What is a Construction Management Associate Degree?
Starting a career in construction management begins with learning the necessary knowledge and skills. Associate degree programs in construction management, usually known as an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science in Construction Management, give students the opportunity to learn those valuable skills and gain experience. Students can learn about all types of construction as well as building site supervision, construction science, and project management. The curriculum is divided between course theory and hands-on activities such as lab exercises and visits to real construction sites. Upon graduation, students can earn the proper state licenses and begin work in the construction field as construction helpers or project managers of small sites, or they can transfer to a bachelor's degree in construction management.
Why Should I Get a Construction Management Associate Degree?
The value of an associate degree is ultimately up to the individual. Your education and career goals play a necessary role in determining whether or not an associate degree in construction management is worth pursuing. However, there are some facts that can support the need for one. First, an associate's degree program allows you to dedicate time to studying important topics in the construction industry, as well as gain experience through hands-on activities and internships. Many programs allow you to study part-time if you have a busy schedule. Second, many employers prefer or require construction managers to have at least an associate's degree, but a bachelor's degree is more common for larger companies and projects-so an associate's degree can be a step in the right direction. Lastly, while construction workers without a degree or formal postsecondary training can advance to management positions, it takes many years of work experience; earning an associate's degree combined with the right experience can cut some of that time short, so you can achieve your goal sooner.
How to Choose a Construction Management Associate Program
Choosing the right construction management associate degree program can be complicated due to a number of reasons, some of which include cost, location, a student's availability, and more. When deciding which program to choose, it's important to take those situations into account. But it's also important to consider a few other things, such as:
- Courses. What kinds of construction courses does the program offer? Does the program cover all types of construction or just one area? Does it cover what you're interested in?
- Experience. Construction is a very hands-on career, even in management positions. Gaining experience and learning the proper skills is important. Does the program have opportunities for hands-on learning, like laboratory exercises, projects, and internships?
- Career goals. Many construction manager jobs require a bachelor's degree. Does the school you're considering have a similar bachelor's program that associate students can transfer into, or do they partner with other schools to make transferring to their bachelor's program a smooth process? Are there academic advisors who can guide you in the right courses and steps to take to ensure transition?
- Licensure. Does the program prepare you to earn the proper license needed in order to work?
If there's a program at a school within range of where you live, consider taking a tour of the campus and talking to current construction management students and professors. A great resource for finding programs is the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator. You can search for schools by location, programs available, types of degrees offered, tuition, graduation rates, and more. If you have any additional questions, an academic or enrollment advisor from each school you're considering can be a helpful guide.
Application and Admissions for Construction Management Associate Degree Programs
The application and admissions process for construction management associate degree programs is pretty simple and straightforward. Construction management is considered a vocational or technical program in most cases and is usually offered at state and community colleges. The admissions requirements are typically pretty open, as long as you have a high school diploma or GED. Some colleges even have multiple start dates, so there are application periods throughout the year, making it easier for you to apply and start the program as soon as possible. A few requirements for all students include:
- Official high school transcripts
- ACT or SAT test scores, or take a placement test upon admission if the scores aren't available or they were earned longer than 2-5 years ago (this depends on the school)
Students who are transferring from another program follow the same process, except that they provide college transcripts instead of, or in addition to, high school ones. Once you've been accepted, an advisor will guide you through the enrollment process, where you'll submit other documents, such as financial aid, choose and register for classes, and pay any fees and purchase materials.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Construction Management Associate Degree?
Students can pursue a construction management degree full-time or part-time, and some of them may be transferring credits from a previously unfinished degree program. These factors can affect the time it takes to complete an associate degree. One way of measuring time to completion is credits. Credits are earned by taking classes, and each degree requires a specific number of credits to graduate. Because you can only take so many classes at once, you can only earn a certain number of credits at a time. Students with previous credits will take less time to graduate than students who are starting with no credits. Construction management associate degrees require 60-63 credits for graduation. On average, it takes about 2 years to earn that amount of credits when studying full-time. Another thing to consider is internships; these can affect the length of a program as well, but many programs incorporate time for internships into their course requirements.
How Much Does an Associate Degree in Construction Management Cost?
