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Construction managers assume a wide variety of responsibilities and positions within construction firms. They are known by a range of job titles that are often used interchangeably-for example, construction superintendent, general superintendent, project manager, general construction manager, or executive construction manager. Construction managers may be owners or salaried employees of a construction management or contracting firm, or individuals working under contract or as salaried employees for the owner, developer, contractor, or management firm overseeing the construction project. The Handbook uses the term "construction manager" to encompass all supervisory-level salaried and self-employed construction managers who oversee construction supervisors and workers.
In the construction industry, managers and other professionals active in the industry-general managers, project engineers, cost estimators, and others-are increasingly referred to as constructors. The term constructor refers to a broad group of professionals in construction who, through education and experience, are capable of managing, coordinating, and supervising the construction process from conceptual development through final construction on a timely and economical basis. Given designs for buildings, roads, bridges, or other projects, constructors oversee the organization, scheduling, and implementation of the project to execute those designs. They are responsible for coordinating and managing people, materials, and equipment; budgets, schedules, and contracts; and the safety of employees and the general public.
In contrast with the Handbook, the term "construction manager" is used more narrowly within the construction industry to denote a firm, or an individual employed by the firm, involved in management oversight of a construction project. Under this narrower definition, construction managers generally act as agents or representatives of the owner or developer throughout the life of the project. Although they generally play no direct role in the actual construction of the building or other facility, they typically schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes. They develop and implement a management plan to complete the project according to the owner's goals that allows the design and construction processes to be carried out efficiently and effectively within budgetary and schedule constraints. In the Handbook, "construction manager" includes these workers as well as managers working directly for the contractors who actually perform the construction.
Generally, a contractor is the firm under contract to provide specialized construction services. On small projects such as remodeling a home, the construction contractor is usually a self-employed construction manager or skilled trades worker who directs and oversees employees. On larger projects, construction managers working for a general contractor have overall responsibility for completing the construction in accordance with the engineer or architect's drawings and specifications and prevailing building codes. They arrange for subcontractors to perform specialized craft work or other specified construction work.
Large construction projects, like an office building or industrial complex for example, are too complicated for one person to supervise. These projects are divided into many segments: Site preparation, including land clearing and earth moving; sewage systems; landscaping and road construction; building construction, including excavation and laying foundations, erection of structural framework, floors, walls, and roofs; and building systems, including fire protection, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating. Construction managers may work as part of a team or may be in charge of one or more of these activities. They may have several subordinates, such as assistant project managers, superintendents, field engineers, or crew supervisors, reporting to them.
Construction managers plan, budget, and direct the construction project. They evaluate various construction methods and determine the most cost-effective plan and schedule. They determine the appropriate construction methods and schedule all required construction site activities into logical, specific steps, budgeting the time required to meet established deadlines. This may require sophisticated estimating and scheduling techniques, using computers with specialized software. Construction managers determine the labor requirements and, in some cases, supervise or monitor the hiring and dismissal of workers.
Managers direct and monitor the progress of field or site construction activities, at times through other construction supervisors. This includes the delivery and use of materials, tools, and equipment; the quality of construction, worker productivity, and safety. They are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and licenses and, depending upon the contractual arrangements, direct or monitor compliance with building and safety codes and other regulations.
They regularly review engineering and architectural drawings and specifications to monitor progress and ensure compliance with plans and specifications. They track and control construction costs to avoid cost overruns. Based upon direct observation and reports by subordinate supervisors, managers may prepare daily reports of progress and requirements for labor, material, and machinery and equipment at the construction site. Construction managers meet regularly with owners, subcontractors, architects, and other design professionals to monitor and coordinate all phases of the construction project.
Construction managers work out of a main office from which the overall construction project is monitored or out of a field office at the construction site. Management decisions regarding daily construction activities are usually made at the job site. Managers usually travel when the construction site is in another State or when they are responsible for activities at two or more sites. Management of construction projects overseas usually entails temporary residence in another country.
Construction managers must be "on call" to deal with delays, bad weather, or emergencies at the site. Most work more than a standard 40-hour week since construction may proceed around-the-clock. This type of work schedule can go on for days, even weeks, to meet special project deadlines, especially if there have been unforeseen delays.
Although the work generally is not considered dangerous, construction managers must be careful while touring construction sites, especially when large machinery, heavy equipment, and vehicles are being operated. Managers must be able to establish priorities and assign duties. They need to observe job conditions and to be alert to changes and potential problems, particularly involving safety on the job site and adherence to regulations.
Construction managers held about 197,000 jobs in 1994. Over 85 percent were employed in the construction industry, primarily by specialty trade contractors-for example, plumbing, heating and air- conditioning, and electrical contractors-and general building contractors. Many also worked as self- employed independent contractors in the specialty trades. Others were employed by engineering, architectural, surveying, and construction management services firms, as well as local governments, educational institutions, and real estate developers.
Persons interested in becoming a construction manager need a solid background in building science and management, as well as related work experience within the construction industry. They need to be able to understand contracts, plans, and specifications, and be knowledgeable about construction methods, materials, and regulations. Familiarity with computers and software programs for job costing, scheduling, and estimating is increasingly important.
