If you're a strong leader, communicator and problem-solver, a career in construction management offers variety and a high level of responsibility
As a construction manager, or site manager, you'll be responsible for ensuring that a building project is completed safely, within an agreed timeframe and budget. Managing the practical side of every stage of the build, you'll work closely with architects, surveyors and other building professionals in planning and delivery.
You'll also supervise and direct a range of operations on a construction site and ensure that all tradespeople and contractors are working together to an agreed plan and that progress is being made. You may oversee a whole site, or a big part of a large-scale, complex project.
Types of construction management
You would typically work in one of the following five project groups:
As a construction manager, you'll need to:
- plan the work and oversee the buying of necessary materials and equipment
- hire and manage staff for the project
- manage the construction site on a day-to-day basis, including supervising the labour force, monitoring subcontractors, checking materials, inspecting work and overseeing quality control
- ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget by setting benchmarks, agreeing budgets and monitoring progress
- check design documents with architects, surveyors and engineers
- promote and maintain health and safety, including site inspections to ensure safety rules are being followed
- maintain regular communication and attend meetings with clients and their representatives to inform them of progress on the project, i.e. stakeholder management
- write reports
- communicate with any consultants, subcontractors, supervisors, planners, quantity surveyors and others involved in the project
- deal with any unexpected problems that may occur during the project.
- Starting salaries for construction managers typically range from £26,000 to £33,000.
- Experienced construction managers can earn between £33,000 and £50,000.
- Senior and chartered construction managers can earn in the region of £50,000 to £70,000 or more.
Salaries vary considerably depending on the location, sector, scale of the project and employing organisation.
As many construction manager roles require frequent travel between sites, a company car or travel allowance and a mobile phone are often provided. Additional benefits such as private pensions, discounted health insurance, gym and leisure memberships are typically offered by larger employers. It is also common for employers to cover the cost of membership of professional associations and charterships during employment.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
The working week is typically around 40 hours, though more is common around project deadlines. Some employers offer paid overtime. Certain projects may require you to work at night or over public holidays due to constraints of the site, for example when a railway line or train station is not in operation. You'll travel between sites and may need to travel long distances, sometimes staying away from home.
Some very experienced construction managers are self-employed, which can offer greater earning potential although without the security of permanent employment. Part-time work is rare, although you may split your time over multiple concurrent projects.
What to expect
- As a key point of contact on the project, managing competing demands from the client, the public and a range of other professionals can sometimes seem overwhelming.
- Your time will be split between working on site and working from an office, which may be in temporary premises on the site or may be a client's office.
- When working on site in all weathers, you'll wear protective and high-visibility clothing, which will be provided by your employer.
- Construction manager jobs are available across the UK, with larger infrastructure projects concentrated around London and other urban centres. Experienced construction managers can often access opportunities to work abroad.
- Women are under-represented in the construction industry, comprising about 14% of the total workforce (Go Construct, 2017) however this is increasing. Organisations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the Association of Women in Property (WiP) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) are working to address this.
Most new entrants to construction management will hold an HNC or degree in a relevant subject, though entry with an HND, foundation degree or BTEC is also possible. Relevant subjects could include construction management, engineering (including civil engineering), building management, project management, surveying and building studies. Courses accredited by the CIOB are preferred. A postgraduate or professional qualification isn't usually necessary at entry level, though as a graduate or trainee construction manager it's likely that you'll work towards gaining chartership with the CIOB (or another professional institution) during your first few years on the job.
It can still be possible to become a construction manager if you've studied an unrelated degree, either by studying a postgraduate qualification or professional diploma such as the CIOB Graduate Diploma Programme (which your employer may sponsor). In this case having relevant work experience will help to show employers your genuine interest in and suitability for the field. Alternatively, it's possible to work your way up to this position by gaining experience in other roles in the industry, such as site supervisor, surveyor or building technician.
According to recent research from the Construction Skills Network, the UK construction industry will need an additional 4,310 construction project managers to meet demand every year from 2017 until 2021 (Go Construct, 2017). However, you should still expect to complete targeted job applications to a high standard, and be prepared for a rigorous recruitment process.
You will need to show:
- strong communication skills for liaising with a wide range of clients, professionals and workers on site
- leadership skills and an ability to motivate your team to ensure a high standard of work
- excellent planning and organisational skills for writing and monitoring project plans and schedules and utilising time and resources effectively
- resilience and problem-solving skills to overcome unexpected challenges during the construction process
- an ability to make decisions under pressure so that the project can progress
- strong attention to detail for conducting site inspections and managing complex contracts
- an awareness of health and safety procedures and legislation to run a safe construction site
- sound commercial awareness to allocate and manage your budget effectively and to understand client concerns
- Maths and IT skills, including knowledge of relevant building methods and project management software to manage information and finances during the project.
While not all employers of construction managers ask for work experience in construction, it's strongly advisable to get practical experience and first-hand knowledge. Many of the larger employers in this sector offer structured work placements including year in industry schemes and vacation opportunities. It's acceptable to contact employers directly to ask for work experience or shadowing if you demonstrate some understanding and enthusiasm for the project. Look out for opportunities to visit active construction sites such as those provided by CIOB's annual 'Open Doors' programme.
Starting to build a network of contacts in the industry can also help you to access work experience opportunities. Consider becoming a member of one of the professional bodies or institutions listed below. Eligibility is likely to depend on the course you are studying or have studied. Student membership is usually free and will give you access to networking opportunities, industry news and events.
Taking part in extra-curricular activities, planning and managing your own events and projects, or getting involved in industry-sponsored initiatives such as CIOB's Global Student Challenge, can help you to develop useful skills.
A significant proportion of opportunities for construction managers are found in the private sector, within large, global employers and local SMEs. Typical employers are construction companies and contractors, specialist sub-contractors, property development and house-building companies. Some construction managers work for consultancies and may be brought in to oversee specific areas in which they have expertise.
A smaller number of opportunities exist within the public sector, for example with infrastructure companies such as water, electricity, gas and transport providers. Recent research suggests that rail and energy are set to be the fastest growing areas of infrastructure into 2018 (RICS, 2017).
Demand for construction managers is particularly strong in the North East, East of England and Northern Ireland (Go Construct, 2017).
Look for job vacancies at:
It's likely that you'll start your role with an induction period, which will typically involve meeting key staff members, learning about company-specific systems and processes and training in legislation, compliance and reporting requirements that are relevant to your project. You'll train on the job and probably attend some external short courses. To work on a construction site, you'll also need to hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. If you don't already have one, you'll get a CSCS card by completing some health and safety training and passing a test, which your employer will pay for.
If you don't have a qualification in construction management, your employer may sponsor you to complete one. Continuous professional development (CPD) is essential in this role to keep up to date with legislation and technical information, particularly when moving between projects or roles in different sectors. CIOB is the most relevant professional body for this role - it offers a range of training and networking opportunities.
Becoming chartered with a relevant body is strongly encouraged and will improve your career prospects. CIOB offers a Professional Development Programme (PDP) for graduates who want to work towards chartered status. This usually takes between two and three years to complete and involves building up a portfolio of work to show that you meet certain criteria. When you complete the programme, you'll become a fully chartered member (MCIOB). Depending on the course you've studied and the nature of your employer, you may become chartered with an alternative body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Institution of Structural Engineers (IStrucE) or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
Most graduate training schemes last around two years and on completion it's likely that you'll be give more responsibility and a broader range of work to manage. After this, progression depends on the size and nature of your employer. Broadly speaking, you can progress by increasing your level of responsibility and expertise within a single field, such as housebuilding, or by broadening your experience on projects of a different nature or size. Construction managers of large, complex projects typically have a minimum of 10 years' experience. Assistant construction managers, or employees with a similar job title, may oversee a particular area or component of a project.
Being geographically mobile and able to relocate to change employers or projects will be an advantage in progressing your career. Working for a large global firm may offer opportunities to work overseas, particularly if you develop expertise in an area in which skills are in demand, such as transport infrastructure.
With substantial experience as a construction manager, you could progress to become a project manager, contracts manager or a senior manager/department head. With additional training you could move into specialist fields such as building inspection or health and safety.