Distance learning programs in construction management are typically available at the master's degree level. These programs expose students to the essential components of cost estimating, construction planning and bidding. An online Master of Science in Construction Management program can prepare students to work in the construction industry as quantity surveyors (also known as cost estimators). Students learn about several aspects of construction management, including legal issues, bidding, procurement and more.
Construction management master's degrees are available online at several four-year institutions, including many public universities. These programs are often designed for individuals who already have industry experience and are seeking to advance their skills. The program may require computer-aided drafting (CAD) software. Common admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and work experience in construction. Distance learners may be able to complete their online programs in around two years.
Many online Master of Science in Construction Management programs offer thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students opting for a thesis track are required to take research seminar courses while those following a non-thesis plan may have to take additional coursework and pass a comprehensive exam. A capstone course, which usually involves scholarly research and writing focused on a construction problem, may be included in the curriculum. Students can also expect to study the following topics in a distance learning program:
- Cost estimating and analysis
- Estimating and bidding strategy
- Risk analysis in construction
- Information systems in construction
- International construction issues
Distance learning graduate programs in construction management programs utilize various Web communication methods, such as e-mail, message boards and chat rooms. Students may need to equip their computers with the most up-to-date technology because some educational programs require specific software, such as CAD suites. While programs in this field can often be completed totally online, students who complete a thesis or oral exam will likely have to go to campus to present.
Career Information for Graduates
Certification is optional, but becoming certified can lend credibility to a professional career. The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) offers Certified Professional Estimator (CPE) certification to those with at least five years' work experience. The certification process consists of completing a workshop (available online), two exams and a written paper. Certification renewal requires continued educational and professional involvement. The ASPE also offers additional cost estimating courses online, which are available to quantity surveyors that are members of the organization.
Cost estimators can expect to see jobs in their profession grow by 9% between 2014-2024, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Prospects should be good for those with degrees in related fields, such as construction management. In May 2015, the BLS reported a mean annual salary of $64,810 for cost estimators. Wages for this profession range from around $34,000 to more than $100,000, depending on experience, industry, education and size of each employer.
Those students who earn a quantity surveying degree online will be earning a master's degree that will be using CAD software. Although certification is optional upon completion of a degree, it is highly recommended as it can open up more career opportunities.