Have you ever driven past a construction site and wondered what it would be like to orchestrate all that activity? Managing large-scale construction projects seems like an exciting career, but is it actually a smart career move? If you’re considering a job in construction management, there are some key factors to weigh. In short, construction management can be a very lucrative and rewarding career path for those with the right set of skills and experience. Below, we’ll look at the construction manager job description, salary outlook, expected growth, and other pros and cons to help you decide if construction management is a good fit for your goals.
What Does a Construction Manager Do?
Before deciding if construction management is a good career, it helps to understand what the day-to-day work entails. Construction managers are responsible for planning, coordinating, budgeting and supervising construction projects from start to finish. Their primary duties include:
- Collaborating with architects, engineers, owners and other stakeholders to interpret project drawings and specifications.
- Creating detailed project plans and schedules using scheduling software.
- Estimating costs for materials, equipment and labour to develop accurate budgets.
- Obtaining permits and licenses required for each phase of construction.
- Soliciting bids and awarding contracts to general contractors or speciality trade contractors.
- Overseeing the work and coordinating between multiple contractors and vendors on site.
- Reviewing completed work to monitor compliance with building codes, regulations, and quality standards.
- Managing change orders throughout the construction process to keep the budget and schedule on track.
- Updating owners or upper management on project status through regular reports and meetings.
- Maintaining strict safety standards and conducting safety inspections.
- Training construction crew members on proper practices and procedures.
The day-to-day activities can vary depending on whether the construction manager works for a general contracting firm, a speciality contractor, the government or is self-employed. However, strong project management, relationship building and communication skills are essential across all types of construction management jobs.
Construction Management Salary and Growth Potential
An important factor to weigh when considering any career path is the expected salary and outlook for growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction managers earn very competitive wages compared to the average occupation:
- The median annual pay for construction managers was $95,260 in 2020. That works out to $45.83 per hour.
- The highest 10% of earners made over $208,000 per year.
- The job outlook for construction managers is strong – employment is projected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average rate for all occupations.
Several elements contribute to the high wages and growing demand for construction managers:
- Continued population growth and urbanization require new infrastructure, hospitals, schools, housing and other construction projects that require management.
- Construction processes are becoming more complex, requiring higher levels of scheduling, cost estimation, safety protocols and quality control knowledge that managers provide.
- The number of large construction projects is increasing, amplified by government investments in infrastructure renewal. Larger projects require sophisticated management skills to execute seamlessly.
- Construction management software and new technologies like building information modelling (BIM) are creating opportunities for managers who can leverage these tools.
The most successful construction managers are likely to see their salaries rise faster than inflation over their careers. In addition to typical performance raises, they can increase pay by taking on larger, more complex projects or supervisory roles. Ultimately, six-figure salaries are common among experienced construction managers.
Benefits of Choosing Construction Management
Aside from the generous pay and positive outlook, construction management offers many advantages as a career choice:
Variety and Challenges
Construction projects have unique challenges, budgets, teams, regulations, and other factors that keep the work varied and engaging. No two construction projects are ever the same. Managers get to use strategic thinking to turn each conceptual design into a physical reality.
For very large construction projects, travel may be required to visit different sites or offices. Managers may work at locations across their region, the country or even globally, especially if they work for a large general contracting firm.
Construction managers get to exercise strong leadership as they coordinate complex teams, tradespeople, contractors, vendors and owners. Managing competing priorities between different stakeholders and disciplines provides great leadership experience.
Work arrangements can be quite flexible since construction managers may be employed by general contractors, speciality trade contractors, government agencies or be self-employed. The work site itself also changes constantly.
Experienced construction managers can start their own general contracting, project management or speciality contracting firm. Self-employment provides even more autonomy.
Also Read: Is Consumer Durables A Good Career Path
Larger, more complex construction projects provide opportunities to advance into senior executive roles or business development roles within firms. Experienced managers can also shift between working for general contractors, government, or companies in the construction/engineering industry.
As long as communities continue to expand and rebuild their infrastructure, construction managers will be needed to plan and oversee these projects. Their specialized expertise helps minimize delays and keep budgets under control.
