9 Skills and Character Traits You Need
to Become a Construction Manager

See also: Management Skills

A construction manager’s job description can vary by client and circumstances. In the United States, there aren’t any standardized contracts or job descriptions for construction management. However, some US states do require licensure and may otherwise regulate construction management and there are also some certifying bodies that provide certifications to construction managers. In any case, it is typical for this job to require a complex set of skills and personality traits.

In the USA, it is common for construction managers to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a major such as architecture, engineering, construction science or construction management. Some construction managers also work as general contractors. Some licensed architects do significant amounts of project management work for the construction industry; however, while there is much overlap between an architect’s skill set and a construction manager’s, a construction manager’s ideal skill set isn’t strictly identical to an architect’s.

In Australia, it is common for construction managers to obtain either a university degree or a formal qualification in building or construction management. The Vocational Education and Training (VET) system provides an efficient means of obtaining relevant training in this vocation. A popular qualification is the Certificate IV in Building and Construction.

Let’s take a look at 9 of the most important skills a construction manager needs for success on the job:

1. Leadership and Collaborative Skills

A construction manager must possess both leadership skills and collaborative skills. While construction managers must be hands-on leaders and managers, they’ll also have to collaborate with a large number of other stakeholders, possibly including neighborhood association representatives, suppliers, planning commission staffers, building inspectors and other government officials. More general interpersonal skills are also crucial for the construction manager’s success.

2. Knowledge of Building and Construction Techniques

Construction managers will ideally have some hands-on experience with carpentry, masonry, drywall installation or another construction specialty. In some cases, the construction manager may actually be responsible for doing some of the labor; in other cases, s/he would act as an overseer of the work to be done. Either way, it’s important for the construction manager to be knowledgeable about how the work should proceed – and to recognize whether or not the other laborers involved with the project are doing their jobs correctly.

3. Familiarity with Building and Construction Industry Legal Standards:

In the United States, the Department of Labor has mandated federal laws, regulations and guidelines governing how construction contractors work. Additionally, state and local governments are able to mandate building codes and other regulations; for example, some regions have planning commissions that can influence the type of construction that may take place on a particular property. Beyond that, there may be neighborhood associations, homeowner’s associations or other governing bodies that enforce covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). These can sometimes include builder’s restrictions on a particular property. Construction managers must be able to understand all these complexities and guide their teams carefully to comply with every relevant mandate that affects each of their projects.

4. Awareness of Safety Protocols

A typical building site poses many possible hazards to human health. It’s all too easy for accidents to happen if safety protocols are not followed. It is a construction manager’s responsibility to ensure that everyone on a job site takes proper precautions to protect themselves and others from harm.

5. Assertiveness

The construction manager also needs to demonstrate assertiveness, because it’s not uncommon for contractors to violate safety protocols. The construction manager must be willing to intervene when anyone on the job site is engaging in unsafe behavior or otherwise putting the project in jeopardy.

6. Planning, Organizing and Time Management Skills

Each construction project has its own timeline, and each facet of each project must be completed on time. Furthermore, in many cases, a construction manager will be juggling multiple projects. This means the project manager must possess outstanding planning, organizing and time management skills:

  • Ability to Prioritize – With so many important details to coordinate, it’s crucial for the construction manager to have an understanding of which tasks must be completed first and which should be left to do later in the project.

  • Ability to Delegate – A construction manager absolutely cannot be a control freak who tries to do everything. The construction manager must be able to determine which team members would be best suited to completing each task on the to-do list, and must delegate the work accordingly.

7. Dexterity and Physical Stamina

Construction is hard physical labor, and it’s an asset if the construction manager is able to work on construction tasks. Physical stamina isn’t a strict requirement for every construction management job; there are cases when a construction manager can act as overseer without actually doing any of the labor. However, there are likely to be times when a physically weak construction manager will be at a major disadvantage on the job, or might even lose out on securing some jobs.

8. Problem-Solving Abilities

Some property owners hire a construction manager to fix the problems with an unfinished construction project that has gone awry. It isn’t uncommon for a general contractor to make a mess of a building project. When that happens, a construction manager’s expertise can help to get the project back on track. However, this requires the project manager to understand what must be done to correct poorly built or poorly designed existing infrastructure. In general, problem-solving capabilities are essential for success as a construction manager.

9. Financial Competence

The construction manager must be financially savvy. It’s essential for anyone who assumes this role to be able to prepare a realistic budget and comply with it faithfully. It’s also important to be a competent negotiator.The construction manager will need to be able to solicit bids from subcontractors and negotiate terms with them, negotiate pricing and discounts for needed building materials, and review all bills related to the project at hand.

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Develop the skills you need to get that job.

This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.


It’s rare to find an individual who has perfected all of these skills, but that’s one of the reasons that construction managers earn relatively high salaries. In the United States, a capable construction manager who’s a skilled negotiator has the potential to earn upwards of $100,000 a year. Top-earning construction managers are compensated more than $169,070 annually. In Australia, a talented construction manager has the capability to earn around $179,400 per year.

Each one of the skills listed here can be cultivated and further developed if you’re inclined to work at perfecting them. If there are any skills on the list that you’re lacking, a good degree program can help to give you an initial foundation, and then you can refine the skills you’ve learned by practicing them on the job.

About the Author

Andrej is an entrepreneur, a digital marketer and an avid internet technologist. Throughout his career, Andrej has combined his passion for cutting-edge technology with a keen eye for emerging industry trends to deliver customised marketing solutions to businesses and clients around the globe. He believes that the key to modern marketing excellence is a constant willingness to learn and adapt to the ever-changing digital world.