It is possible to begin a career in the construction trades with a high school diploma, although advanced positions such as a construction manager or cost estimator typically require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Construction managers oversee construction jobs and may be responsible for the entire project or a specialized area, such as plumbing or electrical. Cost estimators need to be familiar with the costs of labor and materials to accomplish the tasks required, and construction and building inspectors inspect structures to ensure they comply with building codes and meet the safety requirements.
Individuals interested in a construction or building-related career can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in various aspects of construction, including construction management and civil engineering. Some schools also offer a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in the business aspects of construction management.
Professional associations that serve members of construction-related trades and professions sponsor certification programs. Examples of certification options include the American Society of Professional Estimators' Certified Professional Evaluator (CPE) designation and the Construction Management Association of America's Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential.
|Career||Construction Manager||Cost Estimator||Construction and Building Inspector|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degrees are more commonly expected, but those with high school diplomas and significant experience may also qualify||Bachelor's degree typically required||High school diploma or GED|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5%||9%||8%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$87,400||$60,390||$57,340|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Graduates of a bachelor's degree in the construction trades may continue their education in a master's degree program to advance their careers. However, many career options are available to graduates of a bachelor's program or certification program too. A degree or certification in the construction trades can lead to employment as a construction manager, cost estimator or building inspector.
Construction managers direct and manage operations for construction jobs by assuming responsibility either for an entire project or for a specialized area, such as electrical installation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction managers are also known as construction supervisors, project engineers and project managers. The BLS projected a 5% increase in job opportunities between 2014 and 2024, noting that construction managers that hold a bachelor's degree and have on-the-job experience have the best employment prospects. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for construction managers was $87,400.
Cost estimators forecast the expenses of a construction project, including the cost of the materials, time and labor. Cost estimators often specialize in particular areas of construction, such as materials or machinery costs, and multiple estimators work together to produce accurate estimations. The BLS notes that there are no formal academic degrees in cost estimating, though professional associations for cost estimators offer training and certification. In addition, degree programs in construction management or civil engineering include coursework in cost estimating. The BLS estimated that employment in this field would grow 9% from 2014-2024, which is faster than average when compared to all occupations. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for cost estimators was $60,390.
Building or Home Inspector
Building or home inspectors evaluate the condition of buildings and their systems. Building inspectors may work for government agencies and have the power to stop unsafe construction or prohibit the use of a building until the building's owner takes steps to bring it up to pertinent building and safety codes. Home inspectors, on the other hand, focus on performing visual inspections of residential properties. They then prepare a report for their clients, often homeowners or prospective homeowners.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for building and construction inspectors was $57,340 as of May 2015. The BLS also reported an estimated 8% increase in employment of construction and building inspectors between 2014 and 2024, though it also notes that home inspectors may face competition for jobs as more individuals enter the field.
Those interested in pursuing a career in the construction trades can become a construction manager, a cost estimator, or a building or home inspector. The educational requirements for these positions vary, and postsecondary education may help applicants compete for jobs in these fields.