Guide to Construction Project Management

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about construction project management, including types of jobs, necessary skills, and qualifications. Discover the different career paths and salary information.

[Featured image] Two construction project managers both wearing yellow jackets and blue hard hats are going over plans on a construction site.

Construction project management is a popular project management profession focusing on building or construction projects. The industry is fast growing and is projected to grow 11 percent between 2020 and 2030 [1]. Construction managers in the US also earn an annual wage of 98,890 as of May 2021 [2]. 

Construction project management jobs vary and cover a range of construction work, from small-scale builds to large-scale construction projects. You can expect to find positions at varying levels and stages of a construction process, with the required skills, qualifications, and certifications. 

What is construction project management?

Construction project management handles the various stages of a construction project. Projects can be anything from residential or commercial buildings to bridges, roads, and eco builds. Different roles correlate with different stages of the project’s development. 

Whatever the construction project, the leadership role of a construction project manager (CPM) has a wide scope, often managing a team and processes. A construction project management career involves expertise in the areas that are essential in project management, such as:

  • Managing budgets 

  • Communicating with teams and stakeholders 

  • Knowledge of contract management, risk management, and site safety

Construction project managers usually specialize in a particular area, depending on their skills and experience. 

Read more: What Is Construction Management?

6 Stages of construction project management

Managing a construction process is considered high-level project management, demanding skills and capabilities above the average project management position. There are six stages involved that construction project managers oversee.  

1. Conception

This is the start of the project that establishes whether the build is feasible and designs are achievable. This step also accounts if the location is suitable and costs are realistic. At this stage, as the construction project manager, you will work with an engineer or architect to draw up plans and blueprints that meet all required standards. If everything is in order, you will draw up a project initiation document (PID) detailing the business needs and case for the construction and start the tendering process for the contract. 

2. Pre-construction

Before construction can begin, the pre-construction or planning phase occurs. You put together a project management plan (PMP), a roadmap for what’s to come. This considers factors like visiting the site, conducting relevant tests like soil tests, ordering material, selecting a team, assigning roles, and deciding on appropriate project management software. 

The PMP outlines the project deliverables and milestones, a communication plan to ensure minimal conflicts and a risk management plan, ensuring little disturbances and adjustments are needed if problems arise. 

Read more: How to Get a PMP Certification: An Overview

3. Project execution

This is where the construction project begins. Now the plans should be in place, materials should be ready, and a team is in place to carry out the work. This is the most significant part of all the stages and relies heavily on how well you have executed the previous stages.

4. Monitoring

This stage follows the execution stage, although much monitoring happens concurrently to measure progress and quality. Now is the time to test what’s been built, address any errors or safety concerns, and train staff on how to use and maintain systems within the building or structure. It’s also a great time to register any challenges that may help future projects.

5. Occupancy and warranty period

At this stage, the owners of the new building or structure are in the warranty phase. These may be contractual warranties or warranties that are in effect as part of the law for the building 

6. Close

This is the end of the project. The building work is complete. Construction project managers hold meetings to discuss the build and to address any areas that didn’t meet objectives and how this was addressed. Final budgets and reports are issued.  

Roles of the construction project manager

In any construction project, construction project managers are responsible for several tasks that go above and beyond a general project manager. They require specialist knowledge and experience.

Managing procurement in the construction phase.

During the construction phase, you are responsible for all bidding and tendering, as well as contracting workers and negotiating with contractors to secure preferable prices. 

Managing change in the construction phase.

Change management is a skill that a construction project manager needs to possess. No matter how good the planning stage is, things still need to be adapted. Unforeseen circumstances will result in changes, and a construction project manager has contingency plans for different eventualities. With so many processes and people to manage, changes will likely be needed. 

Tracking work on the construction site.

Part of your role is monitoring progress, conducting inspections, quality control exercises, and ensuring safety. A construction project manager records any problems or deficiencies with strategies for improvement. 

Cost control monitoring in the construction phase.

Monitoring and controlling costs are essential in a project where costs can quickly add up unexpectedly, and processes are subject to change. A construction project manager's role is to budget effectively and monitor progress to ensure budgets are upheld, and everything is on schedule so extra costs can be avoided. 

Document control and records management for construction.

Construction project managers are responsible for keeping records on building work, any problems or safety concerns that need addressing, changes in budgets, and monitoring for improvements. Agreements must be reached and kept with contractors, you must write contracts, which also need to be documented. 

