Construction Management – Does Formal Education Matter?

In the past few weeks, I’ve been receiving cards in the mail informing me of the graduations of friends and family. All eight graduates seem to be on a college track this year, and some with a focused career pursuit.  According to a study done by Statista, 35.4% of men and 36.6% of women in the United States had completed four years or more of college in 2019. This figure is up from 5.5% for men and 3.8% of women in 1940 and up from 27.8% of males and 23.6% of females since 2000.

The US Department of Labor has a chart showing the median earnings based on someone’s education.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the career path for Construction Managers requires a four-year degree and the average salary nationally for those with degrees is $97,180 per year.

Although the average salary for those in construction is close to six figures, even with a four-year degree it is not guaranteed you will ever reach that compensation range.  Education is just one component of a successful career. Your work ethic, attitude, emotional intelligence, geographic location, health and well-being, employer choices along with other factors will affect it as well.

Oftentimes we have candidates who refer to a friend’s compensation and feel that because their title, education, years of experience are similar that they should therefore expect the same salary. We help them to evaluate their career instead of assuming or comparing another’s compensation rate to their own.  Although both of them may have the same educational degree, their friend could have gained more work experience or have advanced soft-skills, business relationships, or some other trait that helped them along the way.

When it comes to educational credentials, as a stand-alone they do not bring much value in construction.  While most management jobs prefer a minimum of a four-year degree, often they will still consider a candidate based on other attributes.

College Factual states that in 2018-2019, construction management was the 153rd most popular major nationwide, with 3,331 degrees awarded.

Approximately 108 colleges in the U.S. offer a construction management degree of some kind, and 76% of all construction managers in the U.S. today have a four-year college degree.  That number does not necessarily represent a degree in construction management, as some get their degrees in engineering, architecture, business, or accounting.  Moreover, there are quite a few that transition into construction from prior careers and do not have technical degrees at all.  Your degree is “most marketable” for management in construction if you have a degree in a construction, engineering or architecture discipline for self-explanatory reasons.

Your career is not defined by your credentials, yet the right credentials can distinguish your career and open doors.  Your ability to maintain a positive attitude towards completing your formal education and overall learning at any age is what ultimately counts.

To Your Success and Career Growth,

Suzanne Breistol


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