What Is the Job of a Commercial Construction Project Manager?

In the commercial construction management industry, many positions work together to complete massive projects. One of the most vital to the success of a project, the construction project manager, plans and manages the construction process from beginning to end. The position’s duties stretch well beyond the construction site though. The construction project manager researches and creates the budget, manages the budget, applies for, and obtains various building permits, and communicates the client’s goals to contractors, subcontractors, and construction professionals.

Commercial Construction Management Defined

The field of commercial construction management deals with the design, construction, and renovation of commercial structures. Its large-scale projects provide the most common employment opportunities for construction project managers although some residential firms also employ this position. When residential firms employ a construction project manager, they typically complete high-end jobs, such as the construction of luxury homes or the renovation of historical or luxury properties.

In all of these project types, the process for the construction company starts with a proposal bid, which the construction project manager takes the lead in developing. This bid also includes cost ranges for materials that fluctuate in cost and a proposed schedule of work. The project manager bases this bid on the size of the space, the client budget, and the scope of work. The scope of work includes every project stage from breaking ground (clearing the land) to flipping the light switch to show the owner the finished project.

Details on the Construction Project Manager

The construction project manager takes a managerial role in the overall company and its projects. This manager works in the hiring process to contract with subcontractors who complete specialty work on a job.

The project manager doesn’t only work with contractors and subcontractors; they also work closely with each client to establish their needs and understand their project goals. From these two sets of relationships and communication, the project manager creates the work schedule.

The responsibilities of this position seem rather endless. Besides the responsibilities already discussed, the highlights of the job include:

  • Inventorying equipment and tools of construction personnel
  • Communication with clients regarding project status
  • Regular worksite reviews of construction workers’ progress
  • Safety standards checks
  • Building code compliance
  • Collaboration with architects, engineers, and other construction professionals on the project
  • Clearly explain and communicate technical matters to personnel and subcontractors.

Ultimately, this position assumes the responsibility for work delays and project problems.

What Skills and Qualifications Does a Construction Project Manager Need?

Every job position has innate skills that an individual filling the position needs to have. The position of construction project manager doesn’t differ from that. What hard and soft skills would you need?

The construction project manager remains in constant contact with people, so they need to be a “people person,” who enjoys interacting with others. Their constant interactions require consummate customer service skills and active listening skills. Individuals in this position must speak clearly and with brevity. They communicate what the client wants in every position on the construction site so they must communicate well and command respect. The construction workflow management depends on them.

This type of project manager grasps spatial concepts well and can process complex schematics and information, then communicate it in a simplified format. Think of it as superb reading comprehension that extends to blueprints and construction plans. Their technical skills go beyond interpretation of blueprints to creating and interpreting project drawings, plus knowledge of construction methods, and legal contracts.

A construction project manager also possesses superior time management skills. They easily meet deadlines and manage the various aspects of each project resulting in positive construction workflow management. On a construction project, construction workers must finish one aspect of the project before workers can accomplish another aspect. For example, one crew must lay the subfloor before another crew can come in and lay the marble flooring.

If you want to enter this field, develop your writing skills. This project manager writes proposals, budget plans, and project updates for the client. You may also need to write letters to contractors, subcontractors, and union representatives.

Finally, the position of construction project manager demands strong leadership skills. This managerial role delegates tasks to employees, subcontractors, and lower-level managers. They lead each project from start to finish.

What Salary Does a Construction Project Manager Earn?

Let’s start by explaining that salaries differ throughout the U.S. and the world for this and all positions. A construction project manager in Montana earns a different salary than one in New York. Most companies scale the salary to the local cost of living, but they must maintain the minimum salary for the position if the firm employs unionized workers. In the U.S., trade unions barter minimum salaries for their members.

In the U.S., construction project managers earn, on average, $85,823 annually. That salary doesn’t represent the starting salary of this position, which stands at about $24,000. In some locations, in this position, you could earn up to $183,000 annually.

Education and Training to Become a Construction Project Manager

Most individuals employed in the position of construction project manager earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture, construction management, construction science, or engineering. Others either earn a master’s degree or combine an associate degree with a few years of construction work experience to qualify for the position.

A university degree doesn’t always complete the requirements for this position. In some states, the construction manager must earn a license from the state. In the U.S., employers expect individuals in this position to earn certification from the American Institute of Constructors and Construction Management Association of America.

