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What is a Construction Management Degree?
Construction managers plan, organize, direct, control, supervise, and evaluate construction work. Construction management degree programs teach the various aspects of the occupation, which include the following:
- Preparing cost estimates and contracts
- Hiring subcontractors
- Managing work schedules / staff timetables
- Understanding of and adherence to building codes
- Health and safety regulations
- Labour relations
- Liaising with clients
- Overall project management
These degree programs also typically encompass some general education course work in science, mathematics, communications, and the social sciences.
Some degree programs allow students to specialize in a particular kind of construction management, such as residential, commercial, highway/civil works, or facility management.
In general, your choice of degree level in construction management depends on where you see yourself in the construction field:
Associate Degree in Construction Management
A two-year associate degree offered by trade schools and community colleges may be sufficient to coordinate and supervise smaller construction projects. Typical coursework in these programs includes an introduction to structural design; as well as planning, scheduling, documentation, bidding, and estimating in construction.
Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management
A four-year bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates to work in more senior roles of construction management and cost estimating. The curriculum at this degree level is more extensive and typically covers the following:
- Computer-aided (CAD) design
- Construction documents
- Construction materials, methods, and technologies
- Building codes and safety regulations
- Planning and scheduling
- Quality control
- Measuring results
- Construction law and ethics
Master’s Degree in Construction Management
The emphasis of master’s degree programs in construction management is normally on new technologies for the construction industry. In addition, students are exposed to economic, political, and environmental factors that can impact the construction industry. It is not uncommon for students in these programs to work in the field during the day and earn their degree at night.
Degrees Similar to Construction Management
This field of engineering is closely connected to construction and construction management. While construction management is focused on overseeing the building process, civil or construction engineering is primarily focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis. Civil engineers identify the fundamentals of load-bearing structures and construction techniques that construction managers put into practice.
The construction sector, of course, cannot exist without the services of professional carpenters. Carpentry work is an integral part of residential and commercial construction projects. It is a viable option for students who initially consider pursuing a construction management degree and then decide they prefer a more hands-on, less supervisory role in the building field.
Clearly, welders are a vital part of the construction industry and therefore offers students yet another entry into the field. Like construction management, welding also presents opportunities to work in welding project inspection and management roles.
This is yet another area of the construction sector that calls for both trades people and trades managers. While a construction management degree prepares you to supervise all facets of construction, having an electrical degree and becoming an electrician is the first step towards working in electrical management positions.
What a construction management degree does for someone interested in the construction industry, a business administration degree does for a wide cross section of the population interested in almost any industry. The reason for this is simple: every business needs leaders. This degree is a good choice for students who don’t know exactly what they would like to do, because business administration programs teach principles that apply to virtually every occupational category.
Skills You'll Learn
Of course, earning a construction management degree leaves students with abilities in construction operations, inspections, and technology. However, beyond this very specific knowledge, studying the field also develops a set of very transferable skills:
A large part of a construction manager’s job is communicating. The position demands a comfort level of interacting with many people in many different roles. It requires clearly delegating tasks, liaising with contractors, and ensuring that all members of the construction team are consistently informed of project objectives and timelines.
Organization and Problem-Solving
Construction projects are made up of many moving parts. Things happen. Deadlines move. Materials availability changes and can affect budgets. Workers get ill. Workers quit. While these issues can prove to be complex, being organized from the outset is key to being able to manage the unexpected and solve the problems that come up.
This means more than just being in charge. Construction managers have to know the particular skills that each of their team members possess; this is the only way to ensure that the right person is given the right task. They have to be competent team managers, because workers work harder and are happier when they know the manager is approachable and capable of resolving any conflicts that may arise.
A good construction project manager needs to be a good stress manager. Challenging situations will inevitably occur.
Managing a construction project involves negotiating budgets, schedules, and more so that all parties are satisfied and remain committed to the project.
Construction managers who are able to predict potential issues and keep them from happening have an undeniable step up on their competitors.
What Can You Do with a Construction Management Degree?
The construction management field offers career opportunities in four basic project groups:
- Residential – single family homes, multi-family homes like duplexes and apartments
- Commercial – schools, medical facilities, sports venues, retail stores, shopping centers, office buildings and skyscrapers
- Industrial – construction of specialized structures such as oil refineries, nuclear power plants, and steel mills
- Infrastructure / Heavy Construction – building of roads, highways, tunnels, transit systems, bridges, railways, airports, pipelines, and drainage systems
The facilities management role involves overseeing the daily operations of a building or buildings. For example, large office towers must have a dedicated facilities manager (sometimes referred to as a building services engineer) who is typically in charge of building maintenance, managing related contracts, building safety and security, and general space management.
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