Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.
Construction managers typically do the following:
- Prepare cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
- Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to other professionals
- Report work progress and budget matters to clients
- Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction specialists
- Select subcontractors and schedule and coordinate their activities
- Respond to work delays, emergencies, and other problems
- Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations
Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of public, residential, commercial, and industrial structures, as well as roads, memorials, and bridges. Either a general contractor or a construction manager oversees the construction phase of a project, but a construction manager may also consult with the client during the design phase to help refine construction plans and control costs.
Construction managers oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. They schedule and coordinate all construction processes so that projects meet design specifications. They ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. Some construction managers may be responsible for several projects at once—for example, the construction of multiple apartment buildings.
Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, civil engineers, and a variety of trade workers, including stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural steel and painting to landscaping, paving roads, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, construction managers sometimes confer with city inspectors to ensure that all regulations are met.
For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a top-level construction manager hires other construction managers to be in charge of different aspects of the project. For example, each construction manager would oversee a specific phase of the project, such as structural foundation, plumbing, or electrical work, and choose subcontractors to complete it. The top-level construction manager would then collaborate and coordinate with the other construction managers.
To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often perform the tasks of a cost estimator. They use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to show how to allocate time and money in order to complete their projects. Many construction managers also use software to plan the best way to get materials to the building site.
Construction managers held about 471,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of construction managers were as follows:
|Specialty trade contractors||17|
|Nonresidential building construction||15|
|Residential building construction||9|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||8|
Many construction managers have a main office, but they spend most of their time working out of a field office at the construction site, where they monitor the project and make daily decisions about construction activities. For those managing multiple projects, frequent travel between sites is required.
Most construction managers work full time. However, the need to meet deadlines and to respond to delays and emergencies often requires construction managers to work many additional hours. Many construction managers may also be on call 24 hours a day. Some construction managers work more than 40 hours per week.
Construction managers typically must have a bachelor’s degree, and learn management techniques through on-the-job training. Large construction firms increasingly prefer candidates with both construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. Although some individuals with a high school diploma and many years of experience in a construction trade may be hired as construction managers, these individuals are typically qualified to become self-employed general contractors.
Although there are various ways to enter this occupation, it is becoming increasingly important for construction managers to have a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering. As construction processes become more complex, employers are placing greater importance on specialized education.
More than 100 colleges and universities offer accredited bachelor’s degree programs in construction science, building science, or construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, cost estimation, building codes and standards, and contract administration. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also relevant.
More than fifty 2-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs. An associate’s degree combined with work experience is typical for managers who supervise smaller projects.
A few universities offer master’s degree programs in construction management.
Jobseekers with a high school diploma and several years of relevant work experience may qualify to become a construction manager, although most are qualified to become self-employed general contractors.
New construction managers are typically hired as assistants and work under the guidance of an experienced manager. This training period may last several months to several years, depending on the firm.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
If the typical education is not obtained, practical construction experience is important for jobseekers, because it reduces the need for initial on-the-job training. Internships, cooperative education programs, and previous work in the construction industry can provide that experience. Some construction managers become qualified solely through extensive construction experience, spending many years in carpentry, masonry, or other construction specialties.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not required, certification is valuable because it can demonstrate that a person has gained knowledge and experience.
The Construction Management Association of America awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to workers who have the required experience and who pass a technical exam. It is recommended that applicants for this certification complete a self-study course that covers the professional role of a construction manager, legal issues, the allocation of risk, and other topics related to construction management.
The American Institute of Constructors awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations to candidates who meet its requirements and pass the appropriate construction exams.
Some states require licensure for construction managers. For more information, contact your state licensing board.
Analytical skills. Construction managers plan project strategies, handle unexpected issues and delays, and solve problems that arise over the course of the project. In addition, many managers use cost-estimating and planning software to determine costs and the materials and time required to complete projects.
Business skills. Construction managers address budget matters and coordinate and supervise workers. Choosing competent staff and establishing good working relationships with them is critical.
Customer-service skills. Construction managers are in constant contact with owners, inspectors, and the public. They must form good working relationships with these people and ensure their needs are met.
Decisionmaking skills. Construction managers choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks and jobs. Often, these choices must be made quickly to meet deadlines and budgets.
Initiative. Self-employed construction managers generate their own business opportunities and must be proactive in finding new clients. They often market their services and bid on jobs, and they must also learn to perform special home improvement projects, such as installing mosaic glass tiles, sanding wood floors, and insulating homes.
Leadership skills. Construction managers must effectively delegate tasks to construction workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers.
Speaking skills. Construction managers must give clear orders, explain complex information to construction workers and clients, and discuss technical details with other building specialists, such as architects. Self-employed construction managers must get their own projects, so the need to sell their services to potential clients is critical.
Technical skills. Construction managers must know construction methods and technologies, and must be able to interpret contracts and technical drawings.
Time-management skills. Construction managers must meet deadlines. They ensure that construction phases are completed on time so that the next phase can begin as scheduled. For instance, a building’s foundation cannot be constructed until the land is completely excavated.
Writing skills. Construction managers must write proposals, plans, and budgets, as well as document the progress of the work for clients and others involved in the building process.
The median annual wage for construction managers was $93,370 in May 2018.
The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,510.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for construction managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||$97,180|
|Nonresidential building construction||95,150|
|Specialty trade contractors||90,170|
|Residential building construction||83,640|
In addition to salary, construction managers may also earn bonuses. Their earnings are highly dependent on the amount of business they generate.
Most construction managers work full time. However, the need to meet deadlines and to respond to delays and emergencies often requires construction managers to work many additional hours. Many construction managers also may be on call 24 hours a day. Some construction managers work more than 40 hours per week.
Median annual wages, May 2018
- Construction managers
- Other management occupations
- Total, all occupations
Employment of construction managers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Construction managers are expected to be needed as overall construction activity expands. Over the coming decade, population and business growth will result in the construction of new residences, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures. Also, the need to improve portions of the national infrastructure may spur employment growth as roads, bridges, and sewer pipe systems are upgraded or replaced.
In addition, a growing emphasis on retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient should create jobs for general contractors, who are more likely to manage the renovation and upgrading of buildings than oversee new large-scale construction projects.
To ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget, firms require construction managers to oversee them. Furthermore, construction processes and building technology are becoming more complex, requiring greater oversight and spurring demand for specialized management personnel.
Job opportunities for construction managers are expected to be good. Specifically, jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects.
In addition to employment growth creating many new jobs, construction managers are expected to retire or leave the occupation in substantial numbers over the next decade, resulting in further job openings.
Employment of construction managers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers in the construction industry may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce abundant job opportunities for construction managers.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28||Employment by Industry|
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of construction managers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2018|
Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.
Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.
Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems.
Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service.
Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.
For more information about construction manager certification, visit
For more information about construction management and construction manager certification, visit
For more information on accredited construction science and management educational programs, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Construction Managers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm (visited ).
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