What Does the Construction Project Manager Path Look Like?
Is it necessary to have a college degree to become a construction firm project manager? The short answer to that question is no. However, project managers wear many hats and thus the position requires more in depth knowledge. Many construction project managers over the years have worked their way up through the industry ranks, and armed with actual experience, have become project manager. That "rags to riches" scenario is still possible today. However, like all other industries, ours is constantly evolving. The most successful project managers working today not only know their way around a construction site and its equipment, they're computer literate, able both to communicate well orally and in writing, and have at least a passing acquaintance with various laws and regulations. It may not be necessary for veteran project managers to seek a degree, though various forms of continuing education are a must. But what about those who have not yet started working in the construction industry? If they want to go "straight to the top", is there an advantage in having certifications or degrees if the goal is to become a project manager?
Again, while a degree is not a guarantee of securing this particular position, it can have its advantages, not least of which is being hired at a higher pay scale if selected. A degree indicates to a potential employer that its holder is knowledgeable, dedicated, and good at reaching goals. These traits can be attractive if that employer has a number of applicants to choose from. But before going down that academic path, there are several things a potential student should consider, not least of which are time and cost.
One option is to combine practical construction work with a two year associates degree. These degrees are usually offered through community and technical colleges, with the average price of such a degree running around $40,000. Data from the Bureau of Labor indicates that most holders of construction management degrees have bachelors degrees, which are received through traditional four year colleges. Clemson University and University of Oklahoma-Norman are among a number of higher learning institutions that offer these programs and that are considered among the nation's best. Fees for a four year college tend to be markedly higher than that of a two year school with tuition being sometimes almost four times as much as a two year program. And for undergraduates hoping to fine tune a bachelors degree with disciplines such as business ethics, schools such as Stanford University offer a Masters program in Construction Management. The time frame and cost of earning a Masters degree varies depending on the school and its program, but at a minimum, students should expect to add costs of around $7,000 to their academic bill.
Several professional construction organizations offer construction management certification programs that include testing and recertification, and generally run around $500 in cost.
Ultimately, the best course of action when wondering "how to be a project manager?" and starting the quest for such a position is to talk to administrators and managers at specific firms and see what the desired qualifications are. With such information in hand, future applicants can make wise decisions about planning for their employment future.
For more information on becoming a construction project manager, check out our blog post on 5 Tips to Climb the Ladder in a Construction Career.