Although collaboration is essential for planning a construction project of any size, the responsibility for orchestrating this intricate process and ensuring smooth project execution typically falls on the shoulders of one key professional.
Titles and roles vary, but that person is most often called a construction planner, project engineer, or, in smaller settings, a versatile project manager.
If you’re among them (or aspiring to become one), enhancing your knowledge and specific skills needed for efficient construction planning is crucial for a successful career.
In this article, we’ll explore four impactful ways to elevate your construction planning expertise, providing insights for both budding and seasoned professionals.
In this article...
Get an Official Degree
If you’re aspiring to enter the field of construction planning or currently hold a position that requires relevant planning knowledge and skills without formal education, obtaining an official degree is a viable option.
In fact, according to today’s professional standards in this field, it’s highly unlikely you would get a job without one.
In other words, pursuing an official degree is often considered a foundational step toward a successful career in construction planning.
For instance, most U.S. employers prefer candidates for top positions in the field to have at least a bachelor’s degree, which typically involves four years of full-time study.
Therefore, to kickstart or advance your construction planning career, you should consider obtaining such a degree in one of the following fields of study:
Naturally, the list goes on, but these fields were chosen as examples of the most relevant ones for construction planning.
For example, construction management studies focus on the management aspects of construction projects, including planning, scheduling, and resource allocation.
As such, this degree is highly relevant for planning roles.
Similarly, project management studies encompass skills and techniques for effective project planning, execution, and completion, which can be applied to construction projects.
Other potential fields of study emphasize the technical, managerial, or design-related aspects of construction, including materials, methods, technologies, design, analysis, and the application of engineering principles.
At this point, it’s worth noting that certain construction planning jobs may necessitate Master’s or Doctoral degrees in one of the aforementioned fields.
On that note, here’s an example of a completely online way to earn a Master of Engineering degree with a focus on Construction Engineering Management (CEM).
Naturally, such programs can help you advance your career with your current employer (preferably also financed by them) or reach for top jobs in the field.
On the lower end of the formal education spectrum, there are associate’s degrees (two years of full-time study) available for some fields we covered, such as construction management, project management, and construction engineering technology.
Programs like the one above may be worth considering if you’re already employed in a planning role without formal education or are seeking a quicker entry into the workforce.
While associate’s degrees may not offer the same depth as bachelor’s or advanced degrees, they provide a foundational understanding of the planning-related fields.
Therefore, they can serve as a valuable starting point for gaining practical experience in construction planning roles.
However, such a degree may still prevent you from applying to certain positions that require a bachelor’s degree, like in this example.
Before moving on, a few suggestions to help you find the right program and school to gain, formalize, or improve your construction planning knowledge and skills:
- research accredited programs and explore online study options,
- evaluate the institution’s curriculum and faculty, check reviews from ex-students,
- consider financial factors, flexibility, and support.
Overall, earning an official degree in construction management or a related field from a reputable program is a key step to starting or advancing a successful career in construction planning.
Obtain a Certificate
Obtaining a certificate in construction planning involves enrolling in specialized training or education programs to enhance your qualifications and skills or passing a certification process/exam to demonstrate your expertise in the field.
These certificates, licenses, and certifications serve as valuable credentials that complement formal education, showing you possess targeted knowledge and experience.
They’re offered by various institutions, professional associations, and organizations.
Some certifications, like the Certified Planning Engineer (CPE) offered by The American Academy of Project Management (AAPM), require only submitting documentation proving that the applicant meets the relevant degree and experience requirements.
Here’s a quick rundown.
When recognized by your current or potential employers, such certifications from reputable organizations primarily serve to:
- showcase your construction planning expertise,
- get professional recognition, and
- improve your career opportunities.
They can also be a good motivation for learning and staying current with industry-relevant technological advancements.
Things get more serious when certification also involves a comprehensive exam and requires continuing education for recertification.
In such cases, you’re not only getting relevant recognition in the field and career advancement prospects but also need to refresh and update your planning knowledge and skills to pass the exam.
Moreover, when certified, you’ll need to recertify by demonstrating continued professional development (or taking the exam again).
That’s the case with the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) program offered by The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), as highlighted below.
The recertification requirement ensures that certified professionals stay up-to-date with the latest industry practices and trends, which is crucial in the ever-evolving field of construction planning and management.
The CCM program, encompassing its exam, degree, and experience requirements, covers skills and expertise in a wide range of topics, including:
- project management,
- cost management,
- time management,
- quality management,
- risk management,
- safety management, and more.
These are key areas that construction planners would need to manage in their role, indicating that this program could be highly relevant for professionals in the field.
More precisely, they can leverage the CCM and similar reputable certifications to keep their planning skills and knowledge refreshed and regularly updated while getting professional recognition and career advancement opportunities.
