Construction Superintendent Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A construction superintendent's median annual salary is about $86,000, but is it worth the training requirements? Get the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Construction Superintendent Career

Construction superintendents, also called construction managers, plan, organize and direct workers in the construction field. Evaluate the pros and cons of being a construction superintendent to see if it is the right choice for you.

Pros of a Construction Superintendent Career
High salary potential (median annual salary around $86,000 in 2014)*
Job opportunities for qualified applicants expected to be good*
May enter the field with a high school education and experience in construction*
Opportunity for self-employment as a general contractor (in 2012, 57% of construction managers were self-employed)*

Cons of a Construction Superintendent Career
Economic conditions can affect building activity, which can produce periods of low employment*
Construction deadlines and emergencies can cause a stressful work environment for superintendents**
Possibility of on-call duty for some construction projects*
Deadlines for construction projects may result in long work hours*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NetOnLine.org

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Before a construction project begins, superintendents obtain the necessary building permits and prepare cost estimates, timetables and strategies for completing the project. Construction superintendents communicate the technical aspects of a project to construction workers, building owners, architects and other officials with an interest in the work. They may also hire, train and instruct those who work on a building site.

During the construction project, superintendents report on building progress and budgets to building owners or clients. Construction managers supervise workers on the project and respond to emergencies and problems, which may result in delays. They may spend part of their day in an office and part outdoors monitoring a construction site.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for construction managers was expected to increase 16% during the 2012-2022 decade. The BLS also stated that construction managers with experience and education in a construction-related field would have the best prospects for employment. In 2014, the median annual salary for construction managers was about $86,000, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

According to the BLS, employers seek construction superintendents with a combination of experience in construction and a 2-year or 4-year degree in construction science, architecture, construction management or engineering. However, many self-employed construction superintendents have years of experience and only a high school education.

If you choose a degree program in construction science, your coursework will include building technology, architecture history, construction estimating, management, construction documents and safety. To gain experience, construction superintendents may work as assistant superintendents or managers on a construction project before working independently.

Top Skills for Construction Superintendents

In addition to experience and education, construction superintendents must have communication and analytical skills to work in this position. Superintendents also need problem-solving and management skills to manage a team of workers. Organizational skills are required for superintendents to keep a project on schedule and within budget. Good technical construction skills are required to be able to interpret blueprints, contracts and architectural drawings.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers typically require years of experience in the construction industry when seeking superintendents or managers to oversee a building project. Job postings for construction superintendents may require candidates have experience in specific construction trades to qualify. Below are some examples of construction superintendent positions available in April 2012:

  • A commercial general contractor in Texas is seeking a construction superintendent with a minimum of 10 years of experience. The construction superintendent's duties are to assist in the development of a work schedule, negotiate material purchases, lead work activities and develop a logistics plan for the project.
  • A construction engineering firm in California is looking for a construction superintendent to oversee civil works construction projects. The candidate must have a minimum of 10 years of experience in civil works projects as a construction superintendent. Computer skills, including being able to use Microsoft Office programs and scheduling software, are desired.
  • An Arizona employer is searching for a travelling construction superintendent with at least seven years of experience in coordinating construction projects. In addition, the candidate must have a stormwater professional certification and good communication and supervisory skills.
  • A construction management firm in Florida is seeking a construction superintendent to manage multifamily construction projects. The candidate must have at least 10 years of experience in the construction of apartment buildings using specific structural systems.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Continuing Education

While many employers require job candidates have years of experience in the construction industry, education in construction science, architecture, construction management or engineering can help bolster a resume. If you only have experience, you might seek to complete a 2-year degree program in construction technology or management. Many job for construction superintendents state that computer skills are desired. Taking classes in budgeting and scheduling software packages may be helpful.

Get Certified

Employers may not require certification for construction superintendents, but obtaining a credential may help job applicants stand out in the field. The Construction Management Association of America offers certification to experienced construction managers with demonstrated knowledge in the field. Applicants for the credential must meet experience and education requirements, complete a construction manager course and pass an examination.

Other Careers to Consider

If you want to work in the construction industry, but you don't want the supervising and coordinating tasks, you might like to develop plans and estimates for a construction project as a cost estimator. Cost estimators determine how much time and money a construction job or production of a product will take to complete. The position may require a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field and some experience in construction. In May 2011, the BLS reported that cost estimators made a median salary of about $58,000 a year. The BLS also predicted tremendous future job growth for this career, at about 36% between 2010-2020.

If you like the idea of managing a large construction project, but you prefer to do it from an office, you might decide to become an architectural and engineering manager. These managers create plans that focus on the technical aspects of a project, and spend most of their time in an office. Managers may develop new building processes or identify and resolve the problems on an existing construction project. The position requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and experience in the construction field to qualify. Although job growth for this career was projected at only 9% from 2010-2020, the median annual salary was higher than average, at about $122,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

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