Just about every potential employer lists a bachelor’s degree in their job requirements, including those looking to hire construction managers. But, do you really need a construction management degree to get ahead in this industry?
It’s certainly not a decision to make lightly; a four-year construction management degree can cost anywhere from $28,000 to $116,000.
Construction degrees are increasingly popular these days. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that, for 2019, the construction trade had a 5.7% increase in four-year undergraduate program enrollments.
It’s wise to evaluate the pros and cons of a construction management degree to figure out whether it’s the right move for you. Remember, you’re not just paying for the degree, you’re also sacrificing up to four years of your life to obtain it.
What is a construction management degree?
A construction management degree from a college or university will teach you all of the facets of construction management, from planning to budgeting to coordinating a workforce. Over the course of acquiring your construction management degree, you will learn how to manage a project from the concept phase all the way to completion and delivery of the project.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the upsides and downsides you should consider before deciding to pursue a construction management degree.
1. Upside: Employers (and customers) often demand it
You may have on-the-job experience, but many employers want a bachelor’s degree. Lacking a degree may not disqualify you automatically, but in today’s hyper-competitive job market you’ll likely be pitted against other candidates with degrees. If you don’t have one, you’re facing a losing battle.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers “typically must have a bachelor’s degree” in addition to on-the-job training, with large construction firms in particular demanding a degree in construction management or a related field.
Even if you own your own business, you may find it easier to attract customers if you have a bachelor’s degree to point to as proof of your credentials.
2. Downside: On-the-job experience is often more useful
Not every construction manager is passing their resume around. If you own your own business or are happy at your current place of employment, it may make sense to eschew a construction management degree in favor of learning on the job. Once you’re established in the industry, you might not gain enough additional knowledge from a degree program to make it profitable.
If you’ve got a few years of experience under your belt, consider identifying some weaknesses or opportunities for improvement and finding a few online classes or good construction management software to solve them.
If you’re thinking about starting your own construction management company, consider becoming an apprentice for a few years first instead of jumping right in or shelling out for a construction management degree. You’ll likely gain more practical experience and get paid to do it instead of going into debt.
3. Upside: A degree can be a huge boost to experience
While what you learn in the classroom can’t replace actual on-the-job experience at a construction site, you can combine the two for maximum effect.
In a college course, you’ll learn different systems and techniques to run a project more efficiently and in a more organized fashion.
A degree lets you hit the ground running, rather than fumble around while slowly learning through trial and error.
Sometimes, it’s best not to reinvent the wheel. College can teach you things about construction management you’d never guess just from working in the field, or at least not right away.
4. Downside: Getting your degree may require working an unhealthy amount of hours
If you’re like most people who have to work while earning your degree, it won’t be long before you’re burning the candle at both ends. Working construction during the day and taking classes at night will take a toll, both mentally and physically, so you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it.
Chronic sleep deprivation is unhealthy for your body and mind. Numerous studies, including a recent one conducted by UCLA, have found that sleep deprivation disrupts brain-cell communication. This means costly mistakes while on the job, and poor retention of your expensive classroom learning.
Was a construction management degree worth it for you?
Whether or not a construction management degree is right for you depends on your situation. The prospect of a dream job with a major construction management company will make getting a degree a no-brainer for someone in their early 20s, while a small construction business owner who can’t afford to take time off will have a tougher time justifying a degree.
There are always compromises, such as electing to go the nights and weekends route, opting for a two-year degree, or completing one-off courses to improve in certain areas. It’s a tough decision that often lacks a clear-cut answer. Weigh the pros and cons, and take the plunge.
What about you? Did you get a degree and find that it was totally worth it? Did you decide not to, and wish you had? Have you found that classroom training isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Let us know in the comments below!