Traditionally, persons advanced to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craft workers-for example, as carpenters, masons, plumbers, or electricians-or after having worked as construction supervisors or as independent specialty contractors overseeing workers in one or more construction trades. However, more and more employers-particularly, large construction firms-seek to hire managers with industry work experience and formal postsecondary education in building science or construction management.
In 1994, over 100 colleges and universities offered 4-year degree programs in construction management or construction science. These programs include courses in project control and development, site planning, design, construction methods, construction materials, value analysis, cost estimating, scheduling, contract administration, accounting, business and financial management, building codes and standards, inspection procedures, engineering and architectural sciences, mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Graduates from 4-year degree programs usually are hired as assistants to project managers, field engineers, schedulers, or cost estimators. An increasing number of graduates in related fields-engineering or architecture, for example-also enter construction management, often after having had substantial experience on construction projects.
Around 30 colleges and universities also offer a master's degree program in construction management or construction science, and at least two offer a Ph.D. in the field. Master's degree recipients, especially those with work experience in construction, typically become construction managers in very large construction or construction management companies. Often, individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field seek a master's degree in order to work in the construction industry. Doctoral degree recipients generally become college professors or work in an area of research.
Many individuals also attend training and educational programs sponsored by industry associations, often in collaboration with postsecondary institutions. A number of 2-year colleges throughout the country offer construction management or construction technology programs.
Construction managers should be adaptable and be able to work effectively in a fast-paced environment. They should be decisive and able to work well under pressure, particularly when faced with unexpected occurrences or delays. The ability to coordinate several major activities at once, while being able to analyze and resolve specific problems is essential, as is the ability to understand engineering, architectural, and other construction drawings. Managers must be able to establish a good working relationship with many different people including owners, other managers, design professionals, supervisors, and craft workers.
Advancement opportunities for construction managers vary depending upon the size and type of company for which one works. Within large firms, managers may eventually become top-level managers or executives. Highly experienced individuals may become independent consultants; some serve as expert witnesses in court or as arbitrators in disputes. Those with the required capital may establish their own firms offering construction management services or their own general contracting firms overseeing construction projects from start to finish.
Employment of construction managers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005 as the level of construction activity and complexity of construction projects continues to grow. In addition, many job openings should result annually from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Employers prefer applicants with previous construction work experience who can combine a strong background in building technology with proven supervisory or managerial skills. Prospects in construction management, engineering and architectural services, and construction contracting firms should be particularly favorable for persons with a bachelor's degree or higher in construction science, construction management, or construction engineering who have worked in construction.
Increased spending on the Nation's infrastructure-highways, bridges, dams, water and sewage systems, and electric power generation and transmission facilities-will result in a greater demand for construction managers, as will the need to build more residential housing, commercial and office buildings, and factories. In addition, continuing maintenance and repair of all kinds of existing structures will also contribute to demand for these professionals.
The increasing complexity of construction projects also should lead to the creation of more manager jobs. Advances in building materials and construction methods and the growing number of multipurpose buildings, electronically operated "smart" buildings, and energy-efficient structures will require the expertise of more construction managers. In addition, the proliferation of laws setting standards for buildings and construction materials, worker safety, energy efficiency, and environmental pollution have further complicated the construction process and should increase demand for managers. As project owners and construction companies strive to keep costs in line and reduce the causes of disputes and litigation, they will continue to depend on the services and expertise of highly effective managers.
Employment of construction managers is sensitive to the short-term nature of many construction projects and cyclical fluctuations in construction activity. During periods of diminished construction activity-when many construction workers are laid off-many construction managers remain employed to plan, schedule, or estimate costs of future construction projects, as well as to manage maintenance, repair and renovation work which remains ongoing.
Earnings of salaried construction managers and incomes of self-employed independent construction contractors vary depending upon the size and nature of the construction project, its geographic location, and economic conditions. Based on limited information available, the average starting salary for construction managers in 1994 was around $30,000 annually. The average salary for experienced construction managers in 1994 ranged from around $40,000 to $100,000 annually. Many salaried construction managers receive benefits such as bonuses, use of company motor vehicles, paid vacations, and life and health insurance.
Construction managers participate in the conceptual development of a construction project and oversee its organization, scheduling, and implementation. Occupations that perform similar functions include architects, civil engineers, construction supervisors, cost engineers, cost estimators, developers, electrical engineers, industrial engineers, landscape architects, and mechanical engineers.
For information about a career as a construction manager contact:
American Institute of Constructors, 466 94th Ave. North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.
Associated Builders and Contractors, 1300 North 17th St., Rosslyn, VA 22209.
Associated General Contractors of America, 1957 E St. NW., Washington, DC 20006-5199.
Construction Management Association of America, 7918 Jones Branch Dr., Suite 540, McLean, VA 22102.
Information on the accreditation requirements for construction science and management programs is available from:
American Council for Construction Education, 1300 Hudson Lane, Suite 3, Monroe, LA 71201-6054.
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