Are you someone who can see the bigger picture? If so, you could learn to act as the go-to negotiator for building development projects involving everyone from local councils, to investors, tradespeople and neighbours.
If this sounds interesting to you, studying construction management could be your pathway to an interesting, well-paid career. You’ll hone your team skills and get the opportunity to work on projects ranging from residential builds, to hospitals, factories, or skyscrapers in a CBD.
Are you suited to a career in construction management?
If you enjoy a challenge and are interested in the concept of looking at a wide range of issues and tying them all together, that’s a great start, says Dr Nateque Mahmood, the course director of Deakin University’s Bachelor of Construction Management (Honours).
He says this career will likely suit anyone with ‘an interest in how cities are built, how homes are built, how life revolves around buildings’.
Attention to detail is another great asset for a construction manager, but don’t worry if you don’t have any background knowledge in how to build a house, or a multi-storey building, Dr Mahmood says.
‘I suppose what we teach is construction management, rather than actually doing the hammering and the nailing.’ So, your day-to-day job will be about managing people, rather than physically constructing a building.
But it’s really all about the people
When Dr Mahmood first started her own university studies, he was told the construction industry was first and foremost a people industry.
‘That’s something I’ve held on to all along, that in fact it’s less to do with how the building is built, but how the people interact in those buildings,’ he says. ‘The best construction managers are people oriented.’
Why teamwork is so important in building and construction
Dr Mahmood says those working in construction management also need to be excellent negotiators and problem solvers.
Teamwork is crucial in getting any building project delivered on time and in budget. However many of the people in your ‘team’ will not be employed by the same company as you.
‘For instance, if you’re working for the person who’s actually building it, you won’t have any contract with the person who’s designed it but you probably have to make decisions with them and talk with them weekly,’ Dr Mahmood says.
Likewise you might find yourself dealing with councils, or sub-contractors who’ve been hired by someone else.
Then there’s variations that need to be made during a project – for example if there’s bad weather, delays, difficulty obtaining materials or safety issues that need addressing.
‘You really do have to be able to manage teams and communicate really clearly with a whole lot of different people,’ Dr Mahmood says.
How Deakin helps you build teamwork skills
Soft skills, such as problem solving and group work, are embedded into every Deakin course, including the Bachelor of Construction Management (Honours).
Dr Mahmood says in the early years of this course, students are given tips, skills and guidance on how to manage people, often in the form of group assignments.
‘In most cases, we present it as if you’re on site and you’re dealing with people,’ he says. ‘There’ll be formal communication and formal soft skills being used in meetings. So if you have meetings, you will put together an action plan and have follow-ups.’
As the course goes on it becomes increasingly collaborative, with students replicating what would happen on a construction project, Dr Mahmood says.
‘We get them to do a project where they’re basically pretending they’re putting in a bid for a major project,’ he says. ‘So they have to decide how much will it cost, based on how short or long the time will be, based on what sort of quality of materials they’ll use, and which people they’ll employ. So they have to talk to one another.’
It’s not just project managers
While many graduates do end up as project managers, this course can lead to a range of roles, Dr Mahmood says.
Some of these include working as a contract administrator, estimator, quantity surveyor or safety manager.
‘There’s a whole lot of roles other than being a project manager,’ Dr Mahmood says. ‘But most people, when they start, only really think construction management equals project management on whopping big multi-storey buildings.’
Collaboration skills are hot property
Dr Mahmood says construction management graduates are highly sought after, and well paid.
‘Most of our undergrads end up with part-time jobs within their second year of study.’
Fortunately there are also no particular barriers to entry for this part of the building and construction industry, he says. ‘Probably the main barrier to entry is that not a lot of people know it exists.’
Fancy yourself as a team player? Learn more about what you can study to launch a career in construction management.