Our graduates find a wide range of employment opportunities and are heavily recruited by the construction industry and its suppliers. WCU's Office of Career Services and Cooperative Information offers a wealth of information about internships, career fairs, sample resumes and networking opportunities as well as information for industry employers.
CM Industry Advisory Council
The CM Industry Advisory Council at WCU keeps the CM program up-to-date with engineering and construction industry requirements and opportunities. The CM Industry Advisory Board, comprised of members from engineering and construction firms, provides guidance to CM faculty members as they prepare students to meet the challenges created by the demands of the engineering and construction industry.
The American Society of Civil Engineers awarded the infrastructure in the United States a grade of “D+” in its 2013 Report Card. This poor grade indicates an urgent need either to rebuild or repair the existing infrastructure in the United States. The estimated investment needed by 2020 is $3.6 trillion. Construction managers are an integral part of either process.
A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that the average salaries for construction engineering positions are higher than the salaries for many other undergraduate disciplines. Students with a Master of Science degree in construction management receive starting salaries that vary with their experience level. Employment opportunities for graduates of construction management programs are diverse since many different types of firms hire these graduates. According to the Construction Management Association of America, the US Department of Labor predicts the construction management field will grow at a higher than average rate compared with other industries with more open positions than qualified candidates available. Population growth and heightened demand for more office buildings, hospitals, and infrastructure should elevate job prospects for those qualified with starting wages on average around $50,000.
Students who obtain a degree in construction management have the option of working in the following fields:
Building construction encompasses structures that are built to house people, processes or animals. The structures are usually designed by architects and engineers or builders and built by either the government or private owners. The different types of buildings include: institutional, educational, light industrial warehouses, commercial, religious, governmental, recreational, space and others. Construction management personnel determine the cost of structures, how long it will take to build structures and the processes required to build structures, and they manage the construction processes.
Building construction involves many complex processes that have to be integrated into one structure and that also have to meet safety requirements for structural integrity. Construction management personnel must interpret the drawings provided by design engineers and convert them into physical structures.
Construction professionals are involved in every stage of the building process. Sometimes they provide input during the design stage to help designers determine whether their designs can be built with the construction techniques and processes currently available.
Construction professionals also may be involved in the reconstruction and restoration of buildings to return them to their previous appearance.
The area of construction law encompasses contracts, specifications, plans, tort law (negligence and liability), patent law, change orders and claims, and arbitration and litigation.
Construction personnel are involved with the legal aspects of construction either writing contracts and specifications or interpreting them.
Contract administrators are construction professionals who determine what is required in contracts, and they verify that projects are being constructed according to the contracts and specifications. Construction personnel may provide depositions or testify in court if there are accidents at construction sites or if there are claims that cannot be resolved through other dispute-resolution techniques. Construction personnel may also provide expert witness testimony in lawsuits related to their areas of expertise.
Consulting - Construction Management
Construction managers are responsible for managing the day-to-day processes at construction sites. They monitor schedules, costs, quality, labor, resources and equipment to determine whether projects are progressing as originally planned, and they manage all of the personnel required to build construction projects. They are involved in planning, scheduling, estimating, procurement, expediting, controls and value engineering. They also oversee contract administration, field estimates, inspections, progress measurements, progress payments to contractors, process change orders and interface with the home office.
Construction managers may work directly for owners and in this position they monitor construction for the owner and keep projects on schedule and under budget.
Engineered construction refers to projects that are planned and designed by engineers rather than architects. They typically are publicly funded, functional structures that provide a service to society and that require “heavy” materials such as earth, rock, concrete and steel. The main categories of engineered projects are highways (these are covered under Heavy/Highway Construction), dams, sewage treatment plants, pump stations, airfields and electrical transmission stations.
Construction personnel may be involved in designing projects or in revising designs during construction to reflect current job-site conditions. Construction managers can be involved in constructability reviews during the design stage.
Designing projects requires developing new ideas, determining their feasibility, analyzing their components, designing the structure, generating the plans, specifications and contracts. Construction managers help design engineers determine whether their designs are feasible, whether they could be built, whether there are more efficient methods for constructing the structures and whether there are alternative materials that could be used in the structures.
