Construction Manager vs. Project Manager: What Are The Main Differences?
In the construction industry, the surveillance of the process and proper management is crucial as, without it, the risk of project failure or heavy construction rework increases. That’s why construction companies put so much effort into ensuring quality oversight of the work. There are two management positions responsible for it. Yet the ongoing construction manager vs. project manager battle continues to remain unresolved.
Understanding the distinctions between the two positions will help you comprehend the process of work administration in the construction industry. Learning what it takes to complete construction project management successfully will save your company a great deal of money and precious time.
In this article, we’ll go through a construction manager vs. project manager comparison, explaining the key responsibilities of each role and their main differences. Let’s dive in if you want to get the maximum out of your construction crew!
Construction Manager: Full Overview of the Position
Construction management is the overseeing of the building project’s construction stage. The Law Insider defines a construction manager as “a competent person responsible for managing physical construction processes, coordination, administration and resources management on a construction site.” A construction manager supervises the entire process and ensures that the project is completed on time and within the budget.
Most of the construction managers in the industry have worked as experts in the building trades, like carpentry, plumbing, electrical engineering, masonry, etc. Such a background allows them to understand the technical aspects of construction and complete plans and blueprints. Their daily activities can include planning the work schedule, buying the necessary materials, and ensuring safety and health standards on the site.
Although in some construction projects, they might be involved in the project from the beginning, in most companies, the construction manager’s scope is limited to the construction phase only. Most of the work of construction managers takes place on the construction site as they oversee the day-to-day operations, ensuring everything follows the initial planning.
Today, as the role of education grows, most construction managers are required to have a BA to be qualified for the position with a construction background or working experience in the industry.
In 2022, the median construction project manager salary was around $119,658 ranging from $103,479 to $ 136,729 per year in the US. The salary may vary depending on the size and complexity of the project and the local cost of living throughout the states. Moreover, the amount a construction manager earns also depends on their experience and education.
Required Education & Certifications
As we’ve already mentioned, more and more companies are demanding a relevant BA degree from construction managers. The undergraduate degrees that relate to the construction industry include:
- Civil Engineering or Engineering
- Construction Management or Construction Science
Most companies will also encourage their construction managers to obtain a Master’s Degree to expand their knowledge further.
Practical skills are crucial for this position, so managers usually need at least four years of experience. This may include construction site supervision, time management, and resource planning. Preparing for the job is essential, and many companies require construction managers to have a Construction Manager Certification.
However, there are always exceptions. For instance, if a person has eight or more years of experience in the industry, the company might overlook that he does not hold a BA degree. Putting experience over degrees is a common practice in this industry. Usually, though, those who do not have a four-year education are better qualified as subcontractors or general contractors.
Effective construction management involves a diverse range of skills that contribute to the successful completion of projects. In addition to the fundamental skills mentioned earlier, here are a few more key skills that construction managers should hold:
- Solid Understanding of Technology
- Organizational Skills: Project Planning and Execution
- Team Leadership and Management
- Time Management
- Negotiating and Communication Skills
A successful construction manager must possess a diverse skill set that goes beyond technical knowledge. The ability to lead teams, manage resources, navigate challenges, and communicate effectively are all essential components of a construction manager’s role. By mastering these skills, construction managers can oversee projects with efficiency, ensuring their timely completion and adherence to quality standards.
Let’s look at each of these skills to understand better what it takes to be an effective construction manager.
Solid Understanding of Technology
Construction managers use sophisticated software programs and technological systems to track and manage projects. They must be well-versed with the latest technologies to ensure efficient management of all construction activities.
2022 became a year of exciting technology trends for construction companies. From drones to 3D printers and AI machines— the industry is looking for new ways to enhance performance and speed up the entire process. But these changes come with challenges, which means the general contractors and construction managers have a lot of work to do.
For instance, if the construction company wants to use a 3D printer, it should ensure that its project manager has at least a general understanding of the technology to accurately oversee the process. So a good construction manager should be tech-savvy to learn quickly all the how-tos of the technologies used in the field.