Areas of focus for construction project managers

A construction project management career requires a broad focus and skill in various areas to complete projects at a high level. Construction project managers train and gain experience to undertake projects and cover the following throughout each project they manage:

  • Communicating with contractors and stakeholders 

  • Contract administration

  • Cost management

  • High-level project management

  • Involving stakeholders in every change of plans

  • Keeping track of team, materials, and costs

  • Logging hours on the job site

  • Quality, team, and time management

  • Reading all contracts thoroughly

  • Safety management

  • Staying on schedule and avoiding slippage

How to become a good construction project manager

Construction project management is high-level project management, and the role requires a top level of skills and qualifications. Experience is essential, as well as proving that you have the right level of academic ability needed to do the job.  

Education and experience

It’s possible to work your way up to a construction project management position from an entry-level construction role, but a bachelor’s degree is commonly required, especially for large-scale projects with large firms. The most effective degrees are in construction management or similar, but you can also enter the profession with a degree in civil engineering. 

Read more: What Does a Civil Engineer Do? Salaries, Responsibilities, and More

Technical skills

The role of a construction project manager requires a broad range of technical skills, given that project management software systems are used, as well as programs to draw up blueprints and track costs. A construction project management professional generally has knowledge and experience in the following:

  • Blueprints and drawings

  • Microsoft Office and relevant computer software

  • Engineering, construction, and architecture practices and principles

  • Budgeting, negotiating, scheduling, and managing costs

  • Contractor and subcontractor documents, terms and conditions, and pay rates

Competencies and traits of a good construction manager

A good construction project manager will have many project manager traits, but with the added expertise of the construction industry. If you are hoping to start your career in construction project management, consider how you will exhibit the following qualities:

  • Organizational skills

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Ability to delegate tasks

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Ability to work under pressure

  • Problem-solving

  • Adaptability

  • Negotiation

  • Multitasking 

  • Strong leadership and management capabilities

Recommended certifications

Although having a certification for a construction project management career isn't essential, some companies will ask for certifications specific to the job. When this isn’t the case, you can boost your resume and verify your credentials by taking one. Certifications include: 

 

  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

  • Certified Construction Manager (CCM)

  • Certified Professional Constructor (CPC)

  • Certified Safety Manager Construction (CSMC)

  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)Green Associate

  • Other role-specific certifications

Construction management software solutions to use

Construction project management involves using various software and technical tools to monitor, test, track, and evaluate processes. These are essential, but which tools you use will depend on the nature of the project and the organization you work for. Some popular construction management software solutions include:

  • Autodesk Construction Cloud

  • CoConstruct

  • Procore

  • Smartsheet

  • VPO

  • Oracle Primavera Cloud

  • RedTeam

  • BuildPro

  • Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate

Career paths in construction project management

A construction project management career can take many forms, depending on the niche you choose, your skills, experience, construction project management qualifications, and preferences. Here are some roles you can pursue in construction project management: 

  • Field engineer: $97,720 [3]

  • Construction superintendent: $90,967 [4]

  • Sustainability consultant: $85,558 [5]

  • Construction manager: $95,921 [6]

  • Construction project manager: $94,074 [7

  • Site engineer:$102,741 [8

  • General contractor: $72,294 [9]

  • Construction project director: $92,999 [10]

Ready to start a career in construction project management?

A construction project management career offers various positions and career development possibilities. If you’re ready to start a career in construction project management, learn more through an introductory certification such as the Construction Management Specialization offered by Columbia University on Coursera. Consider boosting your general project management skills with Google Project Management Professional Certificate.

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Construction Project Management

Construction Project Management introduces learners to Project Initiation and Planning. Columbia University professor, Ibrahim Odeh, along with industry ...

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Project Management, Construction Management, Work Breakdown Structure, Project Planning

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Google Project Management:

Start your path to a career in project management. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than six months. No degree or experience is required.

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BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective Communication

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Construction Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-6.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “ Occupational Outlook Handbook: Construction Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-5.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

3. Glassdoor. “Field Engineer Salaries,   https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/field-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm” Accessed June 13, 2022.

4. Glassdoor. “Construction Superintendent Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-construction-superintendent-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,30.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

5. Glassdoor. “Sustainability Consultant Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-sustainability-consultant-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,28.htm?clickSource=searchBtn”. Accessed June 13, 2022. 

6. Glassdoor. “Construction Manager Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-construction-manager-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,23.htm.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

7. Glassdoor. “Construction Project Manager Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-construction-project-manager-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,31.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

8. Glassdoor. “Site Engineer Salaries, ” Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/site-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,13.htm

9. Glassdoor. “General Contractor Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-general-contractor-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,21.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 13, 2022. 

10. Glassdoor. “ Construction Project Director Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-construction-project-director-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,32.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 13, 2022.

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