Construction management and project management have much in common, but the former has a supplementary set of unique activities not related to the latter. Construction managers, unlike project managers in general, oversee all types of small and large building projects—from infrastructure (roads and bridges) to residential (private homes) to commercial (businesses). Therefore, they must have project management expertise.
A basic understanding of project management may not be sufficient today, when projects are becoming increasingly complex, necessitating a higher degree of learning. When considering an advanced degree, it may be difficult to understand the differences in construction management vs. project management. It is important to understand the differences in these academic programs before deciding which career path to pursue.
Construction management is a specialization in the field of project management. As such, all construction managers are project managers, but not all project managers are construction managers. Professionals in construction management therefore benefit from having a strong background in project management.
Construction Management Education
Construction management requires specific levels of experience and education, which depend on factors such as region and career goals. Degree programs are crucial for students to advance their understanding of construction management and develop the leadership and managerial skills needed to guide construction projects.
A bachelor’s degree in construction management takes on average four years to complete; a master’s degree takes an additional two years. Postbaccalaureate certifications in construction management are commonly applied toward a master’s degree. Master’s degree programs offer specializations—such as sustainability, realty, environment-friendly construction, and construction project management—perhaps previously unavailable at the bachelor’s level.
Graduates may apply for certifications through the Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI) as long as they meet the education and experience requirements. For example, the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) certification is among the highest credentials in construction management: it is the only certification in the field to achieve American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Those who do obtain postgraduate certifications may gain recognition for their achievements, which may further aid them in standing out from industry peers.
While any experienced project manager could potentially oversee a construction project, large construction companies usually prefer someone with construction experience. Having construction experience and a bachelor’s degree in construction management is often seen as ideal. However, those without experience in construction management can get hands-on experience while pursuing a relevant master’s degree, such as a Master of Civil Engineering or a Master of Construction Management. An MBA program enables students to learn advanced skills and techniques in project management and choose a concentration in construction management.
Project Management Responsibilities
Project management can be applied to many fields. A project manager coordinates the work of various teams on a project, ensuring execution of the right tasks at the right time with the right resources. Without these skilled project professionals, many companies would likely experience lengthy and costly project delays—or worse.
To gain a better understanding of what responsibilities the job entails, consider the following examples of project manager job titles:
- Computer and information systems manager. Computer and information systems (IS) managers plan and coordinate the installation and maintenance of hardware and software in a company. Being in charge of the information technology (IT) department, computer and IS managers also manage IT staff and develop the overall IT goals of a company.
- Acquisitions manager. Acquisitions managers play a key role in growing businesses. They primarily create project plans for the seamless acquisition of companies. This responsibility involves budgeting, transition planning, and restructuring. In order for two companies to successfully merge, project managers must be able to help all the employees adapt to the change, and they must be able to manage the resources of the newly combined companies.
Project Management Skills in Construction Management
Project managers share many skills with construction managers. The utilization of these skills, however, varies by field. Here are the top skills in project management that construction managers must have, and how the skills are used in construction projects.
- Communication is essential for the success of a construction project. Construction managers coordinate architects, engineers, and other members of the construction team to create efficient processes and to complete projects on time. Without the construction manager, there would be no central point of contact for issue resolution, task delegation, or project progress monitoring.
- Conflict resolution. Conflicts will arise on any project, including issues between team members and unexpected delays. Construction managers need to be well-versed in conflict resolution and possess advanced critical-thinking skills to quickly create solutions.
- A construction project has many elements to be managed, which means construction managers must have excellent organizational skills to be successful. Construction managers plan projects from start to finish. Accordingly, they must be able to define the chief goal, visualize the timeline, delegate tasks, and assess the progress in order to successfully complete a construction project quickly.
- Team management. Many people work on a construction project, and they all report to the construction manager. Team management is therefore one of the most important skills that a construction manager can possess. The manager must successfully manage, among others, engineers, architects, and construction workers. By having advanced team management skills, the construction manager can ensure that the various teams will work together more cohesively.
All specializations in the field of project management share common foundational skills, such as the aforementioned effective communication, conflict resolution, and team management. However, when comparing construction management vs. project management in general, construction managers must have specific skills that project managers do not need to have. For example, project managers may not need specialized construction or engineering experience.
Construction Management Responsibilities
Construction managers are responsible for the successful completion of construction projects. From the initial planning and budgeting to the final quality inspection, construction managers maintain involvement in every step of the process.
Organization, communication, and multitasking ability are all important skills for construction managers to have. They must also understand advanced construction techniques, construction cost and risk analysis, and the legal aspects of construction projects.
The construction manager may help with drafting and creating plans, reviewing blueprints, using design technology to plan building projects, and interpreting contracts and technical drawings.
The Importance of Advanced Education
An analysis of construction management vs. project management reveals many roles and responsibilities that may seem similar. While construction managers benefit from having advanced project management skills, they also need advanced civil and construction engineering knowledge and experience.
Attaining a Master of Civil Engineering prepares students to take on leadership roles in a construction company. By learning both project management and civil engineering skills, students will receive hands-on learning experiences to help prepare them for the next step in their career.
Find out how to expand your engineering expertise while developing the leadership and project management skills important to advancing your career with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program.