Organizational Skills: Project Planning and Execution
It is not easy to supervise the entire project and ensure that it goes according to the project schedule and does not cross the construction budget. Construction managers must be highly organized, plan out each step of the project, and set realistic goals with deadlines. Organizational skills help them to delegate tasks, coordinate with workers, and oversee the progress of each part of the project.
There are many tips to boost your planning and execution skills. One of them is to create a to-do list and prioritize tasks by complexity, urgency, and importance. This will help reduce stress and improve the efficiency of the project. The process requires focus and solid organizational skills, as the construction manager will have to handle different responsibilities simultaneously.
Team Leadership and Management
Construction projects are all about teamwork. So the construction manager should know how to work simultaneously in a team as a team member and leader. They need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and delegate tasks accordingly to succeed in construction team management.
A compassionate and encouraging work environment ensures everyone feels valued and motivated to reach their highest potential. Regardless of industry, team leaders aren’t just managers. They are motivators. As a result, good communication skills are essential for a construction manager who must interact with workers, subcontractors, suppliers, clients, and other stakeholders. With good collaboration and direction, all the issues will be promptly solved.
The construction industry is notorious for its tight deadlines and often delays. Statistics show that companies deliver over a quarter of projects more than 250 days late. Meanwhile, approximately every 10th project is delayed by at least a year.
As alert as this may sound, construction managers can still use effective time-management skills to ensure the project is completed on time. This includes breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and assigning each task to the right people.
Furthermore, they must regularly track all tasks’ progress and ensure things are going according to the timeline. An organized construction manager will keep everyone on track and deliver the project promptly.
Pro Solution: As technology advances, tools and platforms emerge to help construction project managers be more organized and efficient. For example, Buildern’s Scheduling Module has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop feature that allows for project planning, task scheduling, and resource management – all in one place.
Gantt charts provide better visualization and tracking of project progress. With a clear overview of all tasks, construction managers are always aware of potential delays or risks.
One of the most significant benefits of Gantt charts is their ability to highlight critical paths and project milestones. Critical paths are sequences of tasks that, if delayed, could cause the entire project timeline to be extended. By identifying these paths, construction managers can focus their attention on ensuring these tasks are completed on time, thus preventing any potential delays from rippling through the project timeline.
Recommended reading: Top 12 Construction Scheduling Software to Improve Project Management in 2023
Negotiating and Communication Skills
Building construction requires using numerous resources, including labor, materials, equipment, etc. As a result, construction managers must have good negotiating skills to drive better deals with suppliers and subcontractors.
Excellent communication skills are key to interacting with clients. As they need to present preliminary estimates to clients and provide detailed reports at the project’s completion, they must communicate with clarity.
Handling difficult conversations with clients or workers to bring out the best in them is an invaluable trait for a construction project manager. To communicate and resolve conflicts with the project team, consider introducing weekly meetings to review progress and discuss any issues.
Finally, having a good understanding of the local regulations and laws around construction projects is also a must. Knowing this information will help ensure compliance and reduce the risk of any legal violation.
Overall, construction managers need a combination of hard and soft skills to be successful. By mastering the above-mentioned abilities and stepping beyond traditional construction project management, they can drive projects to completion on time and within the estimated budget.
We already know that a construction project manager’s duties encompass planning, budgeting, scheduling, and supervising the project. Still, there are a few more things to consider. Here are some of the most common responsibilities of construction managers:
- Supervising and managing the construction team
- Assigning tasks to the field workers
- Overseeing the day-to-day fieldwork
- Communicating with the material suppliers and clients
- Ordering the required material and updating the material inventory with new ones when necessary
- Creating project schedules for the team members
- Estimating the costs for specific construction tasks
- Reporting on the project’s process to the project manager
- Ensuring the project meets all the requirements
Scope of work and duration
Usually, the construction managers will not be involved in the first stages of the project. Although they might participate in the budgeting stage, their primary work occurs in construction.
