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General Contractor: Intro to the Construction Management Field

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a general contractor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and work experience to find out if this is the career for you.

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General contractors oversee all phases of construction projects to ensure they are completed on time and within budget. A bachelor's degree is often required, as well as practical experience in construction.

Essential Information

General contractors, or construction managers, coordinate construction for an entire building or structure, while providing oversight of all work performed at the site. Primary duties include hiring subcontractors, bidding on projects, and overseeing the purchase of materials and machinery. Contractors must be detail-oriented and capable of managing a project with multiple moving parts.

Most reputable firms require construction managers to have previous construction experience as well as a bachelor's degree. Some managers may enter this career field with less education - even with just a high school diploma - but they typically need extensive practical experience to go with it. Practical experience qualifies as either formal training programs or a background in a specified field, such as carpentry.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum; bachelor's degree required by most firms
Other Requirements Previous work experience, internships, or cooperative education programs
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%*
Average Salary (2015) $97,510 annually*

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Options for General Contractors

A bachelor's degree in construction management or a related field is becoming a common requirement for employment in the field. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that a combination of work experience and a high school diploma or associate degree may be sufficient for employment (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Degree in Construction Management

These programs require study of computer operations, accounting and business operations, in addition to the construction-related courses. Required courses include study of regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, project management and blueprint reading. From construction scheduling and estimating to accident prevention and construction codes, students in these programs take courses that cover a wide range of topics.

Bachelor's Degrees in Construction Management

Aspiring construction managers can expect to study blueprint reading and writing, site planning and learn about materials used on construction sites. Some programs require that students complete at least one term of cooperative education to gain hands-on experience in construction management. Other required courses include construction safety and building codes, estimating for construction projects and project management.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS stated that there were 373,200 individuals employed as construction managers in 2014. The average salary reported by the BLS in May 2015 is $97,510. The field of non-residential construction employed the most workers in 2015; this field paid an average salary of $99,590 annually.

Construction managers with experience and a bachelor's degree have the strongest prospects for employment, according to the BLS. An increase in hiring could come from the need to retrofit older buildings and improvement of infrastructure nationwide. The BLS notes that between 2014 and 2024, employment of general contractors or construction managers is expected to increase by 5%.

General contractors work with engineers and architects to coordinate construction processes to ensure they meet guidelines; they also hire subcontractors, purchase materials, and manage schedules. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required by some firms, and experience in the field is needed. This field is expecting job growth about as fast as average for all occupations through 2024.

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