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Professional Certification vs. Graduate Certificate in Construction Management: Which is Best for You?

Regardless of your chosen field, the training and education you receive throughout your career can help set you apart from the crowd, especially in the competitive construction industry.

Educational opportunities should not be limited to your time in college before beginning a career. Construction is ripe with opportunities for industry professionals to receive ongoing education to further their careers.

Right now, you may be considering whether to go back to college full-time for a postgraduate degree. Or, if that’s not feasible, you could consider other options such as pursuing a graduate certificate or becoming certified in construction management.

Let’s explore the options to either obtain a graduate certificate in construction management or to become certified through an organization such as AIC (American Institute of Constructors), validating that you have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to manage construction projects.

Option 1: Graduate Certificate in Construction Management

A graduate certificate in construction management is a type of program offered by a college or university that is designed for industry professionals who do not have the time to return to school after obtaining their initial college degree.

These programs are best suited for construction professionals who cannot pull away from their careers but want to further their education to advance in the industry. You can pursue your career goals by taking a college-like course that offers educational training in construction management topics.

Typical Requirements for a Graduate Certificate Course

Each college or university has specific requirements to take a certificate course. We recommend starting with a review of ACCE or ABET accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs to see which institutions offer graduate certificate courses.

Look out for the following information from each school:

  • Entrance requirements and prerequisites.
  • Required documents to submit (e.g. resume or test scores).
  • Proof of undergraduate degree.
  • The number of modules in the course.
  • The typical length of time to complete the certification.

Some schools provide more information than others. If you have questions about requirements or time commitments, contact the appropriate department at each school to find out information.

Then, once you complete the course and obtain a certificate, you’ll be positioned to advance within your own company. You’ll also be more appealing to potential employers looking for individuals with specific industry knowledge to oversee construction projects.

In a field where the majority of workers do not possess a graduate certificate, having an additional credential can put you on the fast track to success.

If you want to further your career but don’t want to commit to returning to school as a full-time student, pursuing a graduate certificate in construction management is a great way to separate yourself from peers in similar positions.

Best Ways to Use a Construction Graduate Certificate

Once you obtain a construction certificate, you can use the certificate in a variety of ways. Consider these nine ways you can use a certificate to improve your professional standing and support the construction industry:

1. Present the certificate to your current employer to validate that you should be considered for a promotion or raise.

2. Show your employer that you can take on more responsibility for managing construction projects.

3. Gain confidence in your own abilities to manage complex construction projects.

4. Demonstrate to your current employer that you have proven skills in a specific area of construction management (e.g. scheduling, safety management, quality control, cost management, bidding, estimating, and/or scope development).

5. Position yourself in the market to obtain new employment commensurate with your proven knowledge and experience.

6. Consider becoming a mentor to help an aspiring construction professional rise to your level of skills and knowledge.

7. Look for opportunities to join leadership roles in construction organizations that guide the future of the industry.

8. Get involved with higher education or industry certification programs that work with future construction managers.

9. Participate in local, state, or national organizations that review current construction standards and develop new standards for the construction industry.

Option 2: Professional Certification in Construction Management

Opportunity America recently published a report, “Industry Certifications: A Better Bridge from School to Work?” that captures the benefits of obtaining industry-driven certifications, such as what AIC offers.

Consider this key finding in the report: “Unlike traditional academic awards, which signal that students have attended and completed a course of study, industry certifications aim to signal what learners know and what job-related tasks they can perform.”

Specific to the construction industry, there is a growing demand for construction certifications because it allows employees to show “occupation-specific” knowledge and expertise to potential employers and current employers offering promotions.

The AIC Constructor Certification Program validates that a constructor has mastered the skills and knowledge required to manage complex construction works.

If you have acquired a specific level of knowledge as a construction manager, you can separate yourself in the market by passing our exams. Then you will be able to add our industry-recognized credentials to your resume.

Are You Ready to Be Certified?

– Our Certified Associate Constructor (CAC) Level I exam is an excellent option for newer construction managers who want to test whether they genuinely have the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to take on critical roles in their company.

  • Who is the CAC for? An individual with 4 years of qualifying education or qualifying experience in the construction industry.
  • Alternative: be within 12 months of graduating from a four-year accredited bachelor’s degree construction program.

– Our Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) Level II exam is designed for construction managers who have amassed a significant amount of real-world experience in managing construction projects. The CPC exam assesses higher-level skills and knowledge in the management of construction work.

  • Who is the CPC for? An individual who has passed the CAC exam and has obtained 4 additional years of qualifying education, qualifying experience, or a combination of both.
  • Alternative: 8 years of qualifying education, experience, or a combination. Of the qualifying experience, at least 2 years must be involved in managing a construction project or a substantial portion of a project.

The AIC exams require constructors to meet our required education and/or experience qualifications prior to application. You can view the full list of requirements to sit for each exam on their respective website pages linked above.

Find out more about registering for AIC exams. If pursuing a graduate certificate in construction management is not ideal given your current circumstances, consider the alternative of becoming professionally certified through AIC.

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