The Beginner’s Guide to Construction Management

Evelyn Long

Apr 23, 2021

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Working in the construction industry is challenging. It’s constantly changing and fiercely competitive. It’s also one of the most coveted and lucrative industries in the world, and it’s entirely unlike managing any other type of business. If you’re new to the industry or are thinking of changing your career, what do you need to know to begin managing a construction company?

What Is Construction Management?

First, what is a construction manager?

Their exact responsibilities will vary, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment. But, in general, construction managers oversee all the details of a building project from beginning to end. That might sound simple, but it can be incredibly complex, and taking up this mantle unprepared can be a recipe for disaster. What does it take to be a construction manager?

Responsibilities of a Construction Manager

The responsibilities of a construction manager are as many and as varied as the projects they oversee. According to the Construction Management Association of America, there are more than 100 different responsibilities that fall under the construction management umbrella. That’s 100 different hats you might be required to wear on any given day. Let’s look at a few of these responsibilities. 

Finances

Construction finances are an expansive topic, ranging from handling the payroll to bidding for new contracts to managing estimates and paying subcontractors. Being a financial planner is often an entire career in and of itself, but it is a major part of managing a construction crew. 

Subcontractors

You won’t have every single type of talent on your team, so for specialized tasks, hiring subcontractors is necessary. As a construction manager, you’ll interview potential subcontractors, vet and hire them, and ensure they do their jobs. You also have to make sure they get paid on time.

Employees

Subcontractors aren’t the only ones you’ll be responsible for hiring. You also need to build a functioning and successful team, which means handling employee interviews, background checks, and training. 

Calendar Management

Deadlines are the lifeblood of the construction industry. It’s up to construction managers to ensure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to during the day to meet those deadlines. Time management is a construction manager’s best friend. 

Safety Management

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which makes workplace safety essential. Construction managers are responsible for enforcing workplace safety, training employees, managing personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensuring OSHA compliance, just to name a few aspects. 

Contract Administration

Contracts make the construction industry’s world go round. While you may have a contract specialist on staff, you’ll also be a part of the process as a construction manager, even if you’re not entirely responsible for dealing with contracts. You’ll probably become incredibly familiar with employment and subcontractor contracts.

Quality Control

There is no point in doing a job at all if it’s not done well. Poor work reflects badly on you, and it could also end up costing you a lot of money when you have to fix what went wrong. Quality control is necessary even if you have a skilled team — simply to ensure you’re always putting your best foot forward when working on a client’s project. 

This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but it does give you a better idea of what it takes to become a construction manager and what construction management is.

Skills to Focus On

If your goal is to work in the wide world of construction management, what skills should you develop to succeed in the industry? 

Construction managers need to be aware of everything going on around them and insightful enough to find and solve problems before they cause bigger issues. They’re both leaders and motivators — cool-and-collected people that are more creative than you might think. 

If you’re planning on pursuing this career, focus on engineering and technical training. You may even want to explore mathematics, physics, and information technology (IT), depending on the exact details of the career you’re trying to build. Hone your communication skills regardless of the medium — you’ll be using verbal, written, and visual communication to convey your point. You will also need to learn how to be a leader, focusing on performance and productivity to help your team succeed and make the most of their own careers. 

Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list by any means. There is so much that goes into becoming a construction manager that we could write an entire book about the process — and we’d still miss out on the things you can only learn and master while on the job. 

Becoming a Construction Manager

In most cases, you won’t come out of school and jump directly into a construction management job. A career in the construction industry is very much like building a home. You don’t start by constructing the roof and working your way down — you begin at the bottom with the foundation and build your way up. Becoming a construction manager is hard work, but for anyone who loves the management side of the industry, it’s a fantastic career worth pursuing.

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