Construction and building services
Man holding yellow hard hat looking at construction site

Construction management: construction area of work

Construction managers co-ordinate the construction process.
Construction managers are involved with a project from day one on site.

Construction managers control and co-ordinate activities on site to ensure that construction work is completed on time and to budget. They schedule when work is done and complete quality control checks to ensure that all operatives on site adhere to high standards of work. They have to consider logistics, health and safety, environmental concerns, sustainable development, and the impact on close neighbours and the general public. They typically work for contractors, who provide different services including construction management specific or design-and-build offerings. Their employers tend to be hired directly by the initial client or the consultancy that is acting as the client’s representative.

Construction managers typically get involved with a project right from day one on site when ground is broken and they carry right through until the building is completed, usually handing over to facilities managers. The chance to liaise with a great variety of professionals, both within and outside of their organisation, is one of the advantages of working in this area: construction managers typically work closely with project managers; project planners; commercial managers and quantity surveyors, who look after project costs; subcontractors and trade professionals; local government representatives; the design team; and the client.

Which areas of construction management can graduates specialise in?

Many construction managers are generalists and good employers will ensure you work on a range of projects to gain a broad level of experience in different technical areas. However, over time it is possible to specialise in an aspect of construction such as mechanical and electrical, structural or sub-structural work.

The importance of safety in site management careers

Safety rules on site are set and implemented by construction managers and take into account the unique aspects of the project as well as industry-wide standards. There has been a big move over the past few years to ensure even higher standards of safety. It’s a huge part of the construction management job and one of the first things graduates on training schemes will learn about. It’s easy for job applicants to overlook health and safety but showing an awareness of the issue in interviews and applications will be looked on very favourably.

Sustainable development in construction

Sustainability is a key concern for construction managers. They have a role in advising the client and design team on best practice. They have to be aware of sustainable practices when selecting the best materials to use. In their quality control work they have to ensure that sustainable systems work effectively. They also ensure that workers operate in the most environmentally friendly ways on site.

Graduate career routes in construction management

You can get into construction management with any degree but if you haven’t got a construction-related background you will need to do a postgraduate conversion course. Some employers will sponsor you through this while you work.

When you start out, you will usually assist a more experienced construction manager on site and be encouraged to complete a range of tasks such as quality checks. As you gain more experience, you will often be assigned a particular part of the project to manage, such as mechanical and electrical. You should also be given the opportunity to do a professional qualification with an appropriate professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

Progression can be rapid in this career area as initiative is rewarded. After your training scheme, you may be given a smaller project to manage on your own or be responsible for a large part of a more complex project. Construction management is a typical route into project management and executive positions.

Skills required by graduate recruiters

Although you won’t be expected to know a great deal of technical knowledge when you start, you should be able to pick things up quickly. You should also have:

  • excellent organisational skills
  • strong communication skills so that you can liaise with all parties on site
  • great problem-solving skills to resolve issues on site quickly

Highs and lows of life as a graduate site manager

Although you have a set schedule of what should happen each day, there’s always a surprise to keep you on your toes and the atmosphere on site is good fun. Hours can be long with early starts and occasional night or weekend shifts if time on a project is running out, but most firms offer time in lieu and allocate shifts fairly.

We would like to thank Lauren Miller, a senior construction manager at Lend Lease, for her assistance with this article. She has a BSc in construction management and has been working in the sector for seven years.