, and construction engineering. These programs include courses in 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, and information technology. Graduates from 4-year degree programs usually are hired as assistants to project managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. An increasing number of graduates in related fields—engineering or architecture, for example—also enter construction management, often after acquiring substantial experience on construction projects or after completing graduate studies in construction management or building science.

Several colleges and universities offer a master’s degree program in construction management or construction science. Master’s degree recipients, especially those with work experience in construction, typically become construction managers in very large construction or construction management companies. Often, individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field seek a master’s degree in order to work in the construction industry. Some construction managers obtain a master’s degree in business administration or finance to further their career prospects. Doctoral degree recipients usually become college professors or conduct research.

Many individuals also attend training and educational programs sponsored by industry associations, often in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. A number of 2-year colleges throughout the country offer construction management or construction technology programs.

There is a growing movement towards certification of construction managers to ensure that a construction manager has a certain body of knowledge, abilities, and experience. Both the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) have established voluntary certification programs for construction managers. Requirements combine written examinations with verification of education and professional experience. AIC awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations to candidates who meet its requirements and pass appropriate construction examinations. CMAA awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to practitioners who meet its requirements through work performed in a construction management firm and by passing a technical examination. Applicants for the CMAA certification also must complete a self-study course that covers a broad range of topics central to construction management, including the professional role of a construction manager, legal issues, and allocation of risk. Although certification is not required to work in the construction industry, voluntary certification can be valuable because it provides evidence of competence and experience.