Experience Needed for a Construction Project Manager Position

Expect to work your way up to this position which requires many years of experience. Construction managers typically start out in a specialty, such as master carpenter or mason. After working in those positions for a few years and gaining practical experience, they complete the training for the position, taking courses on their own time. Because construction typically takes place during the daytime, these individuals attend night classes or weekend classes to complete their bachelor’s degrees. They also complete internships to build managerial experience in construction workflow management.

Doing the Job of Construction Project Manager

Let’s consider the many tasks this project manager oversees and the work crews they manage as a part of the construction workflow management. We’ll start at the beginning of a job – breaking ground.

Prepare the Lot

Once they win the bid, the construction workflow management begins with the hiring of the lot clearing service. This specialty company bids on the subcontract to survey and measure the lot, then clear it. The process ranges from clear-cutting raw land to selectively clearing trees to create a lot for building. This project part may include cutting in dirt roads to access the work site.

Source Equipment

Before beginning work though, the construction project manager enables the construction workflow management by managing the heavy equipment rentals, including the aerial lifts. This individual researches pricing and accepts bids on heavy equipment rentals, including bulldozers, cranes, and trailers. Most construction companies don’t purchase this type of equipment. Instead, they rent it by the job, which saves them maintenance costs and ensures that another company repairs it if it breaks down.

Take Care of the Construction Crews

The project manager also takes care of the construction crews. This means they handle setting up the break area tent or construction trailer where the workers eat lunch, take breaks, and drink coffee. This position also handles obtaining the portable restrooms. The project manager provides the breakroom supplies, too, such as coffee, water, and sometimes, snacks.

Have a Clean Up Plan

Clean-up at the end of each day and for the project as a whole comprises a huge chunk of the construction workflow management requirements. This equipment the construction company also does not typically own. To clean the site, the construction company uses dumpster rentals. The project manager obtains these dumpsters and sets a schedule with the rental company for emptying them.

Hire the Appropriate Contractors

Keeping the construction workflow management running smoothly requires many individuals and crews. It’s the job of the project manager to interview and hire the subcontractors who complete the specialty work within the work site. This list of subcontractors includes:

Each construction company typically hires its own master carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and general workers.

Ensure Utilities Are Set Up and Working

The electrical services at the work site also comprise a major need in the construction workflow management. The project manager ensures that the work site has proper electrical services, whether from generators trucked to the worksite or by obtaining electrical service through a local utility. Without this service, the workers cannot use their power tools, so consider this a top priority.

Utilities also refer to plumbing. At the outset of a project, a new construction project won’t have its own water lines; the construction crew puts those in. Once installed though, the project manager handles having the water services turned on at the appropriate time.

Don’t Neglect the Exterior

The construction project manager also handles the exterior of the work site and the minutia of items that need to be installed in the building. That often includes hiring the crew that handles the landscaping and someone to handle the sprinkler system installation. If you make a list of the parts of an office building that you use during a single day, the hiring of the crew to install them and the oversight of the installation fall to the construction project manager.

This one individual handles the entirety of the construction workflow management from the project’s inception to the client’s move-in day. In some projects, these duties extend past others. For example, if a client wants an automatic backup generator installed to their building project, that requires an “extra” subcontractor over and above the typical crew. Other special case examples include installing a solar panel system to provide all or part of the electricity for the building.

Some landscaping requests may require additional crew members or crews, such as building owners who want a pond or fountain installed. Those types of projects require both an excavation team and a swimming pool installer. Most pool installers handle swimming pools, Jacuzzis, hot tubs, reflecting pools, small ponds, koi ponds, and fountains.

If the Job of a Construction Project Manager Appeals to You

If you’re in high school and the job of a Construction Project Manager appeals to you, take shop classes that help you learn the essentials of the construction trade. Apply for summer jobs at local construction companies. Build your resume, starting as early as you can. Even jobs that amount to you sweeping up the work site count when you apply for your first apprenticeship in your chosen field.

When you enter college, choose a major that provides a foundation for this career, such as architecture or construction science. Complete as many internships as you can during your college career and take summer jobs in construction.

When you graduate, join the union if you haven’t already. Earn your licensing and certification in a specialty field, such as master carpentry or plumbing. That’s the position in which you will work for the first few years of full-time construction employment to build your experience. Once you’ve earned at least five years of experience in a specialty area, apply for an assistant project manager position.

Most individuals spend a few years as an assistant construction project manager before either receiving a promotion or applying for and landing a job as a construction project manager. The job requires leadership skills, organizational skills, and construction knowledge. You can’t walk into it right out of college, but you can work your way up to it within ten years. The more experience you have when you enter the position, the better your salary.