Best Online Master’s Degrees in Construction Management: Guide to Online Programs for 2023

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Construction Management: Guide to Online Programs for 2023
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

The construction industry is a vital component of the economy and its market size is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2023, creating opportunities for professionals in the field. The industry includes both public and private sector projects such as roads, bridges, homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and other structures. The construction industry also creates jobs, drives innovation, and contributes to economic growth through the development of new buildings and infrastructure.

Construction projects can also have a positive impact on local communities by providing housing, education, and healthcare facilities. Overall, the construction industry is a vital component of the economy because it plays a key role in the development and maintenance of the built environment and contributes to economic growth and job creation.

To take advantage of these opportunities, many professionals turn to online master’s degrees in construction management to expand their knowledge and skills. This guide will provide information on the cost, admission requirements, and curriculum of online master’s degree programs in construction management to help individuals determine if it is the right fit for them.

Online Master’s Degree in Construction Management Table of Contents

  1. Can you get a degree completely online?
  2. Will employers take my online degree seriously?
  3. Are online degrees recognized all over the world?
  4. Online vs. Traditional Master’s Degree in Construction Management
  5. How much does an online master’s degree in Construction Management cost?
  6. What are the requirements of an online master’s degree in Construction Management?
  7. Courses to Expect in an Online Master’s Degree in Construction Management
  8. Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Construction Management

Can you get a degree completely online?

The modern world is digital. Not a day goes by that we are not exposed to new applications and cloud-based technologies whether we are at home or work. The same can be said of the education sector.

While online learning reached its zenith during the pandemic, many students have already adopted this format of education well before 2020. In Fall 2018, 6,932,074 students took up distance learning courses (NCES, 2019). Over three million of whom were at the post-baccalaureate level. As quarantine restrictions were implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak, more students have become exposed to distance learning. What is more, 78% of them feel that online studies have the same or better quality than their face-to-face classroom experience (Magda, Capranos, & Aslanian, 2020).

Plus, with the ubiquity of fast internet connection and accessibility of learning management solutions, students shouldn’t have any trouble with taking up further studies completely online. There are even software solutions that can simulate construction work so graduate students taking up construction management can get detailed instruction without having to be physically on-site.

Online Master's in Construction Management Image 1

Will employers take my online degree seriously?

The pandemic served as a catalyst for transforming the reputation of online degrees. It has paved the way for students and educators alike to become more familiar with virtual learning approaches and their benefits. A 2020 study titled “COVID-19 pandemic: A catalyst for transformation of a summer online research program” illustrates some of the effects of this learning format.

According to author Behnoosh Afghani, the coaches of the online program analyzed in the study “stated that they preferred the 2020 program compared to the previous years because the interactive and collaborative nature of live video meetings in real-time helped them to be innovative and develop their mentorship and leadership skills” (Afghani, 2020).

Published in the Medical Education Online journal, this study may have zeroed in on a research program that focuses on premedical and medical students. However, according to the author, the positive responses from the coaches “suggest that the virtual-based research program has been successful and can be implemented at other institutions.” This implies that more educators have begun to recognize the potential of online learning and could serve as a stepping stone to getting more employers to feel the same. In fact, another 2020 research showed that some hiring managers are already headed in that direction.

Meanwhile, a FutureLearn survey revealed that during the pandemic, 35.8% of hiring managers said that online learning is very important. This is compared to the 22.1% who shared the sentiment before the outbreak. Even more interesting is that the same study mentioned construction as one of the industries that will benefit most from this learning format. As such, construction management students taking up their degrees online are poised to make the most out of their online credentials.

Source: FutureLearn Survey, 2020

Are online degrees recognized all over the world?

Online degrees are acknowledged in many countries but it is important to note that there may be limitations to this recognition. This is especially if you intend to earn a degree from an institution based in a country that is different from where you intend to seek employment. After all, educational systems and industry regulations are different in each country and the curricula of these online programs are tightly patterned after these standards.

The silver lining to this limitation, however, is that online education is gaining traction globally. In fact, approximately 90% of the richest countries worldwide have shifted from brick-and-mortar schooling to virtual education in response to the pandemic (The Economist, 2020). With this, we can expect an increase in demand for standardization so that online credentials may be acknowledged worldwide.

According to an editorial published in the Journal of Global Information Technology Management, this globalization of online education is only bound to pick up the pace, similar to what was observed with email and ecommerce. As such, governments and businesses may need to make the necessary adjustments. The authors even suggested that world bodies like the United Nations and World Trade Organization need to weigh in on the matter to “establish meaningful standards in curriculum, certifications, student screening, faculty selection, an learning management systems”(Palvia et al, 2018).

