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Construction manager salary & career outlook

There's much more that goes into managing construction than a person might see simply passing by a work site. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction managers are responsible for overseeing projects from development to completion, including the planning, budgeting and execution of all aspects. This can entail preparing cost estimates and work timetables, collaborating with architects and engineers, complying with legal requirements (such as building and safety codes), and much more.

While many large construction companies typically prefer candidates with both construction experience and a bachelor's degree in construction management, construction science, architecture or engineering, you may get by without a college degree if you have a high school diploma and lots of work experience, according to the BLS. Aside from professional experience or a degree, important qualities include analytical, business, customer-service and decision-making skills, as well as initiative, leadership and good time management, as well as speaking, writing and technical ability. Earning a degree at a construction manager school (either an online college or a traditional one) is one way to start down the path toward this career.

Construction manager salary

As of May 2013, construction managers in America earned a mean annual wage of $92,700, the BLS reports, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $50,220 or less, and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $146,340 or more.

Industry and location can both affect pay for construction managers, since both will inevitably factor into the kinds of construction projects you might be managing. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for construction managers in America as of May 2013 were:

  • Traveler accommodation: $135,190 annual mean wage
  • Basic chemical manufacturing: $130,010 annual mean wage
  • Federal executive branch: $127,180 annual mean wage

The top-paying states in America for construction managers as of May 2013 were:

  • New Jersey: $122,520 annual mean wage
  • Rhode Island: $118,790 annual mean wage
  • Alaska: $114,950 annual mean wage

And the top-paying American metropolitan areas for construction managers as of May 2013 were:

  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division: $137,860 annual mean wage
  • Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division: $132,430 annual mean wage
  • Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ: $129,170 annual mean wage

However, the value of salaries in these locations can be misleading, as New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska and California are all among the 10 most expensive U.S. states when it comes to cost of living, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Aspiring construction managers who want their salaries to stretch farther might consider checking out some of the other areas that pay well but have a lower cost of living, such as:

  • Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area: $127,640 average annual salary; Virginia ranks 22nd for affordability
  • Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area: $97,220; North Carolina ranks 23rd for affordability
  • Eastern Texas nonmetropolitan area: $76,900 average annual salary; Texas ranks 12th for affordability

Job outlook for construction managers

If you do become a construction manager, you're joining the field at a great time. The BLS projects that employment of construction managers will grow 16 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the 11 percent average for all occupations. That comes out to roughly 78,200 new jobs during that period.

Many explanations for the projected growth exist, but major ones relate to population growth in the U.S. and the need to update infrastructure. "Population and business growth will result in the construction of many new residences, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants and other structures over the coming decade. Also, the need to improve portions of the national infrastructure will spur employment growth as roads, bridges, and sewer pipe systems are upgraded or replaced," the BLS states.

Another factor that may spur job growth for construction managers is the need to build energy efficient buildings and to adhere to "sophisticated technology, worker safety, environmental protection and new regulations setting standards for building and construction material."

To make an educated guess of where construction manager positions may spring up, there are a couple of ways to look at the data. The states with the highest number of construction managers employed, according to the BLS, are:

  • Texas
  • California
  • Florida

These states might see significant growth due to their already strong industries. Texas is also home to two of the three metropolitan areas with the most construction managers employed, as of May 2013. These areas include:

  • Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
  • Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division

According to Projections Central, which aggregates data from state labor department, certain states were expected to see particularly strong growth between 2010 and 2020. The growth projections for these top states are:

  • Nevada: 36.4 percent
  • Washington: 30.2 percent
  • Utah and Arizona: 29.3 percent

Sources:

Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development,
http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Long Term Occupational Projections for Construction Managers, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Construction Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119021.htm

Construction Managers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm#tab-1