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What does a construction manager do?

Becoming a Construction Manager

In today's high-tech, highly regulated building environment, being a construction manager (in the U.S., at least) is more complicated than simply reading some blueprints and making sure walls are plumb. You have to know about building codes and "green" architecture, be able to use industry-specific software, and have at least a working knowledge of every aspect of the job, to name just a few things. Work experience is valuable, but that alone won't cut it -- increasingly, clients want you to have a college degree as well, ideally in construction science, construction management or civil engineering [source: World Wide Learn].

More than 100 U.S. colleges and universities currently offer bachelor's degrees in construction management, and about 60 have master's degree programs in construction management or construction science. Students study traditional subjects like math, statistics, information technology and architecture, plus take more specialized classes in subjects such as building code enforcement, site planning and design, cost estimating, and scheduling. More and more, it also helps to know a foreign language [source: Francis].

Of course, just because you enjoy such subjects doesn't mean the job is right for you. As a manager, you'll need good communication skills, plus the ability to lead a team of very diverse people -- clients, architects, designers, tradesmen, supervisors, etc. And because the environment is fast-paced, with numerous deadlines, subcontractors coming and going, calls from clients, budget decisions, and more, you also need to be able to multi-task, make decisions quickly and be flexible.

Still want the job? Wait, there's a little bit more. Nowadays, clients are often looking for certified construction managers. So, once you gain some construction management experience, check into obtaining voluntary certification through the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) or the American Institute of Constructors (AIC). Certification is based on your formal education, field experience and knowledge of construction management principles, as well as a written exam [source: World Wide Learn].