The specific costs of an associate degree in construction management vary with each school. Every student's situation is unique; some may live at home and others may live on campus, which can affect costs. In general, the tuition and fees associated with construction management associate degree programs are more affordable than a degree at a 4-year university. Not only are students paying for 2 years of college instead of 4, but charges are also usually per credit instead of a flat tuition rate. Many associate programs are also at community colleges, where on-campus housing is unavailable, so they don't have to pay for room and board or for meals. Construction management students may have to pay additional fees because they use laboratory facilities. According to the NCES, the average cost of an associate degree at a public 2-year institution for those who live off-campus with their families was $9,400 for the 2017-18 school year.
Associate Degree Coursework
The coursework in construction management associate degree programs is divided between general education courses, construction courses, electives, and experiential learning. General education courses are required of all students, regardless of major, and include subjects such as math, psychology English composition, science, and humanities. Construction courses are any courses that are part of the construction management major, and they include intro to construction management, construction materials and methods, construction safety, and graphic communications, as well as some extra geometry or math classes. Electives can be chosen from any subject area. Experiential learning courses are typically courses where time is allotted to work in simulation labs as well as pursue an internship.
How Much Can I Earn With an Associate Degree in Construction Management?
There are quite a few jobs you can get with an associate degree in construction management, all with salaries that vary by job type, industry, experience level, and location. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides some helpful information on the annual median wages that different construction workers make. Whether or not the individuals in these careers have a degree that has contributed to a difference in their salary is not included. But the BLS does state that, across career fields, those with an associate's degree make $887 a week, which is more than those with just a high school diploma, who make $746 a week, as of 2019.
The BLS states that the annual median wage for construction laborers and helpers is $37,080 as of 2020. But the salary varies by the type of helper. A few different types of helpers and their annual median wages are:
- Helpers of carpenters: $34,280
- Helpers of roofers: $33,260
- Helpers of electricians: $33,840
For construction managers, the BLS states an annual median wage of $97,180 as of 2020. For managers in heavy and civil engineering construction, the annual median wage is $101,730, and for those who work in the specialty trade contracting industry, it is $93,650.
Begin a Career as a Construction Helper
A construction helper assists construction workers who perform specific tasks, such as plumbing, roofing, or electric work. Some of their tasks include helping to set up equipment, carrying materials and tools, cleaning up sites, disposing of waste, and taking equipment down. Some of the trades a construction helper can do are roofing, plumbing, painting, carpentry, and work with bricks, stones, blocks, tile, and marble. Construction helpers work under the guidance of an experienced craftsman or other worker and go over construction plans and instructions. The work of a construction helper is often physically demanding and they must spend a lot of time outdoors on sites with potentially dangerous equipment and environments if they don't follow the proper precautions.
Construction helpers usually don't need any formal education, just a high school diploma or GED. They are trained on the job by an experienced worker, or they may join an apprenticeship. It depends on the specific program, but graduates of construction management associate degrees are qualified to become carpenter, electrical, plumbing, and roofer helpers and earn those industry certifications. The National Center for Construction Education and Research offers many certifications for construction helpers to pursue.
Begin a Career as a Construction Manager
A construction manager plans, coordinates, and supervises construction sites, as well as manages the budgets involved. They may be referred to as project managers or general contractors. They are in charge of the building projects for various types of properties, including residential homes, commercial, public, and industrial buildings, and roads and bridges. In addition to managing the construction phase of a site, construction managers may consult with clients on designs, new plans, and associated costs. A few of their daily tasks can include preparing cost estimates and budgets, collaborating with other construction specialists like engineers and architects, scheduling and coordinating the activities of other construction workers on the project, and ensuring safety and legal standards are met.
The education for a construction management career can vary, but many employers require a bachelor's degree in construction management. However, those with an associate's degree can manage smaller construction sites, or they can manage larger sites if they have significant experience. Becoming a construction manager requires a lot of work experience in a construction specialty, especially if they don't have a degree. They may start out working under the guidance of an experienced manager. Construction managers need a state license to work in some states, and they have the option to earn certification.
Certification and Licensure for Construction Managers
Construction managers must have a license to work as a manager on construction sites; the requirements vary by state. They can also earn certification. Certification isn't required, but it can help demonstrate to employers and clients that you have extensive knowledge and experience in a particular area. Two organizations that offer certifications for construction managers are the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors.