More recently, parties involved in the UNESCO Tokyo Convention also called for the recognition of credentials obtained through non-traditional learning. In their joint statement in November of 2020, they mentioned that this is necessary to minimize the disruption to education and student mobility brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This can only mean that online credentials may soon become widely accepted across countries.

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Online vs. Traditional Master’s in Construction Management

Master’s programs in construction management that are held online and on-campus have more similarities than differences. As the curriculum is standardized, focusing on the theoretical and technical requirements of the field, students in both learning environments essentially take up the same courses. Consequently, both program types can equip students with the knowledge they need to perform and excel in the field.

However, there are differences in the benefits that students can reap from these two learning formats. This is especially true in terms of schedule flexibility, cost, and the soft skills that students can develop.

Schedule flexibility

On-campus learning requires students to attend their classes in specific places at specific times. This is great for creating a learning structure that follows good pacing for the curriculum. However, this means that a student’s schedule is often tied to school work, making it difficult to gain professional experience alongside schooling. This is especially challenging to construction management professionals who have to be on-site for their work.

In contrast, online learning that is asynchronous and self-paced offers students more flexibility in handling their time. This format enables them to accomplish their coursework as they manage responsibilities at work. Plus, if they can finish their modules quickly and submit the necessary course requirements, they may even accelerate their graduation time.

Cost

Students taking up their master’s in construction management online often benefit from the lower cost of this program type. While tuition fees may be more or less similar for those studying online and those studying on-campus, distance learners do not need to spend much on transportation and accommodation costs.

However, online learners may need to set aside a budget for software solutions needed for their coursework as well as hardware that they’ll need to access their modules. These could include a laptop or desktop as well as a good headset and webcam for those who will also be taking synchronous classes via video conferencing. While these items may be costly, the great thing about this is once you have already procured them, you do not need to spend on them again every semester.

Soft skills development

Another important difference between online and on-campus instruction is the soft skills that students can pick up over the course of the program.

For face-to-face instruction, construction management students have the opportunity to learn on-site and familiarize themselves with different work environments that they may never have encountered before. Moreover, they can regularly interact with classmates and professors. This allows them to hone skills in communication, collaboration, and people management—skills that are important when building a career in construction management.

Online instruction, on the other hand, allows students to learn at their own pace, and often without the supervision of professors. This enables students to practice self-discipline, accountability, and time management.

Is an online degree cheaper?

When it comes to tuition fees, online degrees are not necessarily the same as traditional programs. In fact, a survey showed that 74% of schools charged the same tuition for online and on-campus programs (Newton, 2018). Additionally, 23% also reported charging higher tuition for online programs due to the added costs of online instruction, course development, as well as program marketing. However, tuition fees are not the only factor contributing to the cost of a degree program.

An on-campus student has to spend on transportation and school supplies. In addition, for those who reside within the school grounds, students need to pay for room and board as well as personal expenses, such as laundry, groceries, and health care. Online students, meanwhile, have to spend on computers and fast internet connections—both of which they may already have at their disposal. With this said, earning a degree online can be relatively cheaper than enrolling in a traditional program.

Source: Forbes, 2018

Is an online degree as good as a regular degree?

Online degree programs in construction management are patterned after traditional degree programs. They are developed with similar standards and learning targets so students can expect the same rigorous instruction and course requirements regardless of the learning format. This said, online degrees are just as good as regular degrees.

This is backed by a 2020 Deloitte survey that aims to observe the sentiment of graduate students on higher education opportunities after the pandemic. Results showed that an overwhelming 77% of students exposed to online learning during the COVID-19 outbreak believe that digital learning tools offer an equal or better learning experience than their traditional equivalents. Consequently, with the improved perception of online learning among students and professionals, we can expect that employers will soon follow suit.

How much does an online master’s in Construction Management cost?

On-campus graduate students in the United States spent an average of $24,812 on their tuition in 2017 (Sallie Mae, n.d.). In addition to this, they also have to factor in costs related to taking face-to-face classes. These could include the money spent on day-to-day commutes or gas and parking fees if they drive a car. For those residing inside the campus, they may need to consider room and board fees as well as personal expenses for meals, laundry, and the like. In some schools, also charge additional fees for the use of school facilities.

Meanwhile, students taking up an online master’s in construction management spend between $28,000 and $116,000 on tuition fees, depending on their school of choice and the learning format implemented by the school. Some of the costs that contribute to this are the development of the online program and the maintenance of network infrastructure.

Is an online masters in Construction Management degree worth it?

