Construction Manager vs Project Manager: What's the Difference?

Construction Manager vs. Project Manager: Differences Explained

Understanding how a construction manager and a project manager are different in the construction industry is essential. While both are significant for any project, their responsibilities and roles may change depending on the project. For instance, smaller projects tend to have a single individual responsible for managing the construction and the project because the project is less complex. In more significant projects, however, the construction manager tends to focus on the actual construction processes and ensure that the building is technically accurate and meets standards and budgets. On the other hand, project managers oversee the entire project, from planning to delivery, but they are also deeply involved in administrative tasks (marketing, meetings, etc.). They usually are the ones who understand the project owner’s needs and are less hands-on than the construction managers who are doing most of their work on the job site.

Construction Manager vs Project Manager
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Major Differences Between a Construction Manager and Project Manager

Both of these types of managers are essential leaders in construction projects, but their roles vary depending on the delivery method of the project. Usually, in a Design-Bid-Build (DBB) setup, the project managers oversee the entire project from the pre-construction stage to the post-construction stage. Construction managers, in contrast, would only focus on the project’s building phase. The scenario changes when the project is a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) type of project; in this case, it is the construction manager that owns the process from the get to, acting a little bit more like a project manager, usually with higher authority and responsibility, which also tends to be reflected in a higher salary compared to DBB projects. While it is clear that both roles require an individual with solid budgeting capacities, project managers are usually the prominent people responsible for the entire project’s budget. On the other hand, construction managers tend to be the ones who are exclusively in charge of the construction phase.

Level of Authority

Given the nature of the projects and the responsibilities, generally, the construction manager must report directly to the project manager. While both roles are essential to ensure the timely delivery of any project, construction managers are usually people with experience in the construction trades whose responsibility is mainly to the construction aspect of the project. The project manager usually handles all other elements that extend beyond the construction phase, and as such, a strong partnership between the two is vital to ensure projects are successful.


As we already mentioned, the construction manager tends to be responsible primarily for the project’s construction stage. Project managers, on the other hand, are responsible for the entire project and must work in tandem with construction managers to deliver projects successfully.


Usually, the salary of a project manager tends to be higher than a construction manager’s because their specialty extends beyond construction into professional fields such as engineering, architecture, etc. On the other hand, the construction manager’s salary depends more on experience and certifications.

Since construction managers specialize primarily in the construction stage, their salary tends to be lower than that of a project manager with a much broader set of responsibilities across multiple project stages.

Differences in Skills

While project managers and construction managers share similarities, project managers usually have a more specialized background to lead the entire project on multiple levels. In contrast, construction managers focus more on day-to-day operations. 

Project managers generally talk directly with the client and are the key agents that ensure things happen. That means they must deeply understand regulations, team building, operations, construction methodologies, etc., and ensure they make the best choices to complete projects on time, on budget, and with high-quality standards. On the other hand, construction managers usually follow the high-level plans provided by the project manager and lead their team more intensely on the field, solving technical and essential problems with the physical construction of the project.

Both skills are essential to ensure projects are successful. Project managers are in charge of contextual work beyond the construction aspect of the project, while construction managers are experts on trades and getting things done well and on time.  

Work Environment

As you can imagine, the work environment between these two types of managers can be different. Construction managers are masters of craftsmanship; they have multiple years of experience and know how to solve construction problems most people couldn’t even imagine. Their main domain is fieldwork and the construction processes that happen daily; even though they may have a dedicated office to focus on more high-level activities, they could also handle them. 

On the other hand, project managers are primarily focused on high-level management and ensuring that any project’s macro and contextual problems, such as permits and licenses, are solved. While they may also visit the site, they are often less involved with day-to-day operations and more focused on managing all the aspects of a real estate project from start to finish line.


Construction Manager vs Project Manager
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Can a Construction Manager Handle the Role of Project Manager?

While the roles and responsibilities vary between these two types of managers, sometimes, in smaller projects, the construction manager can handle the role of a project manager. There are many scenarios with budget constraints, especially when the project’s size and scope are more limited, where a construction manager oversees the entire project from end to finish, including the construction part. 

What matters the most is that the person in charge of turning the project into a reality has extensive experience in the craft and construction process as well as high-level management activities. Remember that even if the budgets are limited, being the single person responsible for the entire project must also be reflected in the salary. That means that if you are selected to fulfill both roles, you should be rewarded financially. 

eSUB can be Helpful for Both Roles

We built eSUB Cloud to help thousands of project and construction managers optimize how they collect, share, and analyze projects to ensure timely delivery with the highest quality. 

Instead of wasting tons of hours in manual labor to ensure things are running smoothly, using a modern partner can help you make your life much easier. 

Some of the key advantages of using construction management software like eSUB Cloud are the Automated Job Costing features to simplify tracking and cost allocation, having access to real-time financial insights and reports to improve management, gaining access to documentation accessible from any device, simplifying audit trails, and overall, improving efficiency and reducing manual work. 

Request a demo of eSUB Cloud and learn how we can help you build smarter, better, and faster.