What is the Difference Between Construction Manager and Project Manager?

Any one reading this question right now might have heard these terms but is there a clear picture about what actually is the difference between a Construction Manager and a Project Manager?
Initiating a construction project is a conjunction of a planning and insight. There are 2 leading forces behind any successful project, they are the construction manager and project manager.
We often hear these terms being used interchangeably but it is key to understand that there are key difference between these roles and the work they do to execute a construction project.
Let’s get to understand these terms.

Who is a Project Manager?

Project management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve all project goals within the given constraints. This information is usually described in project documentation, created at the beginning of the development process. A person who executes these are known as Project Managers.

Here are a few definitions across the internet that would help:

Techopedia says that, a Project Manager is the person responsible for leading a project from its inception to execution. This includes planning, execution and managing the people, resources and scope of the project. Project managers must have the discipline to create clear and attainable objectives and to see them through to successful completion. The project manager has full responsibility and authority to complete the assigned project.

Project Management Institute ( PMI ) defines, Project managers are change agents: they make project goals their own and use their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team. They enjoy the organized adrenaline of new challenges and the responsibility of driving business results.
Additionally, project managers work well under pressure and are comfortable with change and complexity in dynamic environments. They can shift readily between the "big picture" and the small-but-crucial details, knowing when to concentrate on each.

According to Product Plan, Project managers are responsible for the execution of an initiative. First, they are responsible for the earliest stages of ideation. Then their responsibilities lie in coordinating components and budget. Finally, they manage these components through to its final delivery.

Who is a Construction Manager?

Construction management is the process of planning, coordinating, and overseeing construction projects. It includes all aspects of the project, from start to finish, and is used for construction projects of various sizes. There are a few common types of construction that utilize construction management such as commercial, industrial, civil, environmental, and residential. Each different category of construction has its own specific needs, so the construction management process and methodology can be customized to fit each style of project. A person who handles these is known as a Construction Manager.

Here are a few definitions across that might help in further understanding:

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a Construction Manager as someone who “plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.”

According to the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), the construction project manager (often called a CM) is responsible for collaborating with and providing oversight to the project’s stakeholders, including the owner, the architect, the general contractor, trade contractors, and subcontractors. The CM leads a team of building specialists — everyone from designers and architects to contractors and construction workers — through a series of tasks to bring the project to fruition.

The University of New Mexico says that, construction managers coordinate and schedule design and construction processes in the building of office complexes, residential homes, and industrial structures. They may be involved in the construction of highways, bridges, schools and hospitals. A construction manager approves and hires specialty contractors for operations such as plumbing, electrical wiring and framing. Construction managers usually work on a project from conception to completion. On large projects, they may be responsible for only one segment of the operation.

Project Manager vs Construction Manager

They key differences between a Project Manager and a Construction Manager can be explained in detail using the 3 parameters mentioned below.

  • Responsibilities
  • Focus and Scope
  • Authority Level

  • Project Manager vs Construction Manager - Responsibilities

    While the construction manager oversees on-site operations, such as personnel, materials, and the construction budget, project managers oversee ALL phases of the project, from marketing to administrative needs.
    If we think about a construction project as a timeline, the project manager is involved from start to end, whereas the construction manager is only involved during the actual construction phase.
    A project manager's duties can include:
  • Meeting with a client to discuss a new project design
  • Creating a project budget and plan
  • Selecting a project location and working to secure the land for a new building
  • Designing a project timeline with deadlines for each stage
  • Recruiting and hiring team members, including the construction manager
  • Writing cost estimates for all elements of a project, including the marketing and hiring process
  • Managing a project's paperwork, including the initial plans and zoning documents

  • Here is a Job Description of a Project Manager:

    Professionals in these career pathsoften have different duties. A construction manager may have the following responsibilities:
  • Supervising a construction team and delegating tasks
  • Overseeing the daily construction process on the job site
  • Collaborating with contractors and material suppliers
  • Maintaining material inventory and ordering new items
  • Checking local construction guidelines to ensure the project meets all requirements
  • Creating schedules for the team members
  • Writing cost estimates for the construction tasks
  • Observing the building project's progress and updating the project manager

  • Here is the Job Description of a Construction Manager:

    One key difference to note is that it is not uncommon for Project Managers to step into this role without much technical construction knowledge, whereas construction managers, almost without fail, come from a construction background. That being said, when push comes to shove, the Project Manager is the one who has more authority over the project.

    Project Manager vs Construction Manager - Focus and Scope

    The role of project manager is present across all businesses. Many projects have a central person that lives and breathes the planning process. But they also need to understand the process of a construction project. This is where the Project Manager comes in.
    On a construction site, the role of the construction project manager is to keep the project moving forward. They are responsible for a much broader range of tasks. Often, they are involved before the construction phase begins.
    While responsibilities of the construction manager and the project manager are similar, their focus varies, as the construction manager focuses more on the physical construction, while the project manager deals with the project from beginning to end.

    The main difference between project managers and construction managers is the scope. Project managers typically are higher up the food chain in an organization and they generally a have broader set of responsibilities.
    For example, a construction manager may only oversee the construction of the building itself, whereas a project manager will run all aspects of the project, from selecting the site to land procurement to, well, hiring the construction manager.
    A project manager’s job is to give the construction manager and everyone else on the project the tools and support they need to get the work done.
    Because the project manager oversees a large portion of the operation, they will have more direct contact with the client, who will want to know how construction is going as well as other things, such as land procurement and site analysis.
    The project manager also has a greater understanding of the client’s needs because they have been there since the beginning of the project and have already worked closely with the client in a variety of areas.
    Construction managers will certainly have plenty of communication with the client, but project managers have more responsibility.

    Project Manager vs Construction Manager - Authority Level

    When push comes to shove, the Project Manager is the one who has more authority over the project and the other details.
    Finally, these two roles are also differentiated by their focus. At the end of the day, the construction manager’s main responsibility is to make sure that the project is technically sound. The project manager, on the other hand, is more responsible for the project budget and the timeline.
    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.