What Does a Construction Manager Do?

What is the purpose of their jobs?

What does a construction manager do?
What does a construction manager do?. Cultura Science/Philippe Roy // Getty Images

Construction managers are responsible for setting and keeping schedules, monitoring finances, and making certain that everybody is doing what they should every day. They help ensure that the workplace is free of safety hazards and deal with the various working relationships that exist on a job site.

To put a finer point on it, construction managers oversee and lead a range of building projects from beginning to end.

Construction runs the gambit between smaller renovation and remodeling jobs to larger commercial projects, like office buildings, hospitals, and schools.

Nearly 75 percent of construction managers in America are independent contractors hired by clients in need of managers with specific work experience. An increasing number of those clients are demanding an education background for their managers that includes a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for construction managers in America is in the range of $82,790.

Construction Manager vs. General Contractor

While the terms “construction manager” and “general contractor” are often used interchangeably, there are actually distinct differences between them. Typically, construction managers are involved in a given project from start to finish. They help clients with initial planning, along with the selection of the project's general contractor and architect.

In some cases, however, construction managers do serve in a separate capacity as the general contractor.

Responsibilities of a Construction Manager

There are certain tasks that are performed by construction managers. These include:

Quality management. Construction projects quite often involve a number of contractors and subcontractors.

One of the most important jobs of the construction manager is making certain everyone is doing quality work and not cutting any corners along the way.

Cost management. A good construction manager is constantly on top of costs and makes the necessary adjustments when unexpected complications or issues arise.

Safety management. Construction managers need to be able to identify and eliminate possible safety hazards for the good of everyone on the job site.

Contract administration. It is the job of the construction manager to ensure that every provision of the contract is being met and that all parties involved are happy.

Beyond everything else, construction managers need to keep all parties involved well informed throughout the whole project. It includes the client, the architect, and any contractor or subcontractor involved. If issues arrive, the manager must be in the position to deal with them immediately.

Looking to Become a Construction Manager?

As we have seen already, being a construction manager (particularly in the United States) involves much more than just reading blueprints or spot-checking the quality of work being done. Good ones are knowledgeable about all standard building codes and understand the importance of green architecture.

They need to be adept with industry-specific software and have a good working knowledge of all aspects of the job in general.

These days, while it is valuable, work experience alone is not enough. Clients in increasing numbers are demanding that construction managers hold at least a bachelor's degree in construction science or a related discipline, like civil engineering and, in point of fact, construction management.

As part of a related course of study, aspiring construction managers study traditional subjects like statistics, mathematics, architecture, and information technology. They also receive specialized training in subjects like site design and planning, enforcement of building codes, scheduling, and cost estimation.

Construction managers possess excellent communication skills and can lead a diverse team.

That team includes everyone involved in the process from the site workers to the client to designers, architects, and tradesmen. Since most construction environments are fast-paced and are held to tight deadlines, the ability to effectively multitask is also a must for a successful construction manager.

Finally, clients today more often want a certified construction manager for their projects. Once an aspiring manager has some real-world experience, it is in his or her best interest to obtain a few industry certifications. The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and American Institute of Constructors (AIC) offer certifications that are in high demand. These certifications are awarded based on a person's education level, real-world experience, and overall knowledge of the principles of construction management coupled with a written exam.