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At 19 years old, I am trying to figure out what to do with my life!
I absolutely love construction, currently working full time as a carpenter and taking night classes at my local community college. My goal is to, at some point become a general. What I am wondering is, should I go to college for construction?

Now to some of you this may seem like an obvious answer. Of course! Right?

Well heres the deal. Though I actually enjoy school quite a bit, I HATE MATH! A little geometry or basic algebra is fine (in fact, I use it daily), but in order to transfer out to a 4 year college here in California and get a BA, I would have to take 5 more math classes, ending in Calculus II!:eek:

I am great when it comes to english classes, and I am thinking about getting a BA in something more english oriented, rather than construction management. I know I would love the core construction classes, but its the path to get there I dont look forward to. On the other hand, I love english kinda stuff and would enjoy that just as much, and would actually be able to get through school faster since I am ahead in my english classes. Choosing construction would mean another 2.5years in community college just to do the math!

So what do you guys think? Either way I am going to go to college.

My question is, would I be making a mistake in getting a degree in something besides construction if I see myself making a career out of construction? I mean, does it really matter? Is a contractor with a Const. Management BA going to have any advantages over one without (but with a college degree)? Does anyone regret not having a BA in Const.? Would it increase my chances of success as a general contractor or would someone with a random BA in something have the same chances?
 

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I have no college education, and only trade school in a field I don't work in. To me, your experience with construction will carry more weight than any degree, but I'm pretty old school.
 

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cannon,
It's good that you are asking these questions now.
As far as an answer, probably, the construction degree would apply more if that is the career you choose, however, any education is better than none.
Those areas where you may be lacking you may just have to pay others to do it for you. We all have our limitations. It's learning how to be succesful in spite of them that is the challenge.
rj
 

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I don't think the english degree is