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A Career in Construction Management

September 02, 2014 By: Chad Category: Careers

From residential homes to skyscrapers, construction projects need people to oversee all related activities. This is a job for which construction managers are specifically trained. With good accessibility to training or education, robust salaries, and bright job outlook, a career in construction management can be financially, professionally, and emotionally rewarding.

Generally, construction managers—who are also referred to as general contractors or project managers—plan, coordinate, and supervise construction projects. Construction managers prepare cost estimates, budgets, and timetables; report work progress and budget matters to clients; and usually constitute the primary point of contact in case of a work delay or emergency. Most managers oversee projects from start to finish, with a substantial amount of collaboration with architects, engineers, land developers, and builders. Construction managers have to make sure that they comply with legal requirements and building and safety codes. They also procure construction equipment from the appropriate companies. For instance, Global Cranes, which is based in Houston, Texas, supplies RT cranes for lifting and lowering building materials.

Types of Projects
Construction managers are most commonly associated with buildings. From homes, hospitals, and restaurants to skyscrapers and industrial complexes, they oversee the creation of all types of residential, commercial, and public structures. However, construction managers are also involved with the building of roads, bridges, sewer pipe systems, and memorials.

Training and Education
With construction projects becoming more complex and requiring more technology, it is becoming increasingly more important to have at least a bachelor’s degree, particularly in civil engineering, construction management, construction science or architecture. More than a hundred colleges and universities in the United States offer such programs, which teach aspiring construction managers how to estimate building costs, plan and manage construction projects, and build according to legal requirements. A few universities have a master’s degree in construction management, which offers even more specialized education and consequently increases one’s chances of getting a job or higher salary. Smaller projects might be fine with an associate’s degree in construction management or construction technology. Construction managers kick off their careers being mentored as an assistant under the wings of experienced managers. The mentoring period could take a few months to a year, depending on the learning curve.

Salary and Employment
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that construction managers had a median annual wage of $82,790 in 2012. The median annual salary went up to $84,410 in 2013. Managers involved in heavy and civil engineering took home the most pay in 2012, with a median yearly wage of $85,130. A majority of them work from an office at the construction site, which makes it easier to monitor the day-to-day activities of the project. Some construction managers juggle multiple projects, thus compelling them to travel frequently between sites.

Job Outlook
The BLS estimates the number of construction workers in the United States at 485,000, about 57 percent of which are self-employed. The agency expects that number to grow by 16 percent between 2012 and 2022. This employment growth rate is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. The BLS attributes such growth to a number of factors, such as population and business activity growth, demand for national infrastructural improvement, and a growing emphasis on retrofitting buildings for greater energy efficiency.