Construction Manager Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A construction manager's average annual salary is $94,590, but is it worth the training requirements? Get the truth about the salary and job description to determine if construction management is the best career for you.
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A Construction Manager Career: Pros and Cons

Construction managers oversee all facets of construction projects, including plans, materials, vendors, contractors, client interactions and budgets. They need a wide range of skills and extensive knowledge of the construction industry, most of which can be learned through on-the-job experience. Read more to learn about the pros and cons of a construction manager career.

Pros of a Construction Manager Career
Decent job growth (expected 16% increase through 2022)*
High salary (average about $94,590 in 2014)*
The job might be available with only a high school diploma*
High job satisfaction (less than 15% quit voluntarily, aside from retirement)**

Cons of a Construction Manager Career
May be on-call 24 hours, 7 days a week*
Work schedule is significantly impacted by adverse weather and site emergencies*
Working at construction sites can be dangerous*
Job involves a lot of responsibility, which could be stressful**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **The Princeton Review

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Construction managers, also known as general contractors or construction superintendents, coordinate, supervise and organize various types of construction projects, including city roads and bridges as well as commercial, industrial and residential buildings. They might supervise an entire project or only a portion of a project, but they rarely participate in the physical construction. Instead, construction managers schedule, hire and manage the labor force and procure the equipment and materials for a job. When working on sustainable building endeavors, construction managers are responsible for making sure green initiatives, such as recycling and environmental protection, are in operation. The construction environment is fast-paced, and managers often juggle multiple responsibilities at once.

Construction managers might work out of a construction site office, or, thanks to telecommunications, they can be in touch from an off-site location. Some managers travel so they can supervise projects in other states or even other countries. Their standard workweek is often over 40 hours, and managers must be available virtually around the clock to handle emergencies, delays and developments during construction. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that about 57% of construction managers were self-employed. Others worked as either salaried employees or contractors for construction management firms, property owners, public or government agencies, developers or private firms.

Popular Career Options

As a construction manager, you might perform general contracting work, or focus on a specialty trade, such as heating and air conditioning, plumbing or electrical work. Other specialization options include commercial building, residential construction, infrastructure projects or interior renovation.

Salary Info and Job Growth

According to the BLS, the need for construction managers is expected to increase due to a growing demand for energy-efficient construction and improvements to the nation's roads, pipes, energy supply lines and bridges. The BLS forecasted that nearly 78,200 new employment opportunities would be created for this career from 2012-2022. It also mentioned that those with college degrees, professional certification and construction industry experience might have better chances getting or advancing a job.

Your income can depend on the size and complexity of the project you manage as well as the industry and geographic location in which you work. In 2014, the BLS reported the mean annual income for construction managers was about $94,590. In addition, some companies also pay bonuses and offer extra compensation for overtime. Since most construction managers were reported to work independently, their wages would fluctuate with the number and types of jobs they work on. In December 2014, the majority of construction managers reported a wide salary range of about $45,000-$127,000 per year to PayScale.com.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Generally, direct, on-the-job experience is the only requirement to eventually become a construction manager. You could start in such trades as plumbing, carpentry or masonry before deciding to move into management. Apprenticeship or vocational school programs that can develop your knowledge and skills are commonly preferred, but not always required to get started in construction. However, employers often prefer construction manager candidates with a solid background in building science and might choose an applicant with a bachelor's degree in such areas as construction science or civil engineering over someone with entry-level trade experience. If you do pursue academic preparation, you might find it advantageous to get training in both business and construction management, since you'll need to manage and work with clients as well as comprehend contracts, budgeting and purchasing, construction methods, multiple trades and regulations.

Skills

Successful construction managers can visualize the big picture while simultaneously maintaining a sharp eye for detail. You'll also need to be a skilled communicator. Taking courses or attending seminars in business negotiations, communications and debate can help prepare you for negotiating with vendors and persuading clients. You'll also want to be adept at motivating people, since your success will highly depend on the work of others. Other helpful skills include project and time management, written communications and the ability to make on-the-spot decisions.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers often value construction managers with job site as well as customer service experience. The following are a few construction manager job postings from March 2012 to give you a better idea of what employers look for.

