Construction managers may assume various levels of responsibility and are known by a wide range of job titles that are often used interchangeably -- for example, construction superintendent, constructor, production manager, project manager, general construction manager, executive construction manager, contractor, subcontractor, and general contractor. Construction managers may be either salaried employees or self-employed workers under contract with the owner, contractor, developer, or management firm overseeing the construction project. In addition, within the construction industry, the term construction manager is often used to denote the firm -- usually a contract construction company or a construction management services firm -- involved in the construction activity.
This Career Report discusses supervisory level salaried and self-employed construction managers who oversee construction supervisors and workers. Supervisory level construction managers report to mid-level and top-level construction managers, who are included in the Career Report on Executives.
On small construction projects -- for example, remodeling a home -- construction managers are usually self-employed construction contractors who directly oversee their employees. However, large construction projects -- for example, an industrial complex -- are divided into many segments: Site preparation, including land clearing, sewage systems, landscaping, and road construction; building construction, including excavation, laying foundations, erection of frameworks, and adding floors, walls, and roofs; or installation of building services, including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating. Salaried construction managers plan, direct, and complete their assigned part of the overall construction project.
Construction managers determine the appropriate construction methods and schedule all required construction activities in logical, discrete steps, each leading to an intermediate objective. They estimate the time required to complete each step in an effort to meet established budgets and deadlines for particular construction projects. Construction managers determine the labor requirements and, if necessary, supervise or monitor the hiring and dismissal of engineers, cost estimators, clerks, construction supervisors, craft workers, machinery and equipment operators, and other construction workers. Planning, often in collaboration with engineers, architects, and other design professionals, may require sophisticated analytical techniques such as the critical path method (CPM) -- a standardized presentation of the time sequence of the work showing where construction activities might be disrupted -- supplemented by flow charts, bar charts, and other graphic presentation. Computers are used to evaluate various construction methods and determine the most cost-efficient and timesaving plan.
On the job, construction managers direct construction supervisors and monitor the progress of construction activities including the delivery and use of supplies, tools, machinery, equipment, and vehicles. They are responsible for all necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, direct or monitor compliance with safety codes and other labor or union regulations.
Construction managers regularly review engineering and architectural drawings and specifications and confer with construction engineers to maintain the rate of construction activity. They meet with cost estimators to monitor construction costs and avoid overruns. Based upon direct observation and reports by subordinate supervisors, construction managers may prepare daily reports of progress and requirements for labor, material, and machinery and equipment at the construction site. Construction managers meet regularly with owners, other construction managers, and design professions to monitor and synchronize all phases of the construction project.
Construction managers work out of a central office -- often spacious and orderly, where the overall construction project is monitored -- and the construction site office -- usually small and crowded with workers streaming in and out, where management decisions regarding daily construction activities are made. Substantial travel may be required when the construction site is in another State, and overseas projects may entail temporary residence in another country.
The standard 40-hour week is rare in this occupation, since construction may proceed round-the-clock for days or even weeks to meet deadlines. In addition, construction managers are always "on call" to deal with accidents, delays, or complications caused by bad weather at the site.
Although the work generally is not considered dangerous, construction managers must be alert touring construction sites, especially when machinery, equipment, and vehicles are operating. The pace can be hectic, and construction managers must be prepared to answer questions and assign priorities quickly.
Construction managers held about 189,000 jobs in 1990. About 9 out 10 were employed in the contract construction industry, primarily by special trade contractors -- for example, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning, and electrical -- and general building contractors. Other employers included local governments, educational institutions, real estate developers, and engineering, architectural, surveying, and construction management services firms. In addition, thousands of self-employed contractors worked as construction managers, primarily in the special trades contract construction industries.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
An increasing proportion of entrants into this occupation acquire a strong academic background. completion of a bachelor's degree program in construction science with emphasis on construction management can greatly enhance one's opportunities in this occupation. In 1990, about 75 colleges and universities offered such programs, which include courses in project control and development, site planning, construction materials, building design, construction methods, value analysis, cost estimating, scheduling, contract administration, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, and electives in engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Recent college graduates in construction science usually are hired as assistants to construction managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. A growing number of graduates in related fields -- engineers, architects, and cost estimators -- also enter construction management, often after having worked as supervisors on construction projects.
