Graduates of construction degree programs can seek work as structural engineers, project engineers or construction managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the best job opportunities for construction managers to go to those who have a bachelor's or higher degree in construction science, construction management or civil engineering, as well as work experience.
Construction has been one of the hardest-hit industries during the recession, losing more jobs than any other employment sector. But the Associated General Contractors of America reported that the June 2011 unemployment rate for the industry had improved over the preceding year.
Landing a job in construction is no longer just about getting a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field. Due to the contracted job market, construction companies seek the most qualified individuals with well-rounded skill sets and a passion for the field, said Joe Bean, human resources manager for Teichert Construction of Sacramento, Calif., a heavy civil engineering firm that performs work on Interstate 80 in Northern California.
Construction degrees and coursework
According to the BLS, the majority of students pursue construction degrees in the four following educational paths:
- Construction management
- Construction science
- Building science
- Civil/construction engineering
Construction degree programs typically cover many of the following subjects specific to the industry:
- Construction methods and materials
- Site planning
- Project control
- Cost estimating
- Contract administration
- Building codes and inspection procedures
Other coursework can include real estate law, bidding, construction accounting and plan reading. Graduates are prepared for work as construction managers or project engineers and can assist senior employees in overseeing construction projects and personnel.
Online degrees in construction
Individuals who pursue online degrees in construction typically work as engineers or in a similar field, and they choose distance learning as a way to advance their careers. Remote learning programs may offer access to computer programs used in this profession. Technical skills are useful for construction managers, who are required to manage projects; estimate costs; and compute product, construction or installation specifications. Technology used in this field includes calendar and scheduling software, databases, document management applications and other software tools.
Construction job opportunities
More than 100 colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in a construction-related field, the BLS reported. Many also offer master's degree programs, and graduates of these schools typically seek work in larger construction companies. In addition, there is no substitute for hands-on experience in the field to round out a construction education. Pam Stepien, a human resources manager for Granite Construction, says students are well served by pursuing internships to gain real-life construction experience. Joining professional organizations is another way to build a network and add value to a company, the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, states.
Construction managers earned median salaries of $83,860 in 2010, while civil engineers earned $77,560, the BLS reports. Median income for civil engineers increases with advanced education, the ASCE reports. The BLS projects job growth for construction managers from 2008 through 2018, especially for those with experience as well as a degree in a construction-related field.
Construction at a glance
- Salaries: in 2010, construction managers earned $83,860, and civil engineers earned $77,560 (BLS)
- Careers: Structural engineers, project engineers or construction managers
- Key employers: Companies specializing in federally funded transportation projects, such as building bridges, roadways, airports and other public infrastructure