Construction managers get a great sense of accomplishment from creatively solving problems each day – unexpected delays, material shortages, escalating costs, contractual disputes and more. It’s very rewarding to manage all these complex, moving parts seamlessly to complete projects on time and budget.
Is Construction Management Right for You?
A career in construction management offers many advantages, but it also has its challenges and downsides. It can be immensely satisfying for individuals with certain traits, while the pressures may not suit others as well. Here are some signs construction management may be a good fit for your skills and temperament:
You Have Strong Technical Knowledge
Successful construction managers have a working knowledge of important construction principles and techniques. Familiarity with construction materials, building codes, trade disciplines, regulations, safety standards and reading architectural/engineering drawings is very helpful. Most managers have a construction management, architecture or engineering educational background.
You’re an Organized Multi-Tasker
Keeping complex construction projects on schedule requires outstanding organizational skills. Managers juggle bidding, permitting, contracting, budgeting, problem-solving and more simultaneously. Staying on top of many moving parts is crucial.
You’re Decisive and Solution-Focused
Construction managers make quick decisions every day in pressured environments. When problems like delays or budget overages emerge, you must respond decisively with practical solutions to minimize impacts on productivity and costs. Indecision can be very costly.
You Have Leadership Skills
Strong leadership skills are essential to coordinate and align all the players – owners, contractors, tradespeople, vendors, architects, and the public. You need to balance competing priorities and personalities to achieve results. Delegation abilities are also important.
You Communicate Well
Clear, proactive communication minimizes misunderstandings and disputes between stakeholders. You’ll communicate verbally, in writing, and graphically using plans. Keeping owners updated on progress is also key.
You Enjoy Collaboration
As the central coordinator on projects, you’ll need to collaborate closely with owners, contractors, architects, tradespeople, vendors and other professionals. A team mentality will help you navigate competing interests.
You Don’t Mind Travel
While your home base may be in one city, large-scale construction projects often involve frequent travel to visit different project offices or job sites in other cities or regions. Some managers even work internationally.
You’re Comfortable Onsite
Although much of the planning work is office-based, construction managers also spend time on job sites evaluating progress and quality. You’ll encounter noise, dust, weather, and other outdoor worksite conditions.
You Can Handle Pressure
Between tight schedules, thin budgets, contracting issues, and safety concerns, construction management can be extremely stressful. The ability to thrive under pressure is crucial when the stakes are high.
While a career in construction management has many advantages, it also comes with considerable demands:
- Work hours tend to be long in order to meet pressing project deadlines. Evening and weekend work is often required.
- Heavy workloads are common as managers juggle many complex, high-value projects at once.
- Job sites can be hazardous environments requiring a laser focus on safety.
- Occupational stress and burnout are risks due to constant problem-solving under pressure.
- Outdoor work in all weather conditions can be required. Projects continue year-round, rain or shine.
- There is a low tolerance for error since mistakes can be very costly. Attention to detail is imperative.
- High mobility may be expected to travel frequently to project sites in different locations.
- Dealing with interpersonal conflicts, especially during contract disputes, can be difficult. Crisis management skills help.
- Keeping up with the latest software, building codes, contract laws and regulations is an ongoing learning curve.
Should You Pursue Construction Management?
Overall, construction management can be an extremely rewarding long-term career if you have the right combination of technical building knowledge, organizational strength, leadership ability, communication skills and problem-solving finesse. Individuals who thrive under pressure and seek variety will find the problem-solving aspects meaningful.
Just be prepared for the demanding work hours and stress levels required to orchestrate major construction initiatives. While the challenges are significant, they are outweighed for many by the generous compensation, leadership growth and sense of accomplishment from seeing these complex projects come to life. Construction management roles also open doors to future executive positions and self-employment opportunities.
If you’re eager to further explore construction management, research what educational qualifications are preferred by employers in your region. Degree programs, apprenticeships and certifications like OSHA training can all help provide the necessary foundation to gain entrance to this rewarding field. With the right preparation and temperament, construction management truly can be an attractive and steadily growing career path.