Employers increasingly prefer candidates with both work experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field such as construction science, construction management, architecture or engineering. However, some construction managers may qualify with a high school diploma and by working many years in a construction trade. Certification, although not required, is becoming increasingly important.
More than 100 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in construction science, building science, or construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, cost estimation, building codes and standards, and contract administration. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also relevant. An associate’s degree combined with work experience may be enough for some positions. A number of two-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs. In addition, those with a high school diploma and years of relevant work experience will be able to work as construction managers, though they will do so primarily as self-employed general contractors.
Practical construction experience is important when entering the occupation because it reduces the need for initial on-the-job training. Internships, cooperative education programs, and long-term jobs in the industry provide that experience. Some construction managers become qualified solely through extensive construction experience, spending many years in carpentry, masonry, or general subcontracting. New construction managers are generally hired as assistants to experienced managers before beginning independent work. Work as an assistant can last from several weeks to several months, depending on the firm.
Most managers plan a project strategy and must identify and solve unexpected issues and delays. They choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks. Often, these decisions must be made quickly to meet deadlines. Self-employed construction managers generate their own business opportunities and must be proactive to find new clients. They often market their services, bid on jobs, and learn how to work on a wide variety of projects.
Construction managers address budget matters and coordinate and supervise workers. Choosing competent staff and employees, as well as establishing good working relationships with them, is critical. Managers also must delegate tasks to workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers effectively. Managers must give clear orders, explain complex information to workers and clients, and discuss technical details with other building specialists. Self-employed construction managers must get their own projects, so the need to sell their services to potential clients is critical.
Managers must know construction methods and technologies, and be able to interpret contracts and technical drawings. Construction managers must meet deadlines. They ensure that construction phases are completed on time so that the next phase can begin. For instance, constructing a building foundation cannot begin until the land excavation is completed. They must write proposals, plans, and budgets clearly for clients and others involved in the building process.