This means they will participate mainly in the project’s building phase, which will take approximately 6-8 months for large construction projects and a couple of weeks for small construction projects, like building the roof or framing the house.
Construction managers work with architects, engineers, and subcontractors, so everyone shares similar expectations on the construction process. Ensuring the team has everything they need and completing all tasks promptly requires dedication and professional management.
Organization of the work
This is the part in our construction manager vs. project manager comparison where both positions mostly use the same tools. They both have to create a project schedule, ensure no overruns in the construction budget, and engage in risk and quality management.
From the technical aspect, they need a tool that can incorporate everything in the same place. So most of the time, project managers and construction managers will use project management software to help them organize the work more efficiently.
Although the construction manager has a lot of responsibilities, the project managers hold more authority, as they are the ones to supervise construction managers. They hold legal responsibility for quality and safety in their projects.
The construction manager acts as a middleman between project managers and other workers, like laborers, subcontractors, or architects.
Communication with the client is also part of a construction manager’s responsibilities. They need to keep the client informed regarding any changes in the project, and they must always present a detailed report on the status of the project.
The main difference between a construction manager vs. project manager is the environment they work in. The construction manager mainly works on the construction site overseeing the building process, and rarely visits the office.
Project Manager: Full Overview of the Position
If construction managers are responsible only for the construction part of the project, the construction project manager has greater responsibility. According to the Law Insider, the project manager is “a principal employee or agent of the Recipient having administrative authority over the Project. They are the authorized designee as per written notification to the Director.”
The employee oversees the entire project: from the pre-construction and initial planning phase to the execution, completion, and approval. He is the one who participates in the client meetings to understand all the requirements and specifications and ensure that the project meets them all.
The project manager’s job is mainly to secure that the project is delivered within the expected budget and on time. He works closely with contractors, designers, and engineers to track their progress, quickly identify issues when they arise and provide a solution.
Their daily tasks include setting deadlines, attending team or client meetings, tracking the project budget, and providing updates and reports. Although they might visit the construction site occasionally, their main work is in the office. For project managers, having a construction background is not strictly required. What’s important is that they have high organizational skills and working experience as a PM.
According to Indeed, the average project manager’s salary is around $83,890 annually.
Required education & certifications
If a four-year education was not rigidly demanded by construction managers, the project managers almost always must have at least a BA degree. However, as we’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t have to be connected to construction if they have working experience in the industry.
In some states, project managers might need a license to complete the building tasks, such as approving the building codes. Project managers who want to work in the construction industry should get a certificate in construction project management. Although this is optional, upgrading their skills and knowledge through professional courses is always a plus.
Just like the construction manager, the project manager also has to be a team player and a leader at the same time and hold high organizational skills.
However, as they have more responsibilities on their shoulders, they also should have a list of other skills to ensure a technically sound and high-quality project in the end. Some of those skills include:
- Financial Management
- Risk Management
- Avoiding Micromanagement
- Adherence to the Specifications
- Documentation Management
The project manager works with the construction budget more closely, so he should know how to manage finances properly to avoid overruns. Managing the budget is one of the biggest responsibilities for the project manager, as even small mistakes or changes can cause significant financial problems later on. Therefore, making forecasts, tracking the costs, and finding new financing opportunities is a must for a good PM.
Pro Solution: Professional software solutions like Buildern’s Financial Tools are ideal for helping the project manager with financial management.
The software helps manage construction budgets and cash flows and track any changes or deviations against them.
Generating invoices and preparing reports are also part of finance management. With Buildern’s third-party accounting integrations, it will be easier to generate accurate financial statements and send them to clients.
Staying transparent with your finances helps avoid chaos in project finances. While managing the budget can be challenging, proper software solutions and planning will help you stay on track.
Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? It is the belief that if something can go wrong, it will. For project managers, Murphy’s Law should be more than relevant. Coming up with all the “wrong” resolutions will help the project manager assess and be prepared for all the possible risks, eventually giving quick solutions to them if they happen.
