What does a construction manager do? A guide for aspiring managers

Construction managers play a crucial role in any building project and are trusted to successfully deliver the finished product. A construction manager takes on a lot of responsibility, but the position is also hugely rewarding and intellectually stimulating.

If you work in the construction industry and are looking to advance into a more senior position, the construction manager route is definitely worth investigating. Let’s look at what construction managers do and the kinds of skills you will need to progress.

Woman as an female architect, engineer with helmet, blueprint, plans phoning on a construction site with crane

Why become a construction manager?

As a construction manager, you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens on a construction site – from overseeing the entire structure down to delegating tasks, snag management and site handover. It is a hugely varied job – which makes it very attractive for the right kind of person:

What does a construction manager do?

Construction managers are typically involved in the project from the start. First, they help the owner with establishing their plans. Then they go through a multitude of management duties including quality, safety, cost and scheduling right through until closeout.

The following list covers just some of the construction manager’s responsibilities:

  • Preparing cost estimation and budget
  • Setting the initial schedules and timings
  • Negotiating and explaining the contracts to the owner and the rest of the team
  • Collaborating with the architects in the design phase to set goals
  • Supervising the construction work on site
  • Responding to any defects and delays with a backup plan
  • Delegating tasks
  • Handing over to the client

In the construction manager’s shoes

If you have experience in the construction industry, you will likely already have worked with a construction manager. All the same, you may not know about everything they do. The following activities are some of their different responsibilities over the course of a project:

  • Design phase: The construction manager is involved in the early stages of the project’s design, so they often work together with the architect and general contractor on plans, sequence, and methods.
  • Construction phase: Once on site, the CM keeps track of progress against the project plan, monitors the workflow and ensures that the required materials and equipment are always available. They are also the first responsible individual on-site and if any defect arises, they are in charge of finding a solution and tracking its completion. Construction Managers increasingly use tools like PlanRadar to delegate tasks or keep a site diary.
  • Project Closeout: The construction manager’s role ends by ensuring that the facility follows all building codes and complies with any legal requirements. The CM must also formulate the project’s final snag list and oversee if the building is delivered in line with the initial description.

6 skills you need to become a construction manager

Being a construction manager requires a variety of strengths and skills. Some of the top skills for successful construction managers include:

  1. Communication skills: A CM must possess effective, clear communication skills. You will need to be able to communicate in an appropriate way with all stakeholders and workers – from the customer to the architect to labourers.
  2. Teamwork skills: Construction managers need to co-ordinate their teams effectively. Teamwork is about knowing how to treat different personality types, delegating and getting the best out of people.
  3. Decision making: An experienced CM displays fast, informed and confident decision-making which allows them to manage any unexpected events.
  4. Presentation: Construction managers need to provide a regular update on the works’ progress. You therefore must develop appropriate presentation skills.
  5. Organisation skills: A good CM understands how to organise their tasks and sequence them in order. You will also need strong time management and to know how to prioritise.
  6. Ability to see the bigger picture: A construction manager needs to be able to think both about fixing specific problems while also keeping an eye on the project’s wider progress. Getting too bogged down in the details means you might not notice when bigger delays are causing small slips in the project timeline. Again, this is where technology that helps identify issues and delegate tasks can really help.

Building your career path

Overall, the demand for construction managers has increased in recent years. So, how should you get started? The good news is that with a bit of planning and the right approach, it is perfectly possible for anyone with an ambition to become a construction manager.

Firstly, establish a plan for your career and create a list of what you need to do to get to where you want to be. Next, you will need to find out what the educational and experience requirements of construction manager jobs are. There are several common ways to get educational qualifications for this role:

  • Via a university (either a specialist construction management degree or a broader civil engineering course)
  • A specialist college course
  • Getting an apprenticeship
  • Climbing up the ladder from more junior positions and getting on-the-job training

Once you have gained the required education, you will also need experience before becoming a fully-fledged construction manager. Try to get an internship with a large construction firm to begin with – this can open doors once the internship is complete. You might then choose to specialise in a certain kind of construction or remain a generalist and work on a greater variety of projects.

Ultimately, the construction manager’s job is a kind of investment: you invest in yourself to begin with, but it pays you back with a rewarding and exciting career.

About PlanRadar

PlanRadar was founded in 2013 and provides innovative mobile-first software solutions to the construction and real estate industries. Our app is available on all iOS, Android and Windows devices. So far, it has helped thousands of customers around the world to digitise their workflow.