Update 3/15/16: After a year, we’ve updated this post with the latest construction management certifications and best career advice for those interested in becoming a construction management professional.
Technically, you don’t need any certifications.
But, it’s still a good idea to have an educational background in construction management.
Just like field experience is a “nice to have” and not a requirement for construction managers, a construction degree or certification is helpful but not 100% necessary for job seekers.
It’s becoming more and more of a requirement to have at least a BS in Construction Management or an engineering discipline to get your foot in the door at a big GC. Albeit older fellows who have a lot of experience can get in easy, but the trend is moving towards having a degree. Subcontractors, however, are a different story, and a bachelor’s degree in anything will get you pretty far… Best thing to do is get in somewhere that provides tuition reimbursement, and until you’re eligible for it gather as many certifications as possible (OSHA 10/30, Competent Person, etc).
In other words, the construction game is different depending on whether you’re a Millennial entering the job market or an experienced Baby Boomer. Ian’s recommendations are solid: degrees and certifications can certainly help, especially if you’re a subcontractor.
If you would like that extra boost when applying to jobs, beware; not all education and certification programs are created equal. Some are incredibly expensive; others are little more than a test. What they all have in common is a promise of professionalism and industry knowledge—both important demonstrable skills that all potential employers are looking for.
Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most aspiring construction managers have a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering. That said, many other construction managers combine a relevant associate’s degree with a few years of experience. The average cost of a two-year program is $38,888.
Candidates looking for a bachelor’s degree should expect to pay more—these degrees tend to reflect average college costs, ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for in-state public schools to upwards of $50,000 for highly-reputable private schools. The nation’s average for a four-year degree totals $112,784.
Of the best bang-for-your-buck schools, Clemson University, University of Washington-Seattle, and University of Oklahoma—Norman are all highly-respected names in the construction industry (and they are also all reasonably priced, ranging from $9,275 per year at the University of Oklahoma to $31,824 per year for out-of-state at Clemson). Boasting entire departments devoted to the construction industry, students can reasonably expect a world-class education at these institutions in the field of construction.
CollegeCalc estimates that Brigham Young University—Idaho offers the nation’s most affordable bachelor’s in construction management, coming in at $8,668 per year for out of state students—a 66% tuition discount from the national average.
For construction professionals who want to sink their teeth into the fine details of construction project management or engineering, master’s degrees are a great way to further their career.
Among graduate schools, Stanford University, Texas A&M, and the University of Houston all top national lists, and they all guarantee that their students can demonstrate both fundamental construction management skills (for example: estimating, using construction management software, and construction documents), and theoretical skills (for example: construction ethics, construction history, and leadership).
These programs can cost substantially more than associate and bachelor’s degrees. For example, Texas A&M starts at $6,000 a year, but Stanford, when taking the minimum number of credits, costs $23,000 per year.
Other Certification Programs
Naturally, colleges and universities aren’t the only venues where construction managers can get a formal education.
For example, the Construction Management Association of America offers a Certified Construction Manager designation to those who both meet minimum work experience requirements (which range based on pre-existing education) and pass a formal exam. The exam costs $425 for non-CMAA members and $325 for members. Should construction managers need to retake the exam, CMAA knocks the price down to $125.
The American Institute of Constructors has a similar certification program. They offer an Associate Constructor degree to grads with a BA in construction or for construction workers with at least four years of experience. This program costs $165. And for more experienced construction managers, AIC also offers the Certified Professional Construction Certification. For those with an Associate Construction degree, the test is $450. For those without, the fee jumps to $550.
If you’re looking for certifications that would look great on any contractor’s resume, start with Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) training. As the name implies, OSHA focuses on preparing contractors for safety management in the field. Its10-hour courses are meant for entry-level workers, whereas its 30-hour courses were created for construction managers — particularly those who work directly with safety.
OSHA training costs vary. For example, OSHA.com (note: not OSHA.gov; OSHA.com is a private institution), regularly has OSHA training specials.
Are construction management certifications necessary? Do you have an educational background in construction? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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