This year, the Federal Reserve reported that more than 44 million borrowers owe a staggering $1.5 trillion in student loans in the United States, averaging to more than $37,000 per person for a 2016 college graduate. As a result, there has been a renewed focus on the return on investment of specific majors, including a proposal by the U.S. Department of Education to beef up the College Scorecard with data on debt and earnings by major. And while not all majors deliver the same value on a range of factors like salary potential and career options, it is even more important that young adults today choose their field of study with their futures in mind.
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There are many industries that offer excellent career paths for students right out of college, like the construction sector. And while a college degree isn’t required to have a long and fulfilling career as a craft professional, a degree in construction management—which comprises the planning, design, safety, quality control and execution of construction projects—provides great career opportunities for students with an interest in math, physics, economics, business management, engineering and communication skills.
The need for talent in the field is immediate. Not only does the construction industry face a skilled workforce shortage of a half million people, but Associated Builders and Contractors’ Construction Backlog Indicator, which reflects projects under contract but yet to be executed, was at an all-time high of 9.9 months in the second quarter of 2018. Furthermore, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest Infrastructure Report Card, the United States earned a D+ grade for the condition of our overall infrastructure, indicating a strong need for construction and rebuilding projects into the future. Today’s young people who choose to enter construction professions will not only contribute to building a stronger America—including efficient transit systems, environmentally sustainable buildings, factories that promote safe working conditions and increased energy capacity—but will enter into a satisfying career with competitive salaries.
According to the job search site Indeed, careers like preconstruction manager and construction superintendent rate among the top 10 jobs for 2018 based on salaries of at least $75,000 and plentiful job postings. Construction management also boasts excellent employment opportunities, with colleges reporting sold-out job fairs and outstanding job placement results. And, the median pay for construction managers—who comprise more than 400,000 of the nation’s 7.8 million industry workers—was $91,370 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Careers in construction also offer high job satisfaction because they allow workers to pursue their passions and perform meaningful work building America’s communities from coast to coast. Commercial and industrial construction projects employ some of the most exciting technologies emerging today. From drones and 3D printing to robotics and augmented reality, construction innovators are finding new ways to plan and build everything from manufacturing plants to the world’s most inventive skyscrapers more quickly, cost-effectively and safely than ever before.
Construction management students can get real-world experience and a head start on establishing their careers by participating in groups like Associated Builders and Contractors’ Student Chapters. Many of the nation’s premier construction management programs are affiliated with one of Associated Builders and Contractors’ 70 chapters, which connect students to internships, jobsite tours, networking events, mentoring, job offers and team competitions, building a solid foundation for career success.
With construction spending at record highs, career opportunities for college graduates with a degree in construction management are growing across the country. America needs the best and the brightest to build the places where we live, work and play, from airports and universities to skyscrapers and stadiums. By starting college with the end in mind, students can help secure their future by choosing a major with ample job opportunity in today’s market and have a rewarding and fulfilling career in construction. Explore the full range of construction career options at CareersBuildingCommunities.org or connect with career resources at workforce.abc.org.
Michael Bellaman is president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors. He served on the president’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.