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Amid a shaky recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the construction industry shows promising employment and spending prospects.
The American Institute of Architects’s (AIA) Consensus Construction Forecast Panel suggested optimistic construction outlays for nonresidential buildings, an increase of 9% in 2022 and another 6% in 2023, despite ongoing labor shortages and supply chain disruptions.
Additionally, the industry has seen year-over-year (YoY) employment growth of 4% — equating to 292,000 jobs — since June 2021, according to a recent press release by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).
The uptick in spending and projects looks good for the United States economy, primarily since the construction industry generates $1.4 trillion worth of structures annually. However, with so many new commercial and residential buildings underway, somebody needs to oversee the construction. Fortunately, skilled construction project managers are usually up for the challenge.
What Is a Construction Project Manager?
Construction managers and project managers may seem like interchangeable roles, but they’re actually quite different.
Regardless of the industry, project managers follow the project management triangle that visualizes the “triple constraint” — time, budget and scope to guide projects and produce a quality product.
Whereas construction managers spend most of their time supervising day-to-day building activities on the ground, project managers provide managers and workers with the resources and support they require to complete a project on time — they’re usually in charge of hiring the construction manager, as well.
Other construction project manager duties include:
- Conducting site selection and analysis
- Land procurement
- Developing project timelines, work schedules and managing deadlines
- Budget management
- Hiring workers, subcontractors and construction managers for the project
- Handling marketing and public relations materials
Project managers may also serve as a point of contact for sponsors, clients and the construction manager and rarely directly handle materials and equipment or communicate with construction workers. At most, project managers are responsible for signing off on needs and budgeting proposals submitted by the construction manager.
While small construction companies sometimes have one person who simultaneously takes on construction manager and project manager roles, it could lead to several missteps.
For example, a project manager prevents extravagant overhead costs such as buying two excavators rather than renting one for the project. They might also handle unpaid projects and track down clients that owe money.
How Do You Become a Construction Project Manager?
The path to becoming a construction project manager looks different for everyone. However, experience, knowledge and the right set of skills count when taking on this managerial work.
Construction project managers may pursue formal education or take a do-it-yourself approach to entering the field. Many colleges deliver in-person and online project management curriculums for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher. It might also include the necessary certifications upon completion of a program.
Construction management curriculums may be a beneficial alternative for industry-specific coursework and learning. While a degree isn’t required to begin working in construction, having one may deliver the best managerial prospects for a high-demand position.
Skills and Expertise
Communication, organization, problem-solving, negotiation, budgeting, time management and accuracy are essential skills project managers should possess to work effectively. Experience with special project management software and spreadsheets is also helpful to succeed in this role.
For construction project managers specifically, individuals should have a background in the following:
- Some knowledge of building and construction
- Federal health and safety standards
- Customer service
- Accounting principles
- Labor relations
- Laws and regulations for the construction industry
Certification and Licensure
Although an individual can become a project manager in the construction industry without certification, obtaining one implies they have the key competencies required for this line of work.
Construction project managers may want to pursue the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which typically increases PMP holders’ salaries by 25% more than those without it. They may also want to obtain a Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential that covers more construction-related components than the PMP, such as safety, health and environmental risks and claims management.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also provides safety training for construction workers. Project managers may want to complete a training program with OSHA to learn about onsite safety hazards and violations. For instance, fall protection accounted for 6,072 violations in 2017 — the most common among all OSHA violations.
Salary and Job Growth
Construction project managers make an average salary between $96,897 and $125,276, but this largely depends on experience, education and certification.
Meanwhile, the average employment growth falls between 5% and 10%, which could be higher in the construction industry. The BLS indicates an 11% job growth for construction managers by 2030, suggesting that construction project managers have more opportunities in that industry.
Construction Project Managers Get the Job Done
Construction managers and laborers may work directly in the building zone, but project managers are the brains of the operation. Their skills and expertise get the job done.