  • A luxury home builder needed an experienced manager to oversee the construction of a community in Massachusetts. Job duties included getting the required permits, ordering materials and supplies, scheduling subcontractors and ensuring the construction meets all specifications. Applicants needed a minimum of three years of experience, strong people and organizational skills and familiarity with all construction trades.
  • An on-site energy facilities builder wanted a construction manager for a project in Connecticut. Responsibilities included managing subcontract and supplier relationships, keeping track of costs, managing employees, creating and overseeing a safety plan, providing status reports and liaising with the client. Candidates needed at least 10 years of experience in project management, design-build construction and energy-saving measures. The employer also preferred at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering, construction management or other construction or energy-saving fields.
  • An aluminum manufacturer required a construction manager to lead a project in New York state. The work included such activities as overseeing all construction work, administering subcontractor and vendor agreements, ensuring quality control, managing costs, enforcing safety protocols and supervising employees. Applicants needed at least a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field and 10 years of construction experience, particularly in the areas of refining and smelting. The company preferred someone with international experience and a talent for working with people from different cultures.

How to Beat the Competition

Get a Post-Secondary Degree

Though you can move up to the job through hard work and experience, the BLS explained that more employers want someone who's earned a degree related to the construction industry. Many schools have bachelor's degree programs in construction technology, engineering, management or science. In addition to standard construction and management experience, you could also specialize by taking elective courses in green building, interior restructuring or hazardous construction sites.

Get Certified

Becoming certified can increase your attractiveness to employers and clients, according to the Construction Management Association of America. This organization offers the Certified Construction Manager designation, which demonstrates your educational and experiential preparedness as well as your understanding of industry standards. A specialized option is the Sustainable Construction Supervisor certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research. With this credential you can show employers that you're knowledgeable about green construction standards.

Specialize

The BLS predicts that employers increasingly hire specialty trade contractors, so focusing in one area of construction, such as plumbing, drywall or roofing, may be a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. As energy costs rise, employers will need experts in sustainable, or green, construction; McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that non-residential green construction will become a $120-$145 billion industry by 2015.

Other Careers to Consider

Cost Estimator

If you're interested in the construction industry but you don't want to spend the time to learn the trades, you might consider a career as a cost estimator. In this job, you'll have the critical task of estimating the pricing, time, labor and materials required to complete a construction project. A bachelor's degree is increasingly required for the job, and you'll need to be well educated in mathematics. At around $63,000, the 2011 average salary for cost estimators was substantially less than that of construction managers, but the expected job growth from 2010-2020 is a robust 36%.

Architect

If you're more artistic than managerial, a career as an architect might appeal to you. Architects design and develop construction plans for buildings. You'd usually work in an office, but you might need to visit construction sites to ensure contractors are following your plans. This is a state-regulated profession that requires a professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture and work experience to qualify for licensure. The BLS anticipates a 24% increase in architect jobs from 2010-2020, which is somewhat better than that of construction managers. The average annual pay was a little less in 2011, though, at about $79,000.

Civil Engineer

If you're more partial to the designing aspect of construction, but you'd rather be a problem-solver than a project-builder, working as a civil engineer can offer you many career opportunities. As a civil engineer, you'd apply engineering science, physics and math to the design of such construction projects as roads, bridges, airports, tunnels and water supply systems as well as buildings. This can also be a licensed profession if you work on public projects, but you'll usually only need a bachelor's degree and sufficient experience to be eligible for licensing. The average salary in 2011 was about $83,000; however, this figure increased to nearly $139,000 in the commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair industry. Since infrastructure repair and maintenance is a necessity, you can feel fairly confident about future job prospects in civil engineering: the BLS predicted nearly 51,000 new jobs would be created between 2010 and 2020, which is a 19% increase over that time.

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