How to become a construction manager

The UK construction industry presents a huge and diverse range of opportunities for people interested in a career as a construction manager. From new housing developments and office blocks to the kinds of major transport and environmental projects that can span decades, it’s an exciting time to join an industry that’s driving the future faster than ever before.

Working as a construction manager offers the opportunity to take a lead role in shaping the infrastructure of your area or even the country. With excellent pathways for progression, it’s a varied and challenging career that can be highly rewarding. If you’re a great communicator with a passionate work ethic, a keen eye for detail and an analytical mind, construction management could be the path for you. 

Here you’ll find everything you need to know about how to become a construction manager – the skills, experience and qualifications you’ll need as well as what you can expect from the job.

 

What is a construction manager?

Also known as a site manager, a construction manager takes responsibility for overseeing everything that happens on a construction site. Organising the project efficiently at every step, a construction manager ensures that the work is completed on time, within budget and, most importantly, safely. 

A construction manager works closely with other building professionals – not only those working directly on the site but architects, surveyors and other stakeholders, ensuring that all work together to make consistent progress on the project. 

In especially large or complex construction projects a manager may work only on part of the site, but will usually oversee everything on smaller scale projects such as housing builds.

 

What are the responsibilities of a construction manager?

The day-to-day responsibilities of a construction manager include:

  • Scheduling work, calculating costs and ensuring adherence to budget constraints
  • Overseeing the purchasing and hiring of tools and plant equipment & materials
  • Hiring and directly managing and supervising project staff
  • Inspecting work in progress and maintaining quality control
  • Acting as an ambassador for health and safety across the site
  • Liaising with engineers, surveyors, architects and other personnel to check designs
  • Reporting on progress to superiors in the organisation
  • Attending client meetings and keeping stakeholders informed of progress
  • Overcoming any unexpected difficulties or delays that may arise as part of the project
  • Acting as the main point of contact for subcontractors and members of the general public

 

What qualifications does a construction manager need?

In order to become a construction manager you will need an undergraduate degree or HNC in a relevant subject, such as one of the following:

  • Civil engineering
  • Surveying
  • Building management
  • Construction management

Courses which are accredited by the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) are preferable, and most new graduates in the industry and trainee construction managers work towards being chartered with the CIOB during their first few years in the industry. 

It is not unheard of to enter construction management without having studied a degree in the above areas – studying a postgraduate qualification or diploma such as the CIOB’s Graduate Conversion Programme can provide the foundation that you need. Having plenty of relevant work experience in your chosen field is particularly important if this is the case. 

 

What skills does a construction manager need?

Communication and leadership are the foremost skills that you’ll need as a construction manager, as you will be dealing with many different people and ensuring that an often large team stays motivated, focused and efficient.

Other skills you will need for this career include:

  • Planning and organisational skills, for the handling of complex project plans
  • Resilience in stressful situations and problem-solving skills, in order to deal with unexpected challenges
  • Quick decision-making abilities under high pressure
  • Close attention to detail in order to successfully undertake site inspections
  • Up-to-date knowledge of health and safety laws, and the ability to make these known across a team and ensure they are adhered to
  • The ability to be commercially-minded, understanding how to manage a budget effectively and keep clients and stakeholders happy
  • IT skills and mathematical knowledge, including the ability to use project management software and a wide-ranging understanding of building methods

 

What is the average salary for a construction manager?

As a construction manager you can expect a starting salary ranging between £26,000 and £33,000 per year. You will work around 40 hours per week.

With experience, this may rise to between £34,000 and £50,000. Once you become a senior chartered construction manager you may expect to earn in the region of £70,000 and over.

 

What is the career progression like for a construction manager?

Progression will depend on the size of the organisation you work for and the specific nature of the industry you are working in, but increasing your expertise within a particular field such as residential or commercial construction can often be an effective way to progress more quickly – however, a broad range of experience on different types of projects can also be highly beneficial too. You will typically need around a decade of experience in order to become a construction manager on a large-scale complex building project.

It can be advantageous to have the flexibility of moving around the country (or even abroad) to work on different projects and those of a bigger scale. Positions to progress to once you have significant experience as a construction manager include:

  • Project manager
  • Contracts manager
  • Senior construction manager
  • Department head
  • Building inspector

 

Related career paths 

Other similar career paths that you might want to consider going into include:

  • Building control surveyor
  • Health and safety inspector
  • Site engineer
  • Quantity surveyor