Construction management is a career with plenty of employment opportunities. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that construction managers held approximately 476,700 jobs in 2019 alone (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Moreover, the job outlook for this particular profession is projected to increase by 8% from 2019 to 2029, a rate that is much faster than the overall average for all occupations.

In addition to the stable job market, construction managers also enjoy good compensation from their employers. Professionals in the industry with a master’s degree or MBA have a salary that falls between $93,000 and $155,000 per year. Once the years of experience and certifications are taken into account, the base pay and bonuses can be much higher. As such, taking up an online master’s in Construction Management is well worth the time and money you invest in it.

Source: Salary.com

What are the requirements of an online master’s in Construction Management?

Educational institutions have different admission standards. Consequently, the application processes and documents for students who want to take up an online master’s in management programs, even in construction management will vary. There are, however, general requirements that most schools will expect of applicants, such as the requirements outlined below.

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management or a Relevant Field. In all master’s programs, applicants must have proof that they have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to construction management. This could include civil engineering, construction engineering, architecture, or similar programs. These can provide students with the foundational knowledge needed to pursue further studies in construction management.
  • Letters of Recommendation. Most graduate programs will require applicants to provide letters of recommendation. This can help admissions officers gauge your character and attitude towards pursuing further studies. However, for these to have a bearing, make sure to get letters from mentors, advisers, or instructors instead of friends and colleagues.
  • Official Standardized Test Scores. Graduate schools often ask students to provide their official scores on standardized tests, such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. Most universities are looking for candidates with a score of 6 to 7 in IELTS, 60 to 100 in TOEFL (iBT), and 53 to 70 in PTE. However, keep in mind that this is sometimes optional.
  • Formal Application. Lastly, make sure to submit a formal application to the school of your choice. This includes the application form provided by the admissions office, your undergraduate transcript, as well as a cover letter detailing why you intend to take up a master’s in construction management.

General Requirements

  • Attention to Detail. Construction managers are responsible for conducting site inspections as well as reviewing contracts with vendors and clients. This is why they need to possess great attention to detail so that they can spot mistakes quickly and address them before they pose bigger problems in the future.
  • Ability to Manage Risks. Safety hazards, unknown site conditions, equipment damage or theft, as well as price hikes in materials are among the many risks that construction professionals face. As such, managers will need to be quick on their feet and come up with ways to prevent these risks or minimize their impact on the project.
  • Negotiation Skills. Construction managers are often in charge of sourcing materials as well as coordinating with clients. So, it pays for them to have strong negotiation skills so that they can get the best possible rates for their project, resolve disputes between parties involved in the project, as well as manage other concerns that may take place during the project lifecycle.
  • Organizational Skills. A construction manager oversees all the on-site and office work related to a construction project. They need to come up with project timelines, create proposals, and manage employee schedules, among others. In many cases, they also need to perform resource management. As such, they must have organizational skills that will allow them to ensure that all aspects of their project are being executed as smoothly as possible.

What are the technological requirements of students for online learning?

Online students need a way to access their course materials, attend online classes, as well as submit their course requirements without having to visit campus. As such, they must prepare certain technological requirements once they decide to enroll in a fully online program. Among these requirements are:

  • Internet connection with a download speed of at least 10Mbps and an upload speed of at least 2Mbps
  • Laptop with an updated operating system
  • Webcam and headset
  • Updated web browser
  • Updated browser plugins such as PDF readers and video/audio players

In addition to the abovementioned, your program may also require you to use particular software solutions. For example, you may be asked to download a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, a virtual modeling platform, and the like.

Source: PayScale, 2021

Courses to Expect in Online Master’s in Construction Management

An online master’s in construction management program typically entails 33 to 36 credits of coursework which can be completed in 15 to 24 months. The courses taken during this time aim to prepare students to supervise construction projects, source materials, as well as manage employees. As such, the curriculum often covers both technical and administrative aspects of the field. Among the courses you can expect are:

  • Construction Accounting. This is a course that tackles accounting and finance concepts in the context of construction management. It places more emphasis on analyzing costs, financing projects, balancing books, as well as understanding the engineering economy.
  • Cost Estimation and Budgeting. This aims to help students understand core concepts of architectural planning, focusing on common concerns, different uses of building materials, evaluation methods, and more. This allows construction managers to perform effective inspections during the project lifecycle.
  • Building Systems. This places emphasis on how to estimate and control costs and create comprehensive budgets for projects. This course often entails the review of different case studies that will help them become familiar with the different pitfalls and best practices when it comes to construction budgeting.
  • Construction Safety. Perhaps among the most critical courses in construction management is construction safety. This discusses the different compliance laws, safety protocols per type of project, job hazard analysis processes, and accident investigation best practices. After the course, construction managers can ensure the safety of their employees on site.

