How Do You Become a Construction Manager? Diploma vs. Degree

Like the idea of coordinating a build from start to finish? Interested in project management and wondering how to become a construction manager?

Now is a great time to get into this career. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, construction managers are in strong demand all over Ontario.

Salaries are high, too. The Job Bank says construction managers in Ontario earn a median income of over $85,000. Some make more than $140,000.

But how can you break into this role? What skills are required and what training options do you have? Do you need a university degree to qualify for those high-paying jobs?

In this post, we break it all down into simple terms.

Compare the two different paths to becoming a construction manager (degree vs. diploma) and get help to decide which is right for you.

Here's what you need to know.

 

WHAT DOES A CONSTRUCTION MANAGER DO?

Construction managers organize and direct building projects. Their job is to keep everything moving along so that the project gets done on time and on budget.

Typically, their duties include:

☑️ Preparing estimates and bids

☑️ Creating construction project schedules

☑️ Tracking progress and preparing status reports

☑️ Overseeing project bookkeeping

☑️ Negotiating and preparing contracts with suppliers and workers

☑️ Purchasing building materials and controlling inventory

☑️ Hiring and coordinating office staff and on-site workers

☑️ Maintaining health and safety standards on job sites

These are the types of skills covered in construction project management training. Both university and college programs cover these basic competencies.

 

WHO HIRES CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS?

As you might expect, construction managers often work for companies that specialize in commercial, residential, or industrial construction.

In addition to new builds and renovations, construction managers can also work in excavation and roofing, and for companies that provide disaster cleanup and restoration.

Construction managers are also hired by mechanical, plumbing, or electrical contractors. 

Ontario's construction industry is booming. Many different types of companies need managers to keep projects on track, on time, and on budget.

 

WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A CONSTRUCTION MANAGER?

This is a business role that requires strong leadership, organization, and coordination skills. You must be able to:

☑️ Organize files and records

☑️ Juggle multiple tasks

☑️ Communicate effectively with suppliers, subcontractors, and company managers

☑️ Make calculations and interpret data

☑️ Solve problems and deal with delays

☑️ Motivate workers and resolve conflicts

To do this job well, you need to understand how builds come together both on site and behind-the-scenes.

You need a solid grasp of each trade, combined with project planning and financial management. These are the skills you'll be looking to develop in construction manager training.

 

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER TRAINING OPTION #1: university DEGREE

One way to become a construction manager is to get a degree in an area like civil engineering or business. You can even get a degree specifically in construction management.

Bachelor's degree programs are 4 years long.

They provide a well-rounded education that includes plenty of theory as well as general education and liberal arts courses.

So, for instance, you might study classical literature and ecological sustainability along with building science and construction law.

With a bachelor's degree, you can qualify for construction management positions or go on to a master's degree program.

 

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER TRAINING OPTION #2: college DIPLOMA

Another way to become a construction manager is to complete a relevant diploma through a trade school or career college.

A construction manager course at the college level is very condensed and practical. Some programs are only 9 months long.

You won't study much theory or take any courses that aren't directly related to becoming a construction manager.

Instead, you'll focus on the specific skills you need for entry-level jobs in construction project management or construction administration.

For example, you will learn how to:

☑️ Interpret blueprints and schematics

☑️ Estimate project costs and develop budgets

☑️ Hire and manage workers

☑️ Oversee payroll and accounting

☑️ Create a marketing plan for a construction firm

☑️ Ensure the health and safety of construction workers

The goal of a diploma program is to get you into the workforce fast.

But you won't start out as a manager. You'll need to prove yourself and build your skills in a beginner role, like junior project manager or assistant.

 

WHICH construction manager training should you choose?

Should you go for a degree or a diploma? Here are some questions to consider before you decide.

☑️ What do employers want?

Some construction manager job postings specifically call for a bachelor's degree. Even if they don't, having a degree can make you more competitive.

However, many employers are also open to hiring candidates with construction manager diplomas.

With a diploma, you'll likely start out as an assistant construction manager, construction office clerk, or junior construction project manager.

Once you learn the ropes and gain some experience, you can go after a more senior role.

Most manager positions require 3 to 5 years of relevant experience, but some call for 10 years or more. A diploma is a good way to get your foot in the door.

 

☑️ How long can you afford to be in training?

A degree provides a good grounding in construction management theory and exposes you to many different subject areas. But it's a 4-year commitment.

That adds up, not only in tuition costs, but also in lost wages while you wait to begin your career.

A diploma in construction office management is more career-focused and can be done in less than 12 months. That saves you cash and gets you into the job market sooner.

Think about how much time and money you're able and willing to spend on your training.

 

☑️ What's required for admission?

Degree programs in engineering or construction management tend to have stricter admission criteria. You will need minimum scores in high school classes like English and math to apply.

A diploma in construction project management is easier to get into. Most programs simply require a high school diploma/GED, entrance test, and interview.

 

EXPLORE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING AT HERZING

Want to learn more about training and getting started as a construction manager?

Explore the Construction Manager program at Herzing College. It can get you job-ready in only 36 weeks.

Graduates are fully prepared to take on entry-level roles on construction management teams.

Still have questions? Chat with admissions to see if this diploma is right for you.

An Advisor can provide info on training, admission procedures, financial aid options, and anything else you're curious about.

Click below to explore the program and chat live with an Advisor. We're here to help!

Explore the Construction Manager Program

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