Now, let’s move to certificates obtained by enrolling in specialized training or education programs to fill any potential gaps or weak points in your construction planning skills and expertise.
Just like certification applications and exams, such programs are often available online.
Such courses can provide great learning experiences while offering flexibility for working professionals or those with busy schedules.
So, how does one find the best courses to improve their planning skills?
Here are a few considerations:
- ensure that the course content aligns with your specific needs and the areas you want to strengthen in construction planning,
- seek reviews and ratings from individuals who have taken the course,
- check the credentials and expertise of the instructors delivering the course,
- look for courses that are recognized or endorsed by industry associations.
These tips should help you make informed decisions and add credibility to your certificates.
In summary, obtaining relevant and reputable certificates, whether through certification, exams, or online learning, is a great way to demonstrate, enhance, and keep refreshing your construction planning skills.
Go to Events
Now we’re moving onto less official ways of learning and improving your construction planning skills.
Attending industry events can be a powerful means of gaining insights and knowledge directly from seasoned professionals.
Whether it’s large conferences or smaller meetups, these gatherings offer you access to experiences shared by expert speakers.
At this point, it’s worth recognizing the rise of online conferences and meetups that offer the flexibility of participation from the comfort of your own space, saving on travel costs and time.
For instance, here’s one such conference to be held in May 2024 in Canada.
Online events can also allow for a dynamic exchange of ideas, providing a valuable opportunity to expand your understanding of construction planning methodologies and best practices.
However, the depth of engagement and networking opportunities may not match the experience of being physically present at an industry event.
The in-person dynamics simply contribute to a more vibrant learning environment. In addition to formal presentations and hands-on training, networking during these events can be equally enlightening.
When attending such live events, engaging with speakers is key to maximizing your learning.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions that are pertinent to your construction planning role or challenges you’ve encountered.
Connecting with professionals in your field, sharing experiences, and discussing real-world scenarios can offer unique perspectives that might not be covered in traditional educational settings.
These interactions can lead to valuable construction planning insights, practical tips, and even potential mentorship opportunities.
For instance, you might get real-life recommendations on practical software solutions to streamline your construction planning tasks.
An example could be project scheduling and management platforms or equipment management tools like our GoCodes.
Here’s how GoCodes can help construction planners.
On that note, participating in demonstrations showcasing various tools and technologies used for construction planning is another type of event that might prove beneficial to improving your skills.
In any case, remember that firsthand experiences regarding construction planning methodologies and technologies, shared in face-to-face interactions can bring practical insights not available in online and traditional education settings.
To recap, actively participating in relevant industry events positions you to extract as much value as possible from the collective wisdom of experienced professionals, contributing to your continuous growth as a construction planner.
You can also learn from others in unofficial settings. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from just watching a lot of relevant content on YouTube.
Considering its free video posting and viewing functionalities and vast reach, it’s not surprising that many construction planning and project management experts choose YouTube as a platform to share their knowledge and experience.
Naturally, you can leverage this wealth of free online content to enhance your understanding, gather practical insights, and stay updated on the latest trends and innovations in construction planning and related fields.
Here’s an example.
Jason Schroeder is the founder and COO of Elevate Construction, a company that offers training, project support, and consulting to construction professionals and companies.
He has his own YouTube channel.
There, he regularly posts clear and instructive videos on construction project management, including those related to planning, like this one entitled “What Are The First Steps In Planning A Construction Project?”
So, how can aspiring and seasoned construction planning professionals extract the maximum value out of watching YouTube?
For starters, find good content to watch. YouTube is a search engine, so you can just enter relevant keywords into the search bar and see what content the platform recommends.
Then, check the credentials, reviews, and other pertinent information about the YouTube channels you discover to narrow down the list.
You can verify the credibility of the content creator by examining their professional background and experience, as well as endorsements by recognized experts, institutions, or organizations in the construction field.
After curating your YouTube playlist, make sure to:
- engage by leaving comments and asking questions on videos, thus fostering learning through direct interactions with content creators and other subscribers,
- adjust the video playback speed to match your learning pace, increase speed for quick reviews, or slow it down for complex concepts,
- binge watch relevant videos on one or more topics to learn as much as possible.
As for the latter, the complexity of construction planning may require methodic watching and learning for months to truly understand and internalize the lessons and new knowledge.
In summary, YouTube can be a valuable resource for construction planners, helping you fill knowledge gaps, and fostering continuous learning and improvement in your roles.
The journey to becoming a proficient construction planner can take many forms, ranging from pursuing formal education to obtaining certifications, attending events, and leveraging resources like online courses and YouTube.
The key to improving your construction planning skills lies in making well-informed decisions on what best fits your learning needs and your career advancement opportunities. and staying committed to continuous knowledge acquisition.
By embracing diverse learning avenues and new technologies, you can cultivate a robust skill set, ensuring you’re well-equipped for the dynamic challenges of construction planning.