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January 17, 2021


How to Start Careers in Construction Project Management

Want to break into the construction project management field? Follow these steps!

Construction managers are essential to keeping residential and commercial construction projects going—they’re the ones responsible for overseeing, organizing, scheduling, and tracking the completion of the project. Getting all of these things done on a day-to-day basis requires the right skill set and knowledge about the construction industry.

Here’s what you need to know to get started on a construction project management career.

Construction Project Management Job Description

In any particular project, there is usually one certified construction manager in charge of everything happening at the construction site. Assistant project managers oversee areas within the project, such as the HVAC work or electrical wiring. Working together, these construction managers ensure that the entire team stays on-time, in-budget, and on-task.

For these responsibilities, construction project managers get paid a median salary of $91,370 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On an hourly basis, the typical wage is $43.93 per hour. Demand for new construction project managers is expected to grow faster than average, with the industry needing 11 percent more workers between 2016 and 2026.

Becoming a construction manager may require on-the-job training, a degree or certificate, and professional certification.

Construction Industry Job Requirements

Starting out as a construction manager means getting the training and skills you need for that first job. Certification may be required to work in your state. Throughout the United States, specific requirements for construction careers may vary—it’s important to find out what’s needed where you live.

Having a bachelor’s degree or a certificate may help you stand out from other applicants. Civil engineering, architecture, and construction management degrees are common among working and aspiring construction project managers.

Work experience in a related construction field (such as work in HVAC or plumbing) may help you enter the field as an assistant construction project manager. As an assistant, you may have an opportunity to work your way up the ladder to manage entire projects. You could obtain your certification when you’re ready to move into a project management role.

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) offers a Certified Construction Manager designation (CCM) and a certification program to help you learn the basics you’ll need to enter the field. Earning a CCM certification involves taking an exam administered by CMAA in order to demonstrate your own knowledge and experience.

Employers may have their own requirements for hire. Many of these requirements are skills-based.

Construction Project Management Skill-set

The right combination of skills allows you to work more effectively in the field. Daily responsibilities include managing people and projects, which is hard to do if you’re not a people person who can balance bits of chaos and keep everything running smoothly.

Consider these common project management skills and whether you have what it takes to succeed in these areas:

  • Communication skills: Construction managers often spend their time onsite interacting with members of construction teams and giving instructions, providing feedback, or directing work. They must be capable of communicating expectations accurately to others and listening to questions and concerns. Sometimes, they may also need to resolve conflicts and handle challenging people-related situations as managers.
  • Project management and organizational skills: Tracking activity, budgeting, appropriating resources, and other project management skills are essential. You’re responsible for the activities of others.
  • Health and safety: When you’re in a management job supervising others, their own safety and health become your responsibility. You need to enforce safe work practices, ensure your team takes proper breaks, and make sure they stay protected from injury and bad weather conditions.
  • Time management: Make sure projects get done on time and that everyone follows the right schedule. You will likely have responsibility for work schedules, too.
  • Technical skills and construction sciences: Of course, you also need to know construction basics and understand how to complete the construction project at hand. While supervising the activity of others, you need to identify tasks and provide corrections when necessary.

Some of these skills may be innate, while others are learned in your work and in the classroom. It’s your responsibility to become as proficient in these areas as you can if you’re interested in making construction project management into your new career.

Getting a Job in the Construction Industry

To get that construction project manager job, you’ll need to carefully consider your own background and look for a good way to break in. If you’re already working in a trade or have the right degree, you have a leg up on the competition—you may be able to use networking or work towards a promotion from the job you currently have.

If starting cold with no experience and no job, it’s going to be hard work getting there. Many construction managers believe the job’s pretty rewarding though, so the hard work will be worth it. Chart your course and don’t be afraid to take some risks.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Get as much relevant experience as possible.
  • Learn about the career.
  • Ask questions and do some networking.
  • Use our site to learn more about construction careers. You’ll thank us later!