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Things to Look for in an Online Master’s Degree in Construction Management

Not all online postgraduate programs in construction management are created equal. While schools may offer similar curricula and program requirements, there is a good chance that there are differences in their teaching methods, the specialized courses that they offer, and the services that they can offer online students. So, as you look for a program, it is best to consider factors such as the ones outlined below:

Comprehensiveness of Available Specializations

Construction management is still quite an extensive field of study with plenty of paths for specialization. So, if you are looking to streamline your career path by focusing on particular aspects of construction management, you may want to consider reviewing the curriculum of your prospective program first. Make sure they can provide the specialized courses you are looking for and that they can offer you both the practical and theoretical knowledge you require to thrive in the industry.

Flexibility in Teaching Methods

Fully online programs in construction management are often the ideal learning format for professionals who are looking to continue their studies while keeping up with their work responsibilities. However, if you are relatively new to the field and are looking for hands-on on-site experience, it is good to check out the available learning methods that a school offers. For instance, you can check if they can give you the option of pursuing hybrid learning or if they can provide you with opportunities to do fieldwork.

School Reputation

A school’s reputation is among the top factors that students often consider when choosing an online program (Magda, Capranos, & Aslanian, 2020). After all, it is also what employers examine when they are hiring an applicant with an online degree.

To determine a school or program’s reputation, you can start by finding out whether they have received accreditation from the United States Commission on Higher Education or the United States Department of Education. Specific to construction management, programs may also be accredited by the American Council for Construction Education. You could also check out if they are registered with any regional accrediting bodies or if they are part of any local associations. This allows you to ensure that your prospective school or program has been properly vetted.

Aside from the abovementioned, you can also check the school’s faculty roster to see if they have experts from top firms or the public sector. Another factor that is worth looking into is whether they appear on local or global rankings.

Source: Wiley Education Services & EducationDynamics, 2020

Expand Your Career Opportunities in the Construction Industry

Construction management is a profession that requires advanced skills and specialized knowledge of different building projects. As such, for those aspiring to succeed in their construction business management careers, an online master’s is a worthwhile endeavor.

Programs like these allow engineers, architects, and construction professionals to gain a better understanding of both the on-site and administrative work that goes into every construction project. This lets them tap into the available career opportunities that might not be available to those without a master’s degree.

However, as discussed in this guide, there are many factors that you should consider before enrolling in an online master’s program. After all, each institution has its own curriculum, teaching methods, and available courses. So, it is best that you do your due diligence to ensure that you are getting the most out of your investment. To start, you may want to take a look at this list of affordable online colleges.

 

References:

  1. Afghani, B. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: A catalyst for transformation of a summer online research program. Medical Education Online. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2021.1886029
  2. Deloitte (2020). Where to now? Blended futures: Higher education for a changed world. Retrieved from https://images.content.deloitte.com.au/Web/DELOITTEAUSTRALIA/
  3. Kogan, V. (2021). Do employers value online learning?. Retrieved from https://www.futurelearn.com/info/do-employers-value-online-learning
  4. Magda, A.J., Capranos, D., & Aslanian, C.B. (2020). ONLINE COLLEGE
    STUDENTS 2020: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences
    . Wiley Education Services. Retrieved from https://edservices.wiley.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/OCS2020Report-ONLINE-FINAL.pdf
  5. NCES (2019). Distance Learning. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80
  6. Newton, D. (2018). Why College Tuition is Actually Higher for Online Programs. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereknewton/2018/06/25/why-college-tuition-is-actually-higher-for-online-programs/
  7. Palvia, S., Aeron, P., Gupta, G., Mahapatra, D., Parida, R., Rosner, R., & Sindhi, S. (2018). Online Education: Worldwide Status, Challenges, Trends, and Implications. Journal of Global Information Technology Management, 21:4, 233-241. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1097198X.2018.1542262
  8. PayScale (2021). Average Construction Manager Salary. Retrieved from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Construction_Manager/Salary
  9. Salary.com (n.d.). Salaries for Construction Manager I with a Master’s Degree or MBA. Retrieved from https://www1.salary.com/Salaries-for-Construction-Manager-I-with-a-Masters-Degree-or-MBA
  10. Sallie Mae (n.d.). How America Pays for Graduate School. Retrieved from https://ww2.salliemae.com/research/how-america-pays-for-graduate-school/
  11. The Economist (2020). Closing schools for covid-19 does lifelong harm and widens inequality. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/international/2020/04/30/closing-schools-for-covid-19-does-lifelong-harm-and-widens-inequality
  12. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020). Construction Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm

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