Risk management implies regular check-ins and project progress assessments, preventing any problems from slipping through. As a result, PMs have to stay vigilant throughout the entire construction process, staying prepared for any obstacles that might come up.
If you are the one supervising the general construction project, you should be able to think big. In the construction industry, micromanagement is one of the biggest enemies of efficient work. A good project manager should trust the construction managers and other colleagues to take care of the smaller tasks. They can’t be the supervisor of building trades: getting to all the details and small assignments is a pure waste of time.
Adherence to the Specifications
The project manager is the one who should be able to read and interpret the drawings and specifications, as well as make sure that all of these are followed during the construction process. While looking for similarities in construction project manager vs. project manager comparison, understanding drawing and specifications is key for both positions. Translating the drawings into practical elements can help ensure that all parts of the construction project are completed accurately.
All communications, data and documents related to the project should be organized on a single platform easily accessible by each team member. The project manager should be able to manage the documentation, from incoming requests and inquiries to deliverables. Keeping all documents organized ensures that the team is on track and preventive measures can be taken if needed. The project manager should also ensure that all documents are correctly filed and stored safely for future reference.
Pro Solution: Buildern’s Document Management module allows project managers to keep all documents in one place. They can also assign permissions so only the appropriate personnel will access them.
The key to strict document control and management is ensuring all documents are up-to-date and accurate. With Buildern’s user-friendly interface is much similar to that of Google Drive, project managers won’t waste time getting familiar with the platform.
By implementing the right tools, the project manager can easily stay on top of all financial, risk and documentation management.
Here are some of the most common responsibilities for the construction project manager:
- Discussing the new project design with the client
- Creating the construction budget and plan
- Choosing the location of the project and securing the land for the building
- Working on a project timeline and setting deadlines for each stage
- Hiring team members, including the construction manager
- Estimating the costs of different elements in the project
- Supervising the entire project and ensuring on-time completion
Scope of Work and Duration
Project managers are involved in the construction project from the beginning until the end. They participate in all the stages of the work.
This means they will be engaged in the planning, design, building, and project completion phases, which can take as long as one and a half years to complete if working on large projects. For small projects, the PMs will still need at least a couple of months to finish.
Organization of the Work
Project managers are so involved in the construction project organization that they will have enough knowledge to found a construction company on their own by the completion of the project.
That’s why they usually do not get overwhelmed with all the tasks and data. They work with construction project management software. However, compared to construction managers, they engage with it more as they are the ones who create the initial schedule, assign the tasks and supervise the overall process.
As we’ve already mentioned, project managers have greater responsibility and hence more authority over the project. They are the ones to hire construction managers and supervise their work.
A project manager’s work mainly takes place in the office. They might visit the construction site from time to time or go out for meetings, but most work is in-office. This is one of the main differences in the construction project manager vs. project manager comparison. Depending on the size of the project, they will coordinate different teams and track multiple projects simultaneously.
Can a Construction Manager Be a Project Manager?
It all depends on the construction manager’s skills and education. If a construction manager has a BA degree or even has obtained a Master’s and extensive working experience in the industry, he might be promoted to a project manager. However, he will probably first work as a PM assistant or associate before being hired as a project manager.
Main Differences Between the Two Roles
Let’s do a quick sum-up of our construction manager vs. project manager comparison:
- Construction managers work in the construction site, while the project managers mainly work in the office
- Construction managers are involved only in the construction stage, while project managers oversee the entire project.
- Construction managers report to project managers, so they have less authority in comparison.
- Construction managers are not strictly required to hold a BA degree, while the expectations and requirements from the PMs are much higher, so without having higher education, they can’t compete in the market.
Both project and construction managers have a significant role in the construction project. Without them, it would be very hard to complete the project successfully. That’s why the pressure on them is very high, so they absolutely need assisting digital tools in keeping track of all the processes.
Of course, in big projects like construction ones, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll make mistakes as, in the end, we’re all humans. But at least we can reduce them with construction project management software.
If you’ve never used one before, try our free plan at Buildern and see how it works for your company.