General contractors are in charge of all stages of construction projects, from residential jobs to commercial projects. Undergraduate programs generally teach students about basic construction practices, such as framing and masonry, while also providing them with the opportunity to develop an understanding of business operations, including accounting and personnel management. Graduate students will develop engineering and analytical skills and could be prepared for upper management positions or even to teach construction-related courses at a college or university. Voluntary certification can be pursued by construction managers.
Students can attain a Master of Science in Construction Management or Construction Management Technology or a Master of Technology in Construction Management. Ph.D.s are offered in construction management or as concentrations in engineering or technology degree programs.
Associate's Degree in Construction Technology or Construction Management
Typically resulting in an Associate of Applied Science, a 2-year degree program in construction technology or construction management provides a range of fundamental courses in general contracting. Students study such areas as framing, masonry, electrical, plumbing and remodeling. Construction technology or construction management associate's degree programs prepare students for the physical and business aspects of being a general contractor. In addition to management, accounting and business courses, students typically take classes on topics such as floor, roof and wall framing as well as:
- Concrete construction
- Building codes
- Construction safety
- Blueprint reading
Bachelor's Degree in Construction Technology or Construction Management
A Bachelor of Science in Construction Technology or Construction Management may qualify one for supervisory or management positions in general contracting. This 4-year degree might also prepare students to begin their own general contracting businesses. They may develop skills needed to manage expenditures for supplies, insurance, payroll, cost estimating and scheduling. Applicants to bachelor's degree programs must have a high school diploma or GED and generally are required to submit SAT or ACT scores. The curriculum of a bachelor's degree program in construction technology or construction management focuses on advanced and management courses. Classes offered might include:
- Residential management
- Construction management
- Project management
- Advanced scheduling and cost estimating
- Construction safety management
Master's Degree in Construction Management
A master's degree program in construction technology or construction management prepares students to fulfill leadership roles in general contracting. Some schools offer a Master of Science in Construction Management or Construction Management Technology, while others feature a Master of Technology in Construction Management. Construction management also may be offered as a concentration in master's degree programs in engineering or building construction. Students often are required to have a bachelor's degree in construction management or construction technology before being admitted to a master's degree program. In some cases, a related degree will satisfy this requirement. Courses that typically should be completed prior to entering a master's program include accounting, finance, construction materials, cost estimating and business management. The curriculum of a master's degree program in construction management generally focuses on new technologies and advanced courses. Topics covered in program coursework typically include:
- Project management systems
- Project plan analysis
- Project plan development
- Construction engineering
- Construction contract management
Ph.D. in Construction Management
As with master's degree offerings, Ph.D. programs in construction management concentrate on preparing students for leadership positions in general contracting or building construction. Studies focus on research and management, as well as technological advances and applications in the field. Ph.D.s are offered in construction management or as concentrations in engineering or technology degree programs. Students who wish to enter a construction management Ph.D. program should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Courses that should be taken prior to entering a doctoral program include project management, statistics, construction materials and decision analysis. Coursework for a Ph.D. program in construction management focuses mainly on research, management and organization. Topics might include:
- Risk management
- Advanced cost estimating
- Construction management techniques
- Labor and industrial relations
- Construction research seminar
Popular Career Options
Graduates with an associate's degree in construction technology or construction management could expect to enter the general contracting field in entry-level or apprenticeship positions. These jobs, some of which might require state or local licensing, might include:
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The construction management field was expected to grow by 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Salaries in the field vary depending on a project's location, size and nature, as well as economic conditions. In May 2015, construction managers had a median annual salary of $87,400.
Voluntary certification for construction managers is available through the American Institute of Constructors (AIC), as well as the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). Applicants for AIC designation as an Associate Constructor (AC) or Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution or the equivalent experience. CPC applicants also must have at least four years professional experience, at least two of which must be in construction management. CMAA designation as a Certified Construction Manager (CCM) requires a bachelor's degree in construction management or a related field or the equivalent professional experience, in addition to four years as a construction manager.
While post-secondary education is not strictly required to become a general contractor, gaining a degree in construction management or a related field can benefit your career. Attaining certification is not required by state regulations but can be an advantage.