When selecting an online construction program, important considerations include the appropriate degree level for employment goals, whether the program prepares students for certification, and what sorts of interactive tools and in-person training options are included.
How to Select an Online Construction School
Educational programs in construction teach students building procedures, estimating, project management and engineering. Students should weigh the award level and certification preparations with program delivery and hands-on training opportunities.
Online construction programs generally focus on construction management. Such programs are available at the certificate and associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. They are designed for individuals entering the field and for professionals who want to diversify their skills or advance within a company.
Candidates interested in management positions, including project management, estimation and general contracting, can benefit greatly from earning a bachelor's or master's degree in construction management or a professional certificate in specific management skills.
Certification in construction management is increasingly preferred by employers. Several professional associations, including the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors, offer various levels of certification, which generally require at least a bachelor's degree.
Construction management programs are available fully online. Classes are usually taught using a learning management system, such as Blackboard or ANGEL. To participate in online courses, students need a computer with Internet access, an audio and video player and, depending on the class, specific applications, such as Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro.
Although online construction management programs don't typically include hands-on training components, many programs require that students have practical construction experience or training, since this is integral to effective construction management. Programs that teach construction building skills, such as carpentry, electrical work or masonry, are available on-site through colleges and apprenticeship programs.
List of Online Construction Programs
Online Professional Certificate in Construction Management
Professional certificate programs are intended for construction professionals who want to move into management or update their skills. These programs don't require that students have previously earned a degree, though some programs recommend this. Online classes are generally self-paced for the convenience of working students. Printed textbooks are often required, with lectures and discussions online.
Comprehensive construction management programs emphasize the development of supervisory and communication skills as well as updates on current industry standards, such as environmental regulations or new types of building materials. Education in sustainable practices may also be included.
Many professional certificate programs focus on a specific construction management skill sets and cover practical management topics. These programs include instruction in:
- Planning and scheduling
- Blueprint reading
- Estimating and bidding
- Materials and processes
Online Associate of Science Degree in Construction Management
This program is open to working construction professionals and students entering the field. Courses cover all the information included in a certificate program, in addition to providing an extensive exploration of business management theories and methods. Students learn basic business principles, such as organization, marketing and finance, as well as business math for accounting and planning purposes. More advanced subjects include business law, ethics and psychology. Relevant industry topics include:
- Building materials and methods
- Software and specifications
- Regulations and safety
- Cost estimating
Online Bachelor of Science in Construction Management
While a bachelor's degree is not required for construction managers, employers prefer it for the depth of knowledge and experience it offers. Construction managers must know how to direct and oversee a complex range of tasks, from building, regulations and contracts to communication and human behavior. The bachelor's program aims to train students to manage a project, from the bidding stages to full structural completion. In addition to the same technical knowledge and skills learned in an associate's degree program, participants gain skills in:
- Soil mechanics and foundation
- Mechanical and electrical systems
- Surveying, metrics and GIS
- Scientific problem-solving
Online Master of Science in Construction Management
Many mid- and upper-level construction management jobs now require a master's degree for entry. Master's programs are generally designed with working professionals in mind, and students benefit from having several years of prior experience in construction management. Master's level students discuss similar topics as those in undergraduate programs, including cost analysis, emerging construction technology and safety, but studies are presented from a leadership perspective to develop executive skills.
Master's-level programs also cover procedures for managing foreign construction projects, which is a rapidly growing branch of the construction management industry. A master's thesis may be an option. All coursework is completed online through lectures, group discussions and presentations. Some schools require students to attend on-campus orientation at the beginning of their programs. Some programs are self-paced, other proceed on a schedule. All programs take about two years to complete. Coursework also examines:
- Lean construction
- Building information modeling
- Dispute resolution
- Natural hazard resistant construction
Schools with Online Programs in Construction
Students of Louisiana State University (LSU) Online can obtain a master's degree in construction management. According to U.S. News & World Report, LSU stands 8th in the nation for best online programs. The graduate program takes approximately two years to complete.
National University offers a bachelor's degree in Construction Management. Although this program does not require an associate's degree, several courses must be completed before enrolling in the core requisites. In addition, residents of Nevada must complete a course about the Nevada Constitution at some point before graduation, which may or may not be available in online format. The capstone for this course involves working with 1-3 other students to create a final project incorporating learning. It is not clear how this project is approached in an online format.
Students can earn a professional certificate in construction practices online through San Diego State University. Certificates may be awarded upon completion of 8 courses selected from 10 options. Some course topics include introduction to construction estimating, blueprint reading, and building green buildings.
A variety of degrees and certificates in construction are available in online format. However, many of them require obtaining practicum experience prior to or during schooling.