How to Get Into Construction Project Management?

How to Get Into Construction Project Management?

When it comes to working in the building and construction industry, construction project management sits right near the top. From start to finish, construction managers play a crucial role in getting the job done.

But how do you get into this field?

In a nutshell, you’ll need a solid combination of education and experience. To give you a better idea, let’s look at what construction project management involves, and the steps you need to take to get into it.

What is construction project management?

At its core, construction project management (CPM) is about handling the planning, coordination and execution of a construction project. But it’s not limited to one area of the building and construction industry.  

As a construction project manager, you might find yourself working across several areas, from civil engineering to residential housing. It all depends on what your interests are, the qualifications you have and how experienced you are.

To break it down, construction project management involves the following:

  • Setting calendars.
  • Coordinating workflow.
  • Reading blueprints.
  • Supervising and advising staff.
  • Ensuring health and safety regulations are up to code.
  • Ensuring materials and machinery are delivered on time.
  • Handling subcontractors.
  • Liaising with homeowners and investors.

To become a construction project manager, you not only have to have the right level of education and experience – you also need the qualities to lead other people.

This means:

  • Keeping your cool under pressure.
  • Excellent communication and problem solving skills.
  • Time management and organisational skills.
  • Negotiation skills.
  • Crisis management skills.

A lot of these skills might be something you’ve learned about in previous job roles. Make sure to reflect and review on your own strengths and weaknesses and find the best pathway to improve upon them.

These soft skills are important things to consider and you’ll need to show potential employers in interviews that you can handle them well.

Getting educated

Professionals working in CPM are some of the most educated people in the building and construction industry.

But for many (though it doesn’t always have to), the journey often starts with hands-on experience as an apprentice tradesperson.

Whether it’s plumbing, building, or carpentry, an apprenticeship will teach you the basics of your trade – helping you build up experience and become familiar with the industry. But it’s the higher-level building and construction courses that will help you reach that next level.

Let’s say you’ve completed an apprenticeship. Your next step into CPM would be to consider more study.

Depending on where you’re from, this could involve enrolling in a certificate program or diploma in building and construction. This will give you the skills and knowledge needed to get licensed and work as a construction manager on residential or commercial sites.  

Really want to take it up a notch?

Then you’ll also find a range of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields related to construction project management. Just keep in mind that while getting educated will boost your chances of working in CPM – it’s equally important to build up your experience in the industry, preferably across a range of areas.

Everything is about a balance. Make sure your skill set is spread across every possible area of expertise, and you’ll find the job hunting path a whole lot easier.

Choosing a path

Construction projects are always shifting – and construction project managers need a variety of skills and know-how to handle big teams and varying jobs. For this reason, they are some of the most sought-after (and highest paid) people working in the industry.

Depending on your experience, qualifications and interests, you can expect to find work across a range of fields. Plus, there are also many specialised roles in CPM – such as quantity surveyor, civil engineer, or building surveyor.

To dig deeper, you might choose to work on projects in:

  • Civil engineering: roads, bridges, tunnels, airports.
  • Commercial: shopping centres, banks, hotels, resorts, warehouses.
  • Residential: housing, apartments, studios.
  • Agriculture: drains, fencing, water supplies.
  • Institutional: schools, hospitals, museums, police stations, town halls.
  • Industrial: manufacturing plants, production warehouses, storage facilities.

If you’re hoping for a career that’s both varied and rewarding, it’s safe to say that construction project management ticks all the right boxes. Plus, there are so many different paths you can go down to achieve success.

Boosting your employability

Aside from studying the right building and construction courses, and building up your work experience, you’ll find it easier to get into CPM if you constantly have your finger on the pulse.

Put simply, the building and construction industry is always evolving. Thanks to advances in technology, the industry has seen exciting progress in software systems, virtual reality, 3D printing, sustainable technology, construction-site robots and much more.

As a construction project manager, it’s better to keep on top of all the changes – otherwise you risk falling behind. You’ll need to constantly adapt to new trends and changes, even if this means enrolling in continuing professional development courses.

Another way to add value to your employability is to connect with others online. Having an optimised and established LinkedIn profile with connections to others in your industry is an excellent way to build a reputation and add value to yourself as a worker.

This will also help you keep up-to-date with all the happenings of your industry and even let you search for new jobs.

It’s also important to build your resume, especially if you’re pursuing higher-level employment opportunities. Your resume is the one-stop shop to display your professional skill set and abilities, and you should treat it as a portfolio you’re proud of. Display the best stuff you’re strongest at first and keep in mind what potential employers want the most. This will separate you from the other hundreds of applicants immediately.

Build your way to the top

Working in construction project management takes time, effort, experience and education. It requires years of hard work to get to the top. But with the right drive, you can definitely make it happen – and the rewards are more than worth it.

Author: Jacqui Martin

Jacqui Martin works for Builders Academy Australia, she is passionate about providing learning opportunities for building and construction workers and students. View all posts by Jacqui Martin