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How to Become a Construction Manager

Employers increasingly prefer candidates with both work experience and a bachelor’s degree in a construction-related field. However, some construction managers may qualify with a high school diploma and by working many years in a construction trade. Certification, although not required, is becoming increasingly important.


It is increasingly important for construction managers to have a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, architecture or engineering. As construction processes become increasingly complex, employers are placing more importance on specialized education.

More than 100 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in construction science, building science, or construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, cost estimation, building codes and standards, and contract administration. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also relevant.

An associate’s degree combined with work experience may be enough for some positions. A number of 2-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs.   

In addition, those with a high school diploma and years of relevant work experience will be able to work as construction managers, though they will do so primarily as self-employed general contractors.

Work Experience

Practical construction experience is important when entering the occupation because it reduces the need for initial on-the-job training. Internships, cooperative education programs, and long-term jobs in the industry provide that experience. Some construction managers become qualified solely through extensive construction experience, spending many years in carpentry, masonry, or general subcontracting.


New construction managers are generally hired as assistants to experienced managers before beginning independent work. Work as an assistant can last from several weeks to several months, depending on the firm.


Certification is becoming increasingly important for construction managers. Although not required, certification can be valuable because it can demonstrate knowledge and experience.

The Construction Management Association of America awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) designation to workers who have the required experience and who pass a technical exam. Applicants for this certification must also complete a self-study course that covers the professional role of a construction manager, legal issues, the allocation of risk, and other topics related to construction management.

The American Institute of Constructors awards the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) designations to candidates who meet its requirements and pass the appropriate construction exams.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Most managers plan a project strategy and must identify and solve unexpected issues and delays.

Decision-making skills. Construction managers choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks. Often, these decisions must be made quickly to meet deadlines.

Initiative. Self-employed construction managers generate their own business opportunities and must be proactive to find new clients. They often market their services, bid on jobs, and learn how to work on a wide variety of projects.

Managerial skills. Construction managers address budget matters and coordinate and supervise workers. Choosing competent staff and employees, as well as establishing good working relationships with them, is critical. Managers also must delegate tasks to workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers effectively.

Speaking skills. Managers must give clear orders, explain complex information to workers and clients, and discuss technical details with other building specialists. Self-employed construction managers must get their own projects, so the need to sell their services to potential clients is critical.

Technical skills. Managers must know construction methods and technologies, and be able to interpret contracts and technical drawings.

Time-management skills. Construction managers must meet deadlines. They ensure that construction phases are completed on time so that the next phase can begin. For instance, constructing a building foundation cannot begin until the land excavation is completed.

Writing skills. Construction managers must write proposals, plans, and budgets clearly for clients and others involved in the building process.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition