Construction Contractors and Managers Career Information
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Significant Points· Construction managers must be available—often 24 hours a day—to deal
with delays, bad weather, or emergencies at the jobsite.
· Employers prefer individuals who combine construction industry work experience with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering.
· Excellent opportunities are expected for qualified managers.
· Employment can be sensitive to the short-term nature of many construction projects and cyclical fluctuations in construction activity.
Nature of the WorkConstruction managers plan and direct construction projects. They may have job titles such as constructor, construction superintendent, general superintendent, project engineer, project manager, general construction manager, or executive construction manager. Construction managers may be owners or salaried employees of a construction management or contracting firm, or may work under contract or as a salaried employee of the owner, developer, contractor, or management firm overseeing the construction project. The Handbook uses the term “construction manager” to describe salaried or self-employed managers who oversee construction supervisors and workers.
In contrast with the Handbook definition, “construction manager” is defined more narrowly within the construction industry to denote a management firm, or an individual employed by such a firm, involved in managerial oversight of a construction project. Under this definition, construction managers usually represent the owner or developer with other participants throughout the project. Although they usually play no direct role in the actual construction of a structure, they typically schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes, including the selection, hiring, and oversight of specialty trade contractors.
Managers who work in the construction industry, such as general managers, project engineers, and others, increasingly are called constructors. Through education and past work experience, this broad group of managers manages, coordinates, and supervises the construction process from the conceptual development stage through final construction on a timely and economical basis. Given designs for buildings, roads, bridges, or other projects, constructors oversee the organization, scheduling, and implementation of the project to execute those designs. They are responsible for coordinating and managing people, materials, and equipment; budgets, schedules, and contracts; and safety of employees and the general public.
On large projects, construction managers may work for a general contractor—the firm with overall responsibility for all activities. There, they oversee the completion of all construction in accordance with the engineer's and architect’s drawings and specifications and prevailing building codes. They arrange for trade contractors to perform specialized craftwork or other specified construction work. On small projects, such as remodeling a home, a self-employed construction manager or skilled trades worker who directs and oversees employees often is referred to as the construction “contractor.”
Large construction projects, such as an office building or industrial complex, are too complicated for one person to manage. These projects are divided into many segments: Site preparation, including land clearing and earth moving; sewage systems; landscaping and road construction; building construction, including excavation and laying foundations, erection of structural framework, floors, walls, and roofs; and building systems, including fire-protection, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating. Construction managers may be in charge of one or more of these activities. Construction managers often team with workers in other occupations, such as engineers and architects.
Construction managers evaluate various construction methods and determine the most cost-effective plan and schedule. They determine the appropriate construction methods and schedule all required construction site activities into logical, specific steps, budgeting the time required to meet established deadlines. This may require sophisticated estimating and scheduling techniques and use of computers with specialized software. (See the statement on
Construction managers direct and monitor the progress of construction activities, at times through other construction supervisors. They oversee the delivery and use of materials, tools, and equipment; and the quality of construction, worker productivity, and safety. They are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, direct or monitor compliance with building and safety codes and other regulations. They may have several subordinates, such as assistant managers or superintendents, field engineers, or crew supervisors, reporting to them.
Construction managers regularly review engineering and architectural drawings and specifications to monitor progress and ensure compliance with plans and schedules. They track and control construction costs against the project budget to avoid cost overruns. Based upon direct observation and reports by subordinate supervisors, managers may prepare daily reports of progress and requirements for labor, material, machinery, and equipment at the construction site. They meet regularly with owners, trade contractors, architects, and others to monitor and coordinate all phases of the construction project.
Working ConditionsConstruction managers work out of a main
office from which the overall construction project is monitored, or out of a
field office at the construction site. Management decisions regarding daily
construction activities generally are made at the jobsite.
Managers usually travel when the construction site is in another State or when
they are responsible for activities at two or more sites. Management of overseas
construction projects usually entails temporary residence in another country.
Construction managers may be “on call”—often 24 hours a day—to deal with delays, bad weather, or emergencies at the site. Most work more than a standard 40-hour week because construction may proceed around-the-clock. They may have to work this type of schedule for days, even weeks, to meet special project deadlines, especially if there are delays.
Although the work usually is not considered inherently dangerous, construction managers must be careful while touring construction sites. Managers must establish priorities and assign duties. They need to observe job conditions and be alert to changes and potential problems, particularly those involving safety on the jobsite and adherence to regulations.
EmploymentConstruction managers held about 431,000 jobs in 2009. Over half were self-employed. The rest were employed in the construction industry, about 13 percent by specialty trade contractors—for example, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning, and electrical contractors—and about 18 percent by general building contractors. Engineering, architectural, and construction management services firms, as well as local governments, educational institutions, and real estate developers employed others.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.Persons interested in becoming a construction
manager need a solid background in building science, business, and management,
as well as related work experience within the construction industry. They need
to understand contracts, plans, and specifications, and to be knowledgeable
about construction methods, materials, and regulations.