The Construction Management Association of America awards the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential. Experienced construction managers can complete a self-paced course on exam topics, which include things related to construction safety and management, and then pass an exam. The American Institute of Constructors offers 2 certifications; Associate Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor. The associate constructor certification is for recent graduates of 4-year construction management programs who are beginning their careers, while the certified professional constructor certification is for experienced construction managers. Both certifications require the passing of an exam.
Accreditation for Construction Management Associate Degree Programs
Accreditation is when an accrediting agency grants approval or recognition to a school or program for meeting educational and industry standards. The two types of accreditation are regional and national. Regional accreditation is usually for more traditional academic schools, while national is usually for more career and technical schools. These accrediting agencies both grant institutional accreditation, which is when a school is accredited as a whole.
There's also specialized accreditation, which is when a program is granted accreditation by an agency that is specific to one career field. The American Council for Construction Education grants specialized accreditation to construction programs. A program can be accredited without the school being accredited and vice versa, but it's important to be sure you are attending an accredited school. Accreditation ensures you're receiving a quality education and qualifies you to receive financial aid. Additionally, any credits you need to be transferred will have to come from an accredited school. In most cases, a regionally accredited school will not accept credits from a nationally accredited school and vice versa.
What Are Other Construction Management Degree Options?
A construction management degree can lead to many careers within the field, and the options expand as you receive a more advanced education. A bachelor's degree in construction management will qualify you for most jobs in the construction/project management field, especially with larger companies.
Bachelor's Degrees in Construction Management
Bachelor's degrees in construction management are typically known as a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management. Much like associate programs, construction management bachelor's degrees cover every aspect of the construction industry from the perspective of managing a project site and its employees. Students also get the same hands-on training and experiential learning opportunities. However, bachelor's degrees usually cover a bit more material, since the programs last 4 years instead of 2. Some degree programs allow you to choose a focus, such as engineering, business, or management. Graduates can pursue careers as cost estimators, field and safety engineers, project managers, and more.
Master's Degrees in Construction Management
Master's degrees in construction management, typically titled as Master of Science in Construction Management, cover advanced topics related to construction building techniques, management and business theory and practice, and the latest technology used in the field. Students can learn how to become effective superintendents, project managers, cost estimators, and more. The curriculum usually covers topics only related to one's chosen major-no required general courses, although there may be room for some electives. Most master's programs take up to 2 years to complete.
Doctoral Degrees in Construction Management
Doctoral degrees in construction management are Doctor of Philosophy degrees; they may be titled as a Ph.D. in Construction Management, or they may be a construction management concentration within a larger doctoral construction program. These degree programs are intended for students to learn how to research the construction management industry and its methods, practices, and technology. Students can go on to work in academia as scholars or professors, or they can have top management positions in construction. The length of the program varies because each student must research and write a dissertation.
Certificate Programs in Construction Management
Different from certification, certificate programs in construction management are short yet robust programs designed to teach students the necessary skills and knowledge for a career in construction management. They are usually intended for undergraduate or graduate students to earn alongside their degree, or for people with a degree who work in the construction industry and want to take professional development courses. These programs are commonly offered online, but some may be on campus. The time to completion varies, but they can take up to a year.
Scholarships & Financial Aid for Construction Management Associate Degrees
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a very common way to receive aid for college; anyone can apply as long as they are enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution, are in good academic standing, and have a valid social security number, citizenship or legal resident status, and the appropriate financial information. The amount earned varies based on financial need, but many students can receive grants, loans, and apply to federal work-study programs through their school.
Another way to receive aid to apply for scholarships, which can have any number of criteria, such as location, major, degree, and more. Scholarships are available through universities, private companies, and local, state, and national organizations. The Associated General Contractors of America offers the AGC Education Foundation Scholarship Program for students in associate and bachelor's construction management degrees in Washington state.
The National Association of Women in Construction has the Founder's Scholarship Foundation for students pursuing construction degrees and trades. Their undergraduate scholarship is open to students in associate and bachelor's degree programs in construction-related disciplines. They give between $500 and $2,500 to recipients who are enrolled full-time and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.