Construction Management Certificate vs. Degree [10 Points to Consider]

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Construction projects of any scale require precise planning and management to ensure that work gets done on time and on budget. And with many moving parts and workers tackling various tasks from day to day, having a capable construction manager is the foundation for success on the job site.


To learn these job skills and start your career in construction management, there are a few different paths you can take — either earn a construction management certificate or a construction management degree. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, but how can you know which one is right for you? Read on for 10 points to consider in pursuit of a construction project management job.

What is Construction Project Management?

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), the leading professional association for construction project managers, defines this role as “a professional service that provides a project’s owner(s) with effective management of the project's schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function. Construction management is compatible with all project delivery methods, and no matter the setting, a Construction Manager’s (CMs) responsibility is to be the owner and to manage a successful project.”

Day to day, construction project managers plan, coordinate, budget and supervise construction projects from start to finish. They coordinate and oversee construction of residential, commercial and industrial structures, and even a wide variety of additional projects such as roads, bridges and infrastructure.

The specific duties of a construction project manager, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, typically include the following:

  • Prepare cost estimates, budgets and work timetables

  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to other professionals

  • Report work progress and budget matters to clients

  • Collaborate with architects, engineers and other construction specialists

  • Select subcontractors and schedule and coordinate their activities

  • Respond to work delays, emergencies and other problems

  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Is a Construction Management Certificate Worth It?

YES! Earning a construction management certificate will equip you with the skills, strategies and insights needed to be successful in a career as a construction project manager. However, it will largely depend on where you earn this certificate — during your search, seek out construction management certificate programs that offer:

  • Modern, cutting-edge curriculum at an accredited college or university

  • Top-notch faculty who are also experienced practitioners

  • Personalized attention in small to medium class sizes 

  • Convenient online and flexible scheduling so you can still continue to work

In a certificate program, you will learn much of the same content and concepts that you would in a formal degree program. The upside of a certificate program, though, is that you can complete the program in a fraction of the time. What’s more, because certificate programs run in shorter intervals, practitioners are more frequently updating and refreshing their curricula. That means you’re learning the most up-to-date and relevant concepts in construction management.

 

Construction Management Certificate Pros & Cons

Pros Cons

 

Can be completed quickly and requires fewer credits                                                                                   

 

 

Might not qualify you for the same jobs a bachelor’s or master’s degree would                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

More cost effective

Sometimes not held in the same regard as a degree

Likely available online

 

Highly collaborative learning experience

 

Curriculum updated frequently to reflect more current, real-world construction management content

 

Focus of learning outcomes is on comprehension and ability to apply skills and knowledge to the job.

 

Is a Construction Management Degree Worth It?

Yes, it can be, for the right person in the right circumstances. Pursuing higher education of any kind is a wise investment in your future, so of course earning a degree in construction management is a good choice. But, pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree is much different than earning a certificate.

Earning a construction management degree will take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are scholarships available and some companies offer tuition reimbursement programs, which can help offset the cost. Certificates and degree programs cover the same content, but degree programs will likely prepare you for more leadership-type roles. So depending on what your career goals are, a construction management degree can prove to be worthwhile. 

 

Construction Project Management Degree Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Prepares you for leadership positions More expensive
Some jobs require a bachelor or master’s degree Takes more time to complete
Looks good on a resume and might help you stand out on job applications You will spend less time on the jobsite and more time in the classroom

 

Construction Management Certificate vs. Degree Comparison Table

  Certificate Degree
Time commitment Approximately 10 months Approximately 2 years
Cost $2,488 - $3,140 $20,000 - $25,000
Topics covered
  • Project management fundamentals

  • Construction project management

  • Scope, schedule, cost and quality management

  • Resource, communications, risk and procurement management

  • Stakeholder and financial management and health, safety and security

  • Project management fundamentals

  • Construction project management

  • Scope, schedule, cost and quality management

  • Resource, communications, risk and procurement management

  • Stakeholder and financial management and health, safety and security

Career outlook Construction project managers can earn anywhere between $95,260 - $164,790 Construction project managers can earn anywhere between $95,260 - $164,790

Careers and Career Outlook in Construction Project Management

One of the most appealing aspects of a career in construction management is that no two days will be exactly the same. You will work on many different types of projects of varying sizes and scopes, keeping your day-to-day interesting and exciting. On the whole, some of the most common job sites you will find yourself on include: 

  • Residential Building Construction

  • Commercial/Office Buildings

  • Specialty Structures, such as Brownfield or Greenfield projects

  • Design Elements (remodeling/designing the interiors and exteriors of buildings)

  • Development (e.g., urban/city planning; restoration; repurposing buildings and the surrounding spaces)

  • Civil and Highway Construction (bridges, tunnels, roadways, dams, canals, etc.)

The even better news about a construction project management career is that you will be in high demand. The Project Management Institute’s Job Growth and Talent Gap in Project Management report forecasts a 33% increase in construction project management jobs, which equals nearly 22 million new jobs by the year 2027. 

And because there is such high demand for these positions, compensation is also on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median annual salaries of $95,260 for construction managers, with the top 10% earning more than $164,790.

FAQs About the USD PCE Construction Management Certificate

Q: What is construction management?

A: The discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. 

Q: What is a construction manager?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a construction manager is someone who “coordinates and supervises a variety of projects, including building public, residential, commercial, and industrial structures as well as roads and bridges. Either a general contractor or a construction manager oversees the construction phase of a project, including personnel, but a construction manager may also consult with the client during the design phase to help refine construction plans and control costs.”

Q: What are the 5 stages of building construction and steps to manage a construction project?

A: Initiation, planning, implementation, performance and monitoring, and closing.

Q: I don't have a background in construction management. Am I qualified to enter this program?

A: Anyone can enroll in the USD Construction Management certificate program. However, it helps to either be working in construction planning or managing, or those who aspire to do so. Typical backgrounds of people who have enrolled in this program include:

  • Contractors and subcontractors

  • Managers in specialized construction fields, such as carpentry or plumbing

  • Construction specialists, including estimators, schedulers, cost engineers, project control analysts and quantity surveyors

  • Risk management specialists

  • Real estate developers

  • Construction consultants and other industry trade professionals

Q: What are the requirements to earn the certificate?

A: To earn a construction management certificate from USD, you must complete the following five courses with a final grade of C+ or better and have attended a minimum of 70% of scheduled class time.

  1. Project Management Fundamentals 

  2. Introduction to Construction Project Management

  3. Scope, Schedule, Cost and Quality Management

  4. Resource, Communications, Risk and Procurement Management 

  5. Stakeholder & Financial Management & Health, Safety and Security

Q: May I enroll in individual courses without completing the certificate?

A: Yes, but you must enroll in the first course in the sequence, Project Management Fundamentals, before moving on to the next course.

Q: How long will it take me to complete the Certificate Program?

A: Approximately 10 months. 

Q: What is the cost of the program?

A: Approximately $2,488 - $3,140.

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