Construction Manager Vs. Architects: What's the Difference?

Aug 05, 2018

Although construction managers and architects both play a significant role in the building of residential homes, office buildings, and apartment houses, there are many differences between the two professions. Some of those differences are explored here.

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Construction Managers vs. Architects

Construction managers and architects differ in that the latter requires more years of education, a mandatory internship, and a license to practice. In addition, architects design structures while construction managers are responsible for overseeing the completion of those structures at construction sites.

There is also a difference in salary between the two careers. As of March 2017, the median annual salary of construction managers was $73,087, according to For the same period, architects had a median income of $64,293 per year. Salaries for both construction managers and architects vary according to geographical location, industry, and years of experience.

Construction Managers

Construction managers coordinate and schedule the design and construction processes in the building of office complexes, residential homes, and industrial structures. A construction manager approves and hires specialty contractors and usually works on a project from conception to completion. On large projects, he or she may be responsible for only one segment of the operation.

Construction Manager Education

Although construction managers can gain employment with a high school diploma along with several years of experience, the norm for this profession is a bachelor's degree in an area like construction management/science, engineering, or architecture.

In a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management program for example, students learn about sustainable building practice, cost controls, and the technical theory of construction. Other topics covered include:

  • Electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems
  • Construction estimating
  • Surveying
  • Building information modeling
  • Construction law

Obtaining voluntary certification has become especially relevant for construction managers in order to validate their expertise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction managers can earn certification from the Construction Management Association of America or the American Institute of Constructors.

The CMAA has several certification requirement options. Those with a qualifying bachelor's or graduate degree can become certified with two years of work experience. Applicants with an associate's degree can pursue certification if they have at least four years of experience on top of the required two. Work experience alone can also suffice: in this case, the CMAA requires eight years (not including the mandatory two years).

The AIC has two levels of certification: the Associate Constructor certification is geared toward those with a bachelor's degree in construction management as well as professionals who have recently entered the field. The Certified Professional Constructor designation is suitable for those who have years of experience in the industry.


Architects design buildings and structures that not only look good but are safe, energy efficient, and functional. An architect works with a client to set the parameters of the construction, such as construction objectives, budget, and requirements of the structure.

Architects often do pre-construction assessments to determine the feasibility of the project and any environmental impact the structure might have. When the pre-construction assessment is complete, an architect will then develop the final construction plan, including construction details and building appearance.

Architect Education

Professional architectural degrees can be earned through a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program. Unlike most bachelor's degrees, this degree takes five years to complete and is designed for students with no previous architectural training. Aspiring architects who have completed a bachelor's degree in another field or a pre-professional architectural bachelor's degree can opt for a master's degree in architecture to gain professional standing.

A Master in Architecture program, which generally takes two to three years to complete, builds on knowledge learned in a pre-professional bachelor's degree program. Students develop design mastery through a series of design studio courses and take advanced courses in:

  • Architectural history and theory
  • Building technology
  • Environmental building design
  • Professional practice

Architect Licensure

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed. To become licensed, an architect must complete a professional degree in architecture, complete an internship (typically for three years), and earn a passing score on the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The ARE is currently being updated to a new version. While the previous version of the exam was divided into seven sections, the new version only has six. The sections focus on the actual process of a typical architecture project and use case studies to test applicants' knowledge of the field.

Architects require more education and licensure in order to design structures, while construction managers can obtain voluntary certification to oversee the construction of various structures.

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