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What is Construction Management?

What is Construction Management?

Construction management is a vocation that involves the oversight of a building project’s schedule, cost, quality and safety. Construction managers hold a highly respected position within the construction industry, and the role requires a broad range of skills, from planning and budgeting to communicating with the project owner and stakeholders.

Construction Manager Position Overview

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in construction management, these are the key functions of the role, including education and experience requirements:

  • Key Responsibilities: Overseeing project budget, schedule, function and safety
  • Necessary Skills: Communication, decision-making, administrative skills, problem-solving, budgeting, time management
  • Education Requirements: B.S. in construction management, construction science, architecture or a related field
  • Experience Needed: Experience working in construction; depends on education level
  • Average Pay in the U.S.: $115,447
  • Optional Certifications: Certified Construction Manager (CMM), Associate Constructor (AC), Certified Professional Constructor (CPC)

Why Is This Role Important? 

The construction manager (CM) plays an integral role in ensuring that the build is successful and stays within the budget. They work closely with the project manager and owner throughout the construction process and collaborate with subcontractors to create accurate timeframes and cost estimates during preconstruction. This helps reduce expensive change orders during construction and ensures that everyone stays on the same page, making the project run as smoothly as possible.

Construction Manager vs. Project Manager vs. General Contractor

Project Manager Construction Manager General Contractor
Responsibilities Oversees the project from the site selection stage to the final move into the building. Manages the CM and general contractor and works to meet the project owner’s goals. Oversees the building process from start to finish and manages the project’s budget, schedule, function and site safety. Responsibilities begin during preconstruction. Receives subcontractor proposals, coordinates subcontractors and ensures that the building project stays on track. Responsibilities begin once construction commences.
Hiring Process Selected by the project owner at a predetermined wage. May have a preexisting working relationship with the owner. Selected by the project owner at a predetermined wage. May have a preexisting working relationship with the owner. Submits a competitive bid to the project owner and enters the project as a third party.
Education Level Bachelor’s degree or higher in business management, project management or a related field. B.S. in construction management, construction science, architecture or a related field. B.S. in construction management, civil engineering or a related field preferred.
Median Salary $109,137 $97,180 $85,885

Construction management, project management (PM) and general contracting share many similarities, but they each play a distinct role in the building process.

While the CM is responsible for managing the construction portion of a building project, the PM oversees all aspects of the project, including site selection during the planning phase and the move into the facility once construction is complete. The PM typically supervises the CM, and the two work together to ensure that the project stays on schedule and within budget.

Like the CM, the general contractor is also responsible for overseeing the building project to ensure that it stays on track. However, they are generally not involved in the preconstruction process and have a unique set of responsibilities. These include receiving subcontractor proposals, coordinating subcontractors during the project and submitting a proposal that is as low as possible to the project owner.

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

The CM oversees a building project from start to finish to ensure that it meets all specifications set by the project owner.

The CM oversees a building project from start to finish to ensure that it meets all specifications set by the project owner. Their responsibilities can vary as the project progresses, so it’s important to understand how they operate during each stage of the construction process.

Preconstruction

During the preconstruction phase, the CM is responsible for providing input on the building’s design, making adjustments to reflect a more accurate timeframe and cost estimate. The CM’s main goal is to ensure that the project meets the owner’s quality and cost requirements, so they work to create a detailed budget, schedule and risk management plan before construction starts.

Construction

Once construction commences, the CM continues to report to the project owner or PM while supervising the team of subcontractors. They handle a series of additional tasks during this stage, including responding to RFIs, managing site inspections, monitoring the budget, scheduling payments, obtaining necessary permits and maintaining worksite safety. The CM also keeps the owner and stakeholders informed of any issues or changes to prevent miscommunication.

Post-Construction

Some of the most important and time-consuming steps of the construction process happen during the post-construction stage. The CM is responsible for overseeing the entire project closeout process and must ensure that the team has completed all required punch lists, final inspections, “as built” drawings and other documents before turning the building over to the owner.

Average Construction Manager Salary

The median salary for a construction manager is $97,180 in the U.S. but can range anywhere from $56,880 to $169,070 depending on location, experience, certifications and education level. Because the CM position comes with such a high level of responsibility, it is one of the highest paying positions in the construction industry.

The median salary for a construction manager is $97,180 in the U.S.

3 Steps To Become a Construction Manager

Becoming a construction manager requires a complete understanding of the construction process gained through years of education and experience. While there is not a specific set of requirements for becoming a CM, many people working in construction management today took the following steps:

1. Pursue Education and Training Opportunities

CM positions typically require a four-year degree in construction management, construction science, architecture or a related field. Many community colleges offer two-year degrees in construction management, but it may be more difficult to find a job managing large-scale projects without a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to pursuing a degree, many aspiring CMs seek out training opportunities while working a lower-level construction job. These often come in the form of internships or assistant positions working under experienced CMs, and they can last anywhere from a few months to several years. These opportunities are especially beneficial for those who would rather rely on work experience than pursue a four-year construction management degree.

2. Gain Work Experience

Most CMs have years of experience working in the construction industry. Required work experience for CM positions can vary depending on the applicant’s level of education and scale of the project, and some clients may prefer experience in a specialized field or trade. As a general rule, applicants without a bachelor’s degree will need to spend more time gaining on-the-job experience than applicants who have one.

3. Obtain Licenses and Certifications

Professional licenses and certifications are a must for most CM positions. While most states don’t require specific certifications to become a CM, many project owners prefer that applicants have one or more of the following:

  • Certified Construction Manager (CMM): CMs who meet the experience requirements and pass a technical exam can earn a CMM certification from the Construction Management Association of America.
  • Associate Constructor (AC): This is an entry-level certification commonly awarded to recent graduates or employees coming into construction management from other industries. Those wishing to take the AC exam must have completed a four-year construction management degree program or have at least four years of qualifying construction experience.
  • Certified Professional Constructor (CPC): This is an advanced certification reserved for CMs with years of management experience. A CM must have four to eight years of qualifying experience and pass an exam to earn a CPC credential.

Construction managers handle a variety of tasks during the construction process, from planning and budgeting to managing site safety and quality. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in construction management, be sure to seek out education and training opportunities to help you excel in this highly skilled position.

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