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Definition of Construction Project Management

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Paul Keleher:

Construction project management is the act of planning, organizing and overseeing the various tasks involved in a construction project. It is performed by individuals known as project managers, who represent the builder or contractor hired to perform the work. Construction project management is a complex task that changes dramatically from project to project. Employees working in this field will find that the requirements and processes of management will constantly shift depending on the specifics of the project.


Construction project management is used to ensure a project is built according to plan. This includes not only completing the project in accordance with the building plans, but also getting it done on time and within the specified budget. The project manager must also protect the interests of his employer by maximizing profit and keeping costs under control. He may perform estimates for the work, select subcontractors, write contracts and act as a coordinator among various trades as the job progresses.


There are several different types of construction project management careers. Most people in this field start as assistant project managers or project engineers. They assist more experienced managers with overseeing the job, and are able to learn about the profession through on-the-job experience. After five to 10 years as an assistant, the employee may be promoted to project manager. She will then manage projects independently, and will have the final responsibility for the success of the project. Senior project managers may oversee multiple projects or employees, stepping in to solve difficult or complex problems.


Construction project management staff were traditionally promoted from trade positions such as carpentry or plumbing. By the late 20th century, construction had grown so complex that companies began to favor education over experience. Today's construction project managers often require degrees in engineering or construction management. Others may have business degrees or MBAs combined with some building experience.

Work Conditions

Project managers work for general contractors, subcontractors or private owners like schools or municipalities. Depending on the job, they may work out of a job site trailer or from a regular office. Most project managers will spend significant time on a job site, which can be dirty, loud and dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for construction project managers was $73,700, as of May 2006.


One of the most important skills required for construction project management is an understanding of the building process. This includes recognizing materials and equipment and having the knowledge and experience needed to solve problems on the site. Construction project managers should also be comfortable communicating with different types of people, from project owners to tradesmen. It is also helpful to have strong computer skills, including word processing and spreadsheet use as well as basic construction scheduling software.


Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.