When structures fail, they are investigated to determine the causes of the failures and to learn how to prevent future failures in similar structures. Engineers and construction managers investigate construction failures in a manner similar to private investigators analyzing crime scenes. They determine everything that took place at the time of the failure, who was involved, what materials were being used, how the structure was designed, what surrounded the structure that failed, what personnel were working on it at the time of the failure and any external influences that might have contributed to the failure.
A thorough investigation is performed by engineers and construction managers who then generate a report for government agencies, owners and insurance companies. The failures may be as simple as a problem with guardrails or pipes or as complex as problems with oil tanks or gas storage facilities.
Heavy/highway construction encompasses structures that require the movement of large quantities of earth and the building of massive concrete and steel structures. This category covers the building of roadways, transit systems, major highways, bridges, airfields, dams and anything else requiring major excavations. In addition to excavating sites, structures are built that require the movement of large quantities of materials or structural elements such as bridge sections.
The area of heavy/highway construction requires CM personnel to be familiar with the equipment and methods of heavy construction as well as the construction management techniques required for managing all types of construction projects.
Industrial construction creates structures that manufacture products or services. They are usually highly technical in nature and built by private owners in the U.S., or they may be public projects in other countries due to their high costs. Industrial construction projects include oil and gas refineries, power plants, steel mills, smelters, liquefied natural gas plants and fertilizer plants.
Before they are built, a model of the structure is made in order to ensure there are no interferences between the electrical, piping, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and the structural elements.
Smaller industrial projects require complex structures that have to be prefabricated and erected at job sites such as oil tanks and water towers.
Mega industrial projects such as nuclear power plants involve all of the engineering disciplines in the design and construction of facilities. These projects take many years to design and more than 10 years to construct.
Project managers are involved in projects from inception to completion and are responsible for meeting project objectives.
The major disciplines they have to be familiar with are engineering, cost management, contract law, negotiations, planning and scheduling and estimating. Project managers are involved with organizing, planning, scheduling, coordinating with other departments, expediting materials, drawings, approvals, coordinating with clients, securing permits and licenses, negotiating claims, writing management reports and conducting meetings.
At the start of a project, if there are existing structures that have to be demolished, project managers coordinate the permits for the contractor.
After demolition, project managers optimize resources and manpower such as the delivery of materials or excavation of earth.
Site layout is an important part of project management. A properly laid out job site maximizes productivity.
As a structure rises, project managers are responsible for coordinating all of the activities on site and for monitoring construction processes, schedules and budgets.
As projects near completion project, managers are involved in close out activities and negotiating claims for change orders that reflect additional work.
Project managers also manage field supervisors, monitor quality control, ensure a safe working environment, provide site security, record daily activities in logs, manage payrolls, work with members of unions and vendors and provide field designs and redesigns when contracts are changed during construction.
Residential construction contains all of the elements of the different types of construction but on a smaller scale. Residential construction includes single-family dwellings as well as condominiums, townhouses and low-rise and high-rise apartments. These structures are designed either by architects, engineers, contractors or owners, or plans may be purchased from catalogs.
Residential structures require foundation designs, excavation, concrete placing; framing, roofing, electrical, plumbing, masonry, painting, finishing, heating, ventilating, cooling systems and other trades. A common practice now is to use prefabricated elements, such as roof trusses, rather than building everything on site as this reduces construction.
Construction managers are usually required for residential construction when multiple dwelling units are being built or when a development is being designed and built.
Construction Management Career Paths
Graduates of CM programs may move up through the profession either through the project superintendent career path or through the construction management career path to the position of project manager. The next level is either manager of projects, vice president, president or chief executive officer of a firm or owner of a company.
With a degree in construction management, students have the option of several different career paths. Typical starting positions include the following:
- Contract administrator
- Cost control
- Project controls
- Facilities manager
- Assistant construction manager
- Construction manager
- Assistant project manager
- Project manager
The following links provide information on jobs available for construction management graduates:
- Simply Hired
- Career Builder
- Kimmel & Associates
- AEC Job Bank
To learn more about the Construction Management Department, please review our mission and goals, browse our FAQs or contact us with your questions. We look forward to hearing from you.
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