About 15 colleges and universities also offer a master's degree program, and one, the University of Florida, offers a doctoral degree program in this field. Master's degree recipients, especially those with experience, typically become construction managers in very large construction companies. Doctoral degree recipients generally become college teachers.
Many construction managers have substantial experience as construction crafts workers -- for example, carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians -- and proven supervisory ability. Many have worked as construction supervisors or small, self-employed contractors overseeing workers in one or more construction activities -- for example, structural steel work, roofing, or excavation. Many have also attended training and educational programs sponsored by industry associations, usually in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. In 1990, over 200 2-year colleges offered construction management or construction technology programs.
Persons interested in becoming construction managers should be flexible and able to work under stressful conditions. They should be decisive and able to select quickly among alternative courses of action. The ability to coordinate several activities and speedily analyze and resolve specific problems is imperative. The ability to rapidly evaluate engineering, architectural, and other construction drawings is important. Construction managers must be able to establish effective working relationships, with many different people -- entrepreneurs, managers, professions, supervisors, and blue-collar workers. They must also be able to assess the character and competency of workers in order to achieve an efficient working group.
Advancement depends upon the size of the construction company. In large companies, construction managers may become mid-level and eventually top-level managers. Highly experienced individuals may become consultants; some sere as expert witnesses in court or arbitrators in disputes. Those with the required capital may establish their own firms and offer construction management services. Others may establish their own general contract construction firms that oversee construction projects from start to finish -- including project planning and design, construction, and management.
Employment of construction managers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000 as construction projects increase in size and complexity. Advances in building materials and construction methods and the growing number of multipurpose buildings, electronically operated "smart" buildings, and energy- efficient structures will require the expertise of more construction managers. In addition, the proliferation of laws setting standards for buildings and construction materials, worker safety, energy efficiency, and environmental pollution has further complicated the construction manager's job and should further increase demand for these workers.
Many job openings for construction managers will arise in nonresidential construction firms and special trade contractor establishments offering maintenance and repair services for buildings and building equipment. Although employment in residential construction firms is expected to grow more slowly than in other sectors of the construction industry, many openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or retire. Demand is expected to be particularly favorable -- especially in the rapidly proliferating construction management services firms -- for experienced construction managers with a bachelor's degree in construction science with emphasis on construction management.
Employment of construction managers is sensitive to the short-term nature of many construction projects and cyclical fluctuations in construction activity. During periods of diminished construction activity -- when many construction workers are laid off -- many construction managers remain employed in their own or other firms planning, scheduling, or estimating costs of future construction projects. However, some self-employed contractors may merge operations or dissolve their career and seek salaried employment with other contractors.
Earnings of salaried construction managers and incomes of self-employed contractors vary depending upon the size and nature of the construction project, its geographic location, and economic conditions. Based on limited information, starting salaries of construction managers in 1990 were about $21,200 to $31,800; annual of most experienced construction managers ranged from $31,800 to $106,000. Many salaried construction managers receive fringe benefits such as bonuses, liberal motor vehicle allowances, and per diem allowances. The income of self-employed contractors varies even more widely than that of salaried managers.
Construction managers participate in the conceptual development of a construction project and organize, schedule, and oversee its implementation. Others whose work entails similar functions include architects, builders, civil engineers, construction supervisors, cost engineers, cost estimators, developers, electrical engineers, industrial engineers, landscaping architects, and mechanical engineers.
Sources of Information
Information about construction managers and construction management services firms is available from:
Construction Management Association of America, Suite 640, 12355 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 22091.
For information about careers in construction management, contact:
American Institute of Constructors, 20 S. Front St., Columbus, OH 43215.
Associated Builders and Contractors, 729 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.
For information about construction management in contract construction operations, contact:
Associated General contractors of America, 1957 E. St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20006.
Names of postsecondary institutions offering educational programs in construction management and related fields are available from:
Associated Schools of Construction, 20 S. Front St., Columbus, OH 43215.
Information on construction science and management programs accreditation requirements is available from:
American Council for Construction Education, Suite 700, 1015 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.