How to Become a Construction Manager: Your Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about what a construction manager does and how you can get started in this leadership role.

[Featured Image] Two construction workers speak with their construction manager at an outdoor site on a sunny day. They are all wearing reflective vests and hard hats.

A construction manager coordinates a building project from start to finish. Managers often work at the construction site from a field office to monitor progress, make on-the-spot decisions, and supervise employees. Typical duties in this role might include:

  • Preparing budgets, cost estimates, and work timetables

  • Negotiating with subcontractors and vendors

  • Collaborating with architects, engineers, and specialized trade workers

  • Scheduling and coordinating subcontractors

  • Overseeing work progress to meet deadlines

  • Ensuring compliance with local and state building and construction codes

  • Monitoring the job site for safety hazards

  • Managing any emergencies or work delays

In substantial projects, like an office building, a construction manager may focus on only one aspect of the building project (plumbing, electric wiring, foundation, etc.). In a smaller-scale project, they may be responsible for the oversight of the entire build.

What is a typical construction manager's salary?

The median annual salary for a construction manager in the US was $98,890, as of June 2022 [1]. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that this field will continue to be in demand, with projected job growth of 11 percent between 2020 and 2030.

Types of construction managers

Construction projects vary from industrial, commercial, and residential to more specialized projects, like roads, bridges, and monuments. Because of the diversity of projects, some construction managers specialize in one particular niche. 

Some focus on smaller renovation-type projects, while others oversee massive new builds or focus solely on transportation infrastructure. Take a look at this breakdown of some of the different types of construction management positions:

  • Residential building project managers focus on renovating or constructing housing, including apartment complexes, multifamily units, or single-family homes.

  • Commercial construction managers oversee the construction or renovation of commercial buildings, including retail shops and corporate offices. 

  • Infrastructure managers oversee the building of roads, bridges, or other public infrastructure assets.

How to become a construction manager

Most companies look for construction managers with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or civil engineering. For smaller projects, it’s possible to get hired with an associate degree in construction management or technology combined with work experience in the field. 

If you're starting on your path to becoming a construction manager, you may be first hired as an assistant. This acts as a sort of training period, allowing you to act under the guidance of a more experienced manager. This training period could last for months or years, depending on the client or firm you work for.

Becoming a Certified Construction Manager (CCM)

While not necessary to get a job, the Certified Construction Manager certification from the Construction Management Association of America can validate to potential employers that you have skills in areas like legal compliance, risk management, contract administration, and cost and quality management.

Construction manager skills

The role of a construction manager is a multi-faceted job that utilizes a broad skill set. Many clients look to hire a construction manager who has the following qualities:

Technical skills:

  • Project management

  • Knowledge of standard building codes

  • Familiarity with a wide variety of construction practices and techniques

  • Familiarity with technology and software used on the job

Workplace skills:

  • Leadership abilities

  • Adaptability

  • Communication skills

  • Organizational skills

  • Negotiation

  • Time management

  • Flexibility

  • Risk management

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Construction manager career path

If you study construction management or work as a construction manager, you may have the opportunity to take on other, more specialized roles as your career advances. These include the following:

  • A surveyor measures and determines property boundaries. In this position, you could prepare maps for clients, travel to find the precise locations of important landmarks, and verify data accuracy.

  • The facilities manager oversees the daily operations of a building and how it is used, including security, communications, maintenance, and utilities.

  • The building services engineer ensures that a building functions properly. This means maintaining current building standards and designing and implementing improvements to the building and its utilities and technologies. 

  • Site engineers are involved with the technical and organizational side of construction projects. This is a more specialized construction management role, focusing on supervising staff, providing technical advice, and time management.

  • The sustainability consultant works to make buildings more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Get started with Coursera

Now's an excellent time to start preparing for a position as a construction manager, thanks to good career prospects and the availability of jobs. See if this career might fit your interests by taking a beginner-friendly class in Construction Project Management from Columbia University. If you’re thinking about getting a degree, consider the Construction Engineering and Management MasterTrack® Certificate from the University of Michigan. If you complete this MasterTrack Certificate and are admitted to the full master’s program, your credits count toward your degree.

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