Construction workers are in demand, and so are those who manage job sites, workers, and supplies. These construction managers usually need a degree in order to advance in this potentially lucrative field. This guide to online construction management degrees focuses on the most pertinent things prospective students need to know before they leap into higher education. Topics range from understanding the range of programs and degrees available online to an overview of concentrations and certifications. Also useful is an interview with someone who has already walked this educational path.
Students looking to enter the workforce for the first time or long-time workers who want to change or advance their careers have a long list of possibilities open to them. Why pick construction management? The individuals profiled below are a sampling of those who have varied and important reasons to choose both online learning and the construction management degree.
There are numerous degree options for those who want to enter construction management. Though most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree for entry-level work, many students opt to begin with the associate degree, or choose to take their education further with the master’s or PhD. This timeline breaks down the various degree programs, how long they take to complete, and what students can expect from each. Please note that the time required for any of the following programs can vary, depending upon how many classes a student takes, how quickly he/she completes those classes, and what kind of concentrations or specializations he/she might choose.
A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum sought by employers for entry-level work, but the associate degree offers many strong benefits for those who want to explore the field at a more affordable cost, and then transfer into a four-year degree. The associate degree prepares students to enter the bachelor’s degree program by offering a wealth of general education courses, as well as courses that focus on the fundamentals of construction management, such as cost estimations, reading and creating blueprints, and understanding supply chains. These fundamental courses provide a firm foundation for students who want to transfer their credits to a bachelor’s degree program in construction management or a related degree field. A two-year online degree, plus work experience, might be enough for the construction manager who supervises smaller projects.
Often available through community colleges as an online degree, the associate in construction management can also serve as a stepping stone for students who need a general degree in order to advance in their current position in the construction industry. Though the typical degree path takes two years to complete, students who take accelerated courses might be able to complete the associate degree in 18 months or even less.
This is usually what employers want to see on a resume for a construction manager. The bachelor’s degree begins with general education courses that lay the foundation for all other courses throughout the program, such as mathematics, English, social studies, and the like. Students can also enroll in core courses in construction management, such as the following:
Statics and Strength: An overview of building materials and their stresses, deflections and static loads, including the physics of construction and processes that affect the strength of building material.
Building Codes: Designed to familiarize students with various building codes, including those for plumbing, electrical, mechanical and structural. Also focuses on zoning ordinances, assessments and inspections.
Principles of Building Construction Management: A broad overview of the construction management profession, including the history, typical roles and responsibilities, environmental concerns, current issues and career paths.
Construction and Measurement: Understanding the importance of layout, leveling, surveying, management of underground utilities, soil conditions, storm water drainage and more in the context of building.
Project Scheduling: Planning for equipment, labor and materials, as well as using a variety of communication tools in planning and scheduling projects with all vendors and workers.
Safety Management: Focus on all safety aspects on a construction site, including program development, federal and state regulations, life-saving equipment, personnel protection and safety administration.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently over 100 programs for construction management in the United States. Many of these programs are online and can be found at colleges and universities, private colleges, and dedicated online schools. The bachelor’s degree program usually takes four years to complete. The nature of online learning also makes it easier for students who need more than the standard four years, if they choose to work at a slower pace while juggling family and career obligations.
Once the bachelor’s degree is complete, students can opt to hone their skills even further with the master’s degree in construction management. The master’s degree program focuses on advanced concepts in construction management, including leadership, construction operation, and current and emerging management techniques and skills. Depending on the college, a student may be required to complete a thesis. Some colleges, however, may not have such a requirement. Purdue College of Technology’s online MS in Building Construction Management program, for instance, does not mandate a thesis, but students will need to complete a capstone paper discussing how to improve a company or one’s specialized knowledge. Some of the more common courses at the master’s degree level include:
Construction Leadership: Practices and principles of leadership are discussed here, including leadership styles and traits, motivation, emotional intelligence, prevailing theories of leadership, dealing with change, collaborative environments and alliances, and more.
Control Techniques: Topics include how to control the management of a project from start to finish, including contracts and procurement, planning for a bid, cash flow, project budgets and an overview of current case studies.
Cost Estimations and Bidding Strategies: Focus on proper estimations of project cost and strategies to convey those costs when bidding, as well as analyzing competition, profit objectives, and determining balances between profit and cost.
Risk Management in Construction: This course delves into the risks involved in the technical and business aspects of construction, including astute assessment and developing the appropriate strategies of response.
Accounting and Financial Management: Examines accounting that specifically applies to construction projects, such as tracking of overhead, equipment, labor, materials and other resources. Also offers information on tax implications, revenue from contracts and proper financial reporting.
Keep in mind that these are examples of the core courses one might take in a master’s degree program–at this level, concentration courses typically fill up the last several semesters and include targeted education in various fields, such as project management or real estate.
The master’s degree may take less than two years to earn. Many online construction management programs are designed with working professionals in mind, so students can proceed at their own pace and complete the work on a schedule that is right for them. Some students can finish the master’s program within one year, while others space out the classes and spend three years on their master’s degree.
Students who opt for an online certificate in construction management might do so at any point in the educational journey. Some jump right into a certificate program through a vocational or technical college, and might take six months to a year to complete the requirements. Others who already have experience in the industry may look for a professional certificate as a means of enhancing or specializing their construction management skills and knowledge. In this case, a certificate program can help individuals brush up on current management techniques, keep up-to-date with evolving industry developments and standards, and qualify for advanced positions.
Students can choose an entry-level certificate or a certificate with prerequisites, which can only be earned after a certain degree has been reached. In either case, the amount of time required for the certificate program itself is typically anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the school’s offerings, the student’s chosen pace, and how in-depth the courses to earn the certificate might be.
Those who have a particular career path in mind under the umbrella of construction management can target their education through a concentration or specialization. There are dozens of concentrations to choose from–most schools offer at least two or three, especially at the master’s degree level. Some of the most common concentrations for construction management professionals include:
Commercial construction: For those who intend to work with larger buildings, such as grocery stores, shopping malls, large office complexes, and the like.
Residential construction: Designed for those who intend to manage projects related to family homes, apartments, subdivisions, and similar residential buildings and facilities.
Sustainable and green construction: Focuses on materials and best practices that are friendly to the earth, including LEED certifications and sustainable buildings.
Heavy construction (civil engineering): This concentration is ideal for those who want to manage projects that involve building bridges, roadways, airports, and the like.
Specialty construction (mechanical and electrical): Emphasis on working with electrical wiring and mechanical requirements of large buildings.
Concrete construction: Overview of the requirements and unique aspects of concrete used for residential, commercial, and heavy construction.
Building for disaster-resistant communities: Focuses on building techniques and infrastructure systems that can withstand natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and the like.
Students who are interested in a particular emphasis should decide on their educational path at the start of their construction management program, so that they have plenty of time to complete the proper prerequisites.
Earning a degree requires time, money, and effort. Those who choose to put forth all of that energy should be absolutely certain they have chosen the right online program in order to make their time and financial contributions worthwhile. Here are some of the most important elements to consider when narrowing down the list of online construction management degrees and the schools that provide them.
Accreditation. One of the most important components of any college education is accreditation status. Accreditation means that the school or program has been reviewed by an impartial accrediting body and has been found to meet the standards that put it on par with other colleges and universities. Furthermore, accreditation matters greatly to those in construction management, as the important Certified Construction Manager credential can only be awarded to those who earned a degree from an accredited college or university.
Faculty with construction industry knowledge. Those who want to become the best must learn from the best. That’s why the quality of the faculty teaching every course in construction management is so important. Look for professors who have a great deal of industry experience as project managers, construction managers/superintendents, or construction consultants; have conducted research or presented studies that made waves in the construction community; or have set forth initiatives that eventually changed how certain things are done in the field.
Internships and other hands-on opportunities. In the world of construction, education matters, but so does experience. Many online construction management degree programs work closely with a variety of companies and businesses to provide internship placement, hands-on training, and further experience for participants. Look for a school that has numerous opportunities available to students who wish to accumulate experience while they continue earning their degree.
Format and time expectations. When choosing an online program, look for those that allow the ultimate in flexibility. Those in construction management need to have a great deal of experience under their belt, which means putting work aside for a few years to attend colleges in a brick-and-mortar institution is often not feasible. Online programs solve that problem by offering learning formats that allow students to take classes at a pace that is right for them. Students should consider their current work schedule, decide how much time they can devote to an educational program, and then look for an online construction management degree option that works for them.
Those who have never experienced distance education might wonder just what they will learn. Are the courses the same as what they would experience in a traditional program? Can students gain the valuable marketable skills and knowledge that they would if attending a campus-based program?
Below is a look at the skills and knowledge that distance students learn in an online construction management degree, and how those skills translate to the construction world.
|Course||Course Description||Skills and Knowledge Gained|
Project Management Introduction/ Overview
A study of this discipline, including history, tools and techniques, processes and principles, plus the evolution and life cycle of projects.
A deeper understanding of how and why certain techniques are used in project management, and how to apply each to actual projects in the field.
Legal Issues in Construction
An in-depth study of the legal points important in construction and management, including contracts, liens, litigation and arbitration, dealing with hazardous waste, and labor laws.
This prepares students to look for legal issues before they happen, choose their projects wisely to avoid any legal problems, and understand the labor laws that apply to their workers and projects.
Cost Estimates and Analysis
A financial course focusing on project costs, including labor, vendors, materials, and equipment. Students also learn about overhead, bidding, profits reporting and computer-based estimating.
A firm understanding of the financial implications of the job so that students can avoid mistakes in bidding and planning, thus saving them a great deal of money and hassle in the long run.
Focus on planning and creating schedules to take into account materials delivery, worker schedules, project constraints, equipment usage, and communication with all the appropriate parties.
Scheduling can make or break a project. Students are able to effectively handle scheduling conflicts that inevitably arise, as well as keep the big picture in mind when they begin to schedule a large-scale project.
Documents and Contracts
Students learn about the wide variety of documents and contracts that are generated when a project begins, understanding what each means, and how to protect themselves through the use of such documents.
Students gain knowledge that helps them understand and process new contracts, including what language to keep and/or avoid.
An understanding of building codes as they apply to various types of projects, including codes that govern plumbing, electrical, and mechanical.
Building codes are the constant companion of construction managers. Students are able to properly inspect and assess sites to ensure that all building codes are met, as well as provide instruction on how to fix problems when something does not pass inspection.
Management and Leadership Principles
Students learn advanced skills in leadership, management principles, dealing with a variety of strong personalities, understanding how to manage human resources, and how to keep their projects running smoothly.
Proper leadership and management are important on any project. Students are able to handle conflicts, motivate workers, and deal with individuals of all stripes during their time on a project.
Those in the construction industry can choose to further their education or enhance their resume with a variety of certifications in the field. In some cases, these certifications teach professionals a new angle on what they already know. In other cases, certification is a method of demonstrating knowledge and skills in a particular area or specialty.
One of the most frequent certifications for construction managers is the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential, offered through the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA). Those who choose to earn the CCM can do so with varying levels of education: a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree plus four years of experience, or no degree but at least eight years of experience in the field. In addition, the applicant must complete at least 48 months of experience as a construction manager. These rigorous requirements help ensure that individuals have an extensive amount of relevant and current education and/or experience.
Another option for aspiring construction managers is the Construction Manager-in-Training credential, or CMIT. This is designed for those who are currently pursuing a degree or have just graduated from a construction management program. Candidates need to show that they are gaining the proper experience and have every intention of becoming a construction manager. This credential is available through the CMAA.
The American Institute of Constructors (AIC) also offers credentials suitable for those in construction management. For example, the Associate Constructor (AC) certification is for those who are entering the profession, while the Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) is designed for those who have at least eight years of experience in the field–in reality, the average CPC holder has 24 years of experience.
Other qualifications are available to provide more training in particular aspects of construction. Common credentials address subjects such as health and safety, lead abatement, asbestos removal, scaffold building, forklift operation, and pipeline operations. Credentials from national agencies and organizations include green building/LEED certifications and OSHA safety certifications.
Many construction managers choose to earn individual certifications gradually, enhancing their job prospects, knowledge, and skills over time. Those who plan to work in a specific area, such as commercial building or energy-saving construction, can find numerous certifications that might help in their pursuit of advancement.
Construction manager is a typical title for those who graduate with an online construction management degree or a related major. But the world of construction is a vast one, and there are many opportunities outside of this specific role. The following three jobs could be considered non-traditional, but they put the same skills and knowledge learned in a construction management program to good use.
Talking with those who have already walked the educational path of a construction manager can be a huge help to those who are considering the degree. Lauren Permuy, the Vice President of Business Development at Power Design, Inc., has a few words of wisdom for those who are intending to enter construction management.
What led to your decision to pursue a position in construction management?
When I first was accepted to the University of Florida, I wanted to major in marketing until I interned at Power Design for a summer. I got the opportunity to see a lot of different project types and experience several facets of the industry. It was fun to work on such large scale and high profile buildings. Power Design specializes in high rises, so it was very rewarding for me to drive through several major metropolitan markets and be able to point out projects that I had a hand in building. After that, I changed my focus the next semester to construction management and never looked back. Also, my parents work in construction and they love it. I grew up hearing about the business around the dinner table so I was always drawn to it.
What is your educational background, and how does it apply to your current position?
I got my Bachelor of Science in Construction Management at the University of Florida and it has served me well in my career. At the University of Florida, the construction program focuses on construction from the general contractor’s point of view. Even though I work for an electrical contractor, all my clients are GCs and developers so I was able to get a good understanding of their language and expectations and how to relate.
What does your day-to-day work entail?
I spend a lot of time working with clients on projects they have in the pipeline. In conjunction with our regional operations teams, I analyze if Power Design is the right fit and strategize our approach. I provide a national understanding of the customer relationship while the regional operation teams provide feedback on their resource availability and desire for that type of project in the specific area.
Do you have any advice for students interested in entering construction management?
The construction markets are getting busier and there is a labor shortage. There are a lot of job opportunities right now. I recommend that once students are in the program, they keep an open mind. Like I mentioned earlier, the classes are geared toward general construction, but there are a lot of great opportunities to work for subcontractors with the chance to become more specialized.
While those working in construction management historically have not been required to hold a degree, more and more those who aspire to top level positions will be expected to have postsecondary education. Institutions across the nation have responded to this need, creating options ranging from certificates and associate degrees to master’s level studies. The search tool below will help students sort through these options while also only showing students online construction management programs that meet their criteria in areas such as financial assistance, real-world training options, and excellent student support.
Online construction management programs provide the valuable tools and knowledge needed to pursue or further a career in the field. We’ve scoured the options available to provide the most comprehensive list of online construction management degrees possible. Schools ranked on this list provide some of the best resources to students, including academic and career counseling services, affordable tuition and job placement services. Utilizing these metrics, along with a host of other data, we’ve ranked the nation’s online construction management degrees to find the best options available for students. Find out who made the list for Best Online Construction Management Programs for the 2015-2016 school year.
For more information on how we’ve chosen these programs, please see our methodology page.
|Rank||School Name||Score||Cost||More Info|
|1||East Carolina University||96.69|
East Carolina University offers a Master in Construction Management to eligible students. The program includes both online and offline courses. On campus, the department provides a high-bay laboratory used for the purpose of large-scale testing. Faculty members encourage students to take part in applied research and professional development. Students must complete 30 graduate credits to earn their degrees, as well as remedial coursework in construction documents and analysis, materials and methods, safety, estimating, scheduling and equipment management.
|2||Western Carolina University||96.62|
Project managers seeking to upgrade their knowledge of technology can do so in the master of construction management program offered by Western Carolina University. The program includes of 30 semester hours, 18 of which are core and the remaining 12 are electives. Areas of focus include contracts and specifications, safety, quality control, land development, finance and accounting. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate courses, with exceptions for applicants who have proven work experience. Students can access classes through various Internet resources including Blackboard, Go to Meeting, the WCU library and instructors' homepages.
|4||University of Alabama at Birmingham||96.18|
The curriculum from the University of Alabama challenges students to prepare for leadership in the technical and construction industries. Students must have at least two years of relevant work experience and a bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. university before applying to the program. The program can be completed in 18 months and is designed for working professionals with careers in engineering, construction or project management. Students will learn analytical and problem-solving skills and have the chance to meet peers in similar industries. Those who use the university's e-learning program have access to academic advising and calendars, a math learning lab and traditional campus resources.
|5||University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point||96.13|
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point offers a master of construction management program that assists students in applying theory to real-world problems in construction. Designed for workers with five or more years of experience in the industry 30 are required for graduation. Before joining the program, students must have received a bachelor's degree in construction or a related field, a 3.0 GPA or higher and experience in the discipline. Prospective students with a non-construction degree could be accepted if they have completed prerequisite coursework in construction courses such as electrical and plumbing and management of construction. Prospective students may also join the program with proof of an American Institute of Constructors Certification at the Associate Constructor or Certified Constructor.
|6||Eastern Kentucky University||96.06|
Industry professionals seeking to improve on their current experience can earn a master's degree in as little as from Easter Kentucky University. The program is geared toward project managers of all levels, engineers and executive-track construction managers. Courses begin every eight weeks, and there is no GRE/GMAT requirement for students who have a 3.0 GPA or above. A bachelor's degree in construction management is usually a prerequisite for the program, with the exception of construction professionals who have been in the field for three or more years.
|7||University of Houston||95.88|
Students choosing this MS degree program from the University of Houston will learn skills in estimating, scheduling, contract administration and project management. Skills will be applicable in fields requiring knowledge of risk analysis, quality management and leadership theories. To earn the degree, 31 semester hours must be completed with fundamental courses including estimating, scheduling and contract administration and candidates must have a 3.0 GPA on the most recent 60 hours of undergraduate coursework completed.
|8||Northern Arizona University||95.58|
The master's degree program in Construction Management offered by Northern Arizona University offers students the opportunity to further their careers as building inspectors, construction managers, equipment operator supervisors, foremen or project leads. Students must successfully complete at least 30 units of graduate-level classes with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and all work must be finished within six consecutive years. The university provides coursework via the Blackboard Learning platform for online students, where they can participate in discussion and view lecture presentations. Coursework is offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.
|9||South Dakota School of Mines and Technology||95.57|
Individuals who want to further their construction management careers can do so by entering the Master of Construction Management program from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Topics of study include construction contracts, project management, advanced construction management, equipment management, construction company management and construction operations and sustainability. Available electives include safety management, business strategy, innovation and commercialization or ergonomics. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and must have completed algebra and basic calculus and six hours of natural and physical science before they are eligible to enroll in the master's program.
|10||Arizona State University-Tempe||95.55|
The Del E. Webb School of Construction offers students a Master of Science degree in construction and facility management. Courses provide students with experience in maintaining, operating and decommissioning facilities. As one of the first universities to use Google's Apps for Education, students save their work in the cloud and are able to collaborate with classmates in real time and can use programs such as Zaption to create video activities for discussions, quizzes and receive feedback on their content in real time.
|11||University of Washington-Seattle Campus||95.20|
The master of constriction program at the University of Washington was developed in conjunction with experts in the heavy construction industry to train students in major infrastructure construction efforts and management principles. Courses cover commercial cost estimating, planning, scheduling and controlling projects, accident prevention and safety techniques. Students can read materials online, complete textbook assignments and communicate with instructors and other students through online discussion boards and email on a regular basis.
Students of the master's construction management program offered online by Everglades University can hone their skills in construction contracts, building codes and quality control, scheduling, construction law and managing projects. The construction management program is a concentration of the university's broader master's program in business administration. The program requires students to earn 12 credits in Strategic Management of Construction Organizations, Advanced Construction Estimating, Construction Scheduling and Planning Strategy and Legal Aspects in Construction before graduation. Students also must take 21 credits in other MBA courses and 3 credits of a capstone course before they are eligible to graduate.
|13||Wentworth Institute of Technology||93.88|
Working professionals who join the construction management program offered by Wentworth Institution of Technology will gain a clear perspective of the full construction industry. Students may complete their degrees in as little as two years. The program provides opportunities for discussion and interaction with peers and faculty and candidates must show competence in construction estimating, scheduling and management through prior class work, testing, architectural/engineering/construction positions or documented on-the-job experience. Coursework covers business finance and investment, business relations, economics, construction law, real estate and capstone research with a thesis option for 30 or 36 credits.