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

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

Understanding the difference between a construction manager vs project manager is vital to understanding the work that takes places in the construction industry. Between the office and the field, there is a lot of work that goes into both jobs, so understanding the differences in the functions performed by a construction manager vs project manager will be important to your overall knowledge of what it takes to complete a construction project. Below we’ll provide you information on each job’s main responsibilities, why they are important to the project, and some of the key differences.

Construction Manager vs Project Manager

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Construction Managers

Construction managers are tasked with supervising the entire construction process of a project, making sure the building is technically sound and on budget. Some of their other responsibilities include managing subcontractors, personnel, and ensuring building codes and other regulations are followed. For a lot of construction managers who came up in the construction industry, they can be experts in building trades, like plumbing, electrical, and carpentry. Some of their day to day activities include hiring staff, planning work schedules, managing punch lists, buying materials, and maintaining and promoting health and safety on the job site.

 

Depending on the delivery method of the project, the construction manager’s scope can be limited to just the construction phase, however some methods involve the construction manager from the beginning as well. Construction managers can work in the office, but most of their work will take place on the job site as they work with project managers, foremen, and other field workers to ensure daily operations are running smoothly. Construction managers will usually have a background in construction, and nowadays are increasingly required to have a bachelor’s degree in order to be qualified for the job.

 

Project Managers

Unlike construction managers, project managers are tasked with having complete oversight of the entire project from the initial planning right up until the finished product is completed. Their main responsibility is to make sure the project is delivered on time and on budget, and their budgeting can include more than just the construction phase like marketing, client meetings, and other administrative tasks. The project manager essentially is a guide to the owner’s needs in a project, and works closely with contractors, designers, and engineers to ensure everything is in order to successfully complete the project.

 

Some of their day to day activities include establishing deadlines, attending meetings, managing the project budget, and updating clients on the status of the project. Most of the project manager’s work will take place in the office, but they’ll often travel to job sites as well to check in on the construction process and get updates from the construction manager. Project managers don’t necessarily have to come from a construction background, but most positions will require them to have experience in the industry. Project management positions will almost always require a bachelor’s degree, and in some scenarios require a master’s degree in project management in order to be promoted to a higher level of management.

Construction Manager vs Project Manager

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Key Differences

While construction managers and project managers might be similar in that they provide strong leadership, wide supervision, and constantly deal with budgeting, their roles have some key differences. Some of the main differences between a construction manager vs project manager will ultimately depend on the delivery type of the project. In the case of a Design-Bid-Build (DBB) method, the project manager will be much more involved in the overall project, beginning work from pre construction to post construction, while the construction manager will only be concerned with the actual building phase of the project.

 

However, in Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) methods, the construction manager will be hired from the start of the project, and essentially becomes the project manager. In DBB cases, the project manager will have more authority over the construction manager and take on more responsibilities, usually having a higher salary as well. While the project manager and construction manager must both be effective budgeters, the project budget must incorporate every detail in the project from beginning to end, while the construction manager will only be responsible for budgeting the construction phase.

 

Conclusion

It’s important to remember the key differences between a construction manager vs project manager. Although they can be similar in some of their responsibilities, project managers will generally have greater oversight than construction managers depending on the project delivery method. At the end of the day, both jobs are extremely important to the completion of the project in making sure it’s delivered on time and meets budget requirements.


Remy Terrebonne is a senior at Louisiana State University majoring in Marketing Communications and minoring in Business Administration.

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