Familiarity with computers and software programs for job costing, scheduling,
and estimating also is important.
Traditionally, persons advance to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craftworkers—carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians, for example—or after having worked as construction supervisors or as owners of independent specialty contracting firms overseeing workers in one or more construction trades. However, employers—particularly large construction firms—increasingly prefer individuals who combine industry work experience with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering. Practical industry experience also is very important, whether it is acquired through internships, cooperative education programs, or work experience in the industry.
Construction managers should be flexible and work effectively in a fast-paced environment. They should be decisive and work well under pressure, particularly when faced with unexpected occurrences or delays. The ability to coordinate several major activities at once, while analyzing and resolving specific problems, is essential, as is an understanding of engineering, architectural, and other construction drawings. Good oral and written communication skills also are important, as are leadership skills. Managers must be able to establish a good working relationship with many different people, including owners, other managers, designers, supervisors, and craftworkers.
Advancement opportunities for construction managers vary depending upon an individual’s performance and the size and type of company for which they work. Within large firms, managers may eventually become top-level managers or executives. Highly experienced individuals may become independent consultants; some serve as expert witnesses in court or as arbitrators in disputes. Those with the required capital may establish their own construction management services, specialty contracting, or general contracting firm.
In 2004, many colleges and universities offered 4-year degree programs in construction management or construction science. These programs include courses in project control and development, site planning, design, construction methods, construction materials, value analysis, cost estimating, scheduling, contract administration, accounting, business and financial management, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and information technology. Graduates from 4-year degree programs usually are hired as assistants to project managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. An increasing number of graduates in related fields—engineering or architecture, for example—also enter construction management, often after having had substantial experience on construction projects or after completing graduate studies in construction management or building science.
Around 20 colleges and universities offer a master’s degree program in construction management or construction science. Master’s degree recipients, especially those with work experience in construction, typically become construction managers in very large construction or construction management companies. Often, individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field seek a master’s degree in order to work in the construction industry. Some construction managers obtain a master’s degree in business administration or finance to further their career prospects. Doctoral degree recipients usually become college professors or conduct research.
Many individuals also attend training and educational programs sponsored by industry associations, often in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. A number of 2-year colleges throughout the country offer construction management or construction technology programs.
Both the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) have established voluntary certification programs for construction managers. Requirements combine written examinations with verification of professional experience. AIC awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations to candidates who meet the requirements and pass appropriate construction examinations. CMAA awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to practitioners who meet the requirements in a construction management firm and pass a technical examination. Applicants for the CMAA certification also must complete a self-study course that covers a broad range of topics central to construction management, including the professional role of a construction manager, legal issues, and allocation of risk. Although certification is not required to work in the construction industry, voluntary certification can be valuable because it provides evidence of competence and experience.
Job OutlookExcellent employment opportunities for construction managers are expected through 2010 because the number of job openings arising from job growth and replacement needs is expected to exceed the number of qualified managers seeking to enter the occupation. Because the construction industry often is seen as having dirty, strenuous, and hazardous working conditions, even for managers, many potential managers choose other types of careers.
Employment of construction managers is expected to
The increasing complexity of construction projects should boost demand for management-level personnel within the construction industry, as sophisticated technology and the proliferation of laws setting standards for buildings and construction materials, worker safety, energy efficiency, and environmental protection have further complicated the construction process. Advances in building materials and construction methods; the need to replace much of the Nation's infrastructure; and the growing number of multipurpose buildings, electronically operated “smart” buildings, and energy-efficient structures will further add to the demand for more construction managers. However, employment of construction managers can be sensitive to the short-term nature of many projects and to cyclical fluctuations in construction activity.
Earnings of salaried construction managers and self-employed independent construction contractors vary depending upon the size and nature of the construction project, its geographic location, and economic conditions. In addition to typical benefits, many salaried construction managers receive benefits such as bonuses and use of company motor vehicles.
Median annual earnings of construction managers in May 2009 were $69,870. The middle 50 percent earned between $53,430 and $92,350. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $42,120, and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $126,330. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of construction managers in 2006 were as follows:
|Building equipment contractors||$72,560|
|Nonresidential building construction||71,700|
|Other specialty trade contractors||68,110|
|Residential building construction||67,190|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||64,250|
According to a July 2009 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, candidates with a bachelor's degree in construction science/management received job offers averaging $42,923 a year.
Related OccupationsConstruction managers participate in the conceptual development of a construction project and oversee its organization, scheduling, and implementation. Occupations in which similar functions are performed include
For information about constructor certification, contact: For information about construction management and construction manager certification, contact: Information on accredited construction science and management educational programs and accreditation requirements is available from:
Sources of Additional Information
For information about constructor certification, contact:
For information about construction management and construction manager certification, contact:
Information on accredited construction science and management educational programs and accreditation requirements is available from: