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Online Master's Programs in Construction Management

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Updated on: 01/07/2018

In 2017, the median pay for construction managers topped more than $91,000 annually, with those in the highest 10% of earners bringing home nearly $160,000 each year. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects construction management roles to increase in the coming years, earning a degree in this field can help those passionate about creating new spaces, or renovating existing ones, reach their career goals. Those who choose to pursue a master's in construction management online should already hold a bachelor's degree and may currently work within the field.

Keep reading to explore common coursework, related careers, and where to find financial assistance for these construction management programs.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Construction Management Program?

Students frequently elect to complete a master's in construction management for the professional advancement upon graduation. After enrolling, learners move through a sequence of courses designed to help them internalize skills and knowledge surrounding financial management, leadership, quality control, architecture, and real estate development. The majority of programs require between 30 and 36 credits, although those offering concentrations may require additional credits. Most take approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Learners opting for part-time coursework generally earn their degree within three years. Online and campus-based programs mirror one another in terms of course content and rigor, though learners may engage with the materials in different ways to account for the technology connecting them with peers.

What's the Difference Between a Master's in Construction Management and an MBA in Construction Management?

When reviewing potential master's in construction management online degrees, prospective students will likely come across MBA programs offering concentrations in construction management. While the standard MBA program mainly focuses on providing a business degree, concentrations teach students about the ins and outs of specific industry aspects. Both types can typically be completed in about two years through both online and campus-based programs. Learners should consider whether they want to focus the majority of their efforts on learning how to manage construction or if they want to focus on gaining general business skills.

What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Construction Management Program?

The courses discussed in the following section can help interested students gain insight into what to expect in a master's in construction management online degree. While these core classes are common at many institutions, curriculum often varies by school.

Intro to Construction Management

Taken in the first semester, this course introduces learners to construction management within commercial, residential, infrastructure, and industry space before looking at how construction managers typically interact with other building professionals. The course also helps students familiarize themselves with construction sites and the rules governing them.

Methods of Construction

Students look at some of the most common means of building structures, including methods of assembly, the sequence in which construction typically takes place, and the equipment and materials used in the process. Learners also examine permits for residential versus commercial zoning.

Construction Management Technologies

This course introduces degree seekers to the existing and emerging technologies used to help managers oversee job sites, design structures, manage budgets, create cost reports, handle timecards for employees, and provide timely updates to clients throughout the project.

Project Management on Construction Sites

Both a leadership and process course, students learn about the practicalities of managing a large-scale construction project. Topics include project planning, hiring and overseeing workers, evaluating and adhering to project timelines, handling issues or mistakes, and managing morale.

Structural Systems in Construction

With a focus on building sound structures, this course introduces students to the variety of structural support systems in building. The syllabus reviews concrete and steel usage, providing context for when to apply each. Learners also consider short-term structural supports, such as scaffolding and how to create safe working environments.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

When considering the graduation requirements of a master's in construction management online program, students will likely come across many options. Most degrees require that learners complete some type of hands-on practicum to help build skills in both leadership and site management. Some also require a culminating project that takes all the various facets of learning from the degree and brings them into a final presentation. Examples may include construction site management plans or a portfolio of work. Finally, some programs allow learners to complete a thesis, which typically appeals to individuals looking to further their education, gain a teaching role, or complete research about the industry.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Construction Management Program?

Because construction management provides such a wide spectrum of job opportunities, numerous schools offer specializations to help learners concentrate their knowledge in a particular area. While the three highlighted below are quite common, learners should research individual schools to get an accurate sense of specific institutional offerings.

Real Estate Development

Designed for individuals looking to work in the residential housing market, this concentration introduces risk management, conducting feasibility studies, the economics of urban land, eco-friendly development, and managing large-scale projects to help students gain specific skills.

Finance

While many think of construction managers overseeing building projects, these professionals must also possess a full understanding of financial aspects to keep clients happy. This specialization provides an overview of various topics in this area, including property investment, mortgage-backed securities, and creating/managing project budgets.

Environmental Construction

With a focus on helping construction managers learn about processes and materials that reduce our carbon footprint, this specialization introduces a range of eco-friendly and green building concepts. Topics include sustainable engineering, air pollution assessments, soil behavior, environmental contaminants, hazardous waste management, and groundwater pollution.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Construction Management Degree?

Construction management provides a spectrum of options based on student interests and career goals. While some graduates want to work exclusively in commercial development, others may set their sights firmly on residential real estate growth and urban development. Regardless of their intentions, the career profiles below exist to help students get a sense of what's possible and where their careers may take them over time. Degree seekers should remember that completing a master's in construction management does not guarantee eligibility for these positions. Some may require additional education, certification, or licensure.

Construction Managers

As job site leaders, construction managers serve clients by creating a work schedule and budget to lead the project. On a daily basis, they review contracts, hire and manage workers and subcontractors, confer with other building professionals on particular aspects of design and sustainability, ensure all legal requirements are met, and report updates to clients.

Architects

Working either as part of an architectural firm or independently as a consultant, architects meet client needs by designing buildings and other structures. They meet with clients to understand needs, create blueprints for new designs or renovations to existing structures, develop contracts, hire construction workers, and oversee worksites for progress and specifications.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Rather than providing hands-on services to clients seeking architectural plans, managers in this sphere oversee other architects and ensure projects stay both on task and on budget. They hire new staff, encourage continuing education, review architectural plans for accuracy, develop relationships with potential new clients, and supply the office with the tools and technologies needed to continue producing architectural designs.

Civil Engineers

Whether working on residential, commercial, infrastructure, or industrial projects, civil engineers oversee work to ensure design and construction meet local codes. They often liaise with others in the construction community to gain permits, test soil and building materials, and execute surveys for proper location and layout.

Landscape Architects

Rather than working with buildings like traditional architects, landscape architects use natural surroundings to create land and water features for clients. A typical day may include reviewing or developing site plans, creating cost estimates, coordinating the purchase of landscape materials, conferring with other professionals about the work product, or reviewing environmental reports about soil, drainage, or available sunlight.

Construction Management Associations and Organizations

Professional organizations provide both students and graduates of master's in construction management online programs a space where they can network with other professionals in their field, take advantage of local and national events, find details about jobs in their area, or receive advice about how to jumpstart their careers.

Construction Management Association of America

Comprising more than 16,000 members, the CMAA serves construction professionals through certification programs, ongoing education and training opportunities, regularly scheduled conferences, resources, and a career headquarters.

American Institute of Constructors

In operation since 1971, AIC provides a highly regarded certification program alongside an active job board, an annual leadership summit, and many other resources to help construction professionals progress their careers.

American Society of Civil Engineers

ASCE maintains members from every corner of the country by providing community building network events, ongoing education, national conferences and regional meet-ups, publications, and an active career page.

American General Contractors of America

In 2018, AGCA celebrated its 100th anniversary. This golden standard organization offers members an annual conference, construction case studies, an awards program, training programs, and a resource library.

Associated Builders and Contractors

ABC represents more than 21,000 active members through local chapters, strategic partnerships, member discounts, advocacy, and education and training programs.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Construction Management?

Many professionals enjoy construction management due to its blend of interesting work and active days. In addition to meeting personal preferences, individuals pursuing this path can also earn lucrative salaries and advance their careers over time. While a degree in construction management does not guarantee eligibility for the positions highlighted below, it can help move professionals toward their career goals.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Construction Manager Less than $54,810 $91,370 More than $159,560 +11%
Architect Less than $47,480 $78,470 More than $134,610 +4%
Architectural & Engineering Manager Less than $88,050 $137,720 More than $208,000 +6%
Civil Engineer Less than $54,150 $84,770 More than $138,110 +11%
Landscape Architect Less than $40,480 $65,760 More than $108,470 +6%

Source: BLS, 2018

While positions for construction managers and civil engineers sit well above the national average for all job growth rates, other roles fall within the overall average. No positions are projected to see decline, which offers some level of stability for individuals considering these paths. Additionally, as more companies and developers look to eco-friendly building, contractors with knowledge in this area will be in great demand.

In terms of salary projections, students should consider various factors when assessing earning potential. Degree level represents a major factor. While Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce does not track information on construction managers, it does track general architecture data. According to research, those with bachelor's degrees earn median annual salaries of $67,000 while graduates of master's programs bring home median salaries of $76,000 each year.

Online Master's in Construction Management Program Accreditation

In addition to ensuring that any prospective program provides the curriculum and specializations needed to propel a student into their ideal career, learners must also consider accreditation. Degree seekers can also look for programmatic accreditation in this field. While regional accreditation examines the institution as a whole, programmatic accreditation focuses on assessing how well the specific degree prepares students for the workforce, the rigorousness of curriculum, and if the school provides reasonable support and resources during and after students' education.

For master's in construction management online programs, the American Council for Construction Education offers accreditation. Students looking for more information on regionally accredited schools can search the databases of the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to see if their prospective school has been vetted.

How to Pay for a Master's in Construction Management Degree

Because the cost of higher education continues to rise, the vast majority of learners need help funding their education. Thankfully, numerous aid options exists, some of which do not need to be repaid. After reviewing the resources mentioned below, learners should complete additional research to explore even more financial aid options.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    The first step students should take when seeking financial aid involves filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This shows a student's qualifications for federal loans, scholarships, and grants. Many institutions also use the information to award institutional scholarships, grants, and fellowships.

  • Institutional Scholarships

    Many schools provide scholarships specifically for learners enrolled in a master's in construction management online program, as evidenced by the award offered jointly by the University of North Florida and the American Concrete Institute. Students should check with prospective schools to learn more about these types of funds.

  • Association Scholarships

    Numerous professional organizations provide scholarships to members to help offset education costs. One example includes the Association of Women Contractors' academic scholarships for women working to become construction managers.

  • Student Assistantships/Fellowships

    In addition to scholarships, some programs provide assistantships and fellowships whereby students can offset their fees and receive a stipend each semester in exchange for services, such as grading papers, lecturing, and performing other needed services. Bowling Green State University offers just one example of schools that provide these funding options.