What does a construction manager do?

Construction managers are typically involved from the very start of a building or renovation project. See more home construction pictures.

Construction managers are a lot like mothers, really. They have to set schedules, keep an eye on finances, make sure everybody is where they're supposed to be every day (and doing what they're supposed to be doing), ensure there are no safety hazards around, and, in general, keep everyone happy. Sounds like quite the job already. But the details are even more dizzying.

More specifically, construction managers are hired to lead and oversee a variety of building projects from start to finish. The jobs can range from a small remodeling or renovation job to the construction of a large commercial structure, such as a school or hospital. About two-thirds of American construction managers are self-employed, and are hired by clients because they have appropriate work experience and, increasingly, at least a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. As of May 2010, the median annual wage for American construction managers was $83,860 [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].

While some people use the terms "general contractor" and "construction manager" interchangeably, these are actually two different jobs. Construction managers are typically involved from the start of a project, helping the client with the initial planning, as well as the selection of an architect and general contractor. Construction managers may also perform the first two tasks, then serve as general contractor. True general contractors aren't involved in the building process until the initial planning and design work is completed [source: Austin Stanovich].

There are several specific tasks that construction managers perform: project management planning, cost management, quality management, contract administration and safety management. Here's a brief look at what each entails [source: Construction Management]:

  • Project management planning. This initial stage involves laying out a plan for the entire project, including the various jobs that need to be done, the materials required and a timeline.
  • Cost management. Construction managers must constantly keep tabs on costs, making adjustments if unexpected issues or complications arise.
  • Quality management. Projects often involve numerous contractors and subcontractors; construction managers must make sure they're all doing a good job and not cutting corners.
  • Contract administration. Lengthy contracts with the client are part of all construction projects, and it's the construction manager's job to ensure all of the contract provisions are being met and all parties are satisfied.
  • Safety management. Construction sites are filled with potential safety hazards that construction managers must be aware of and guard against.

Above all, construction managers have to keep everyone in the loop during the entire project, from clients and architects to contractors and subcontractors, and quickly attend to any problems that arise. Sound like an interesting career? Read on to see how you could become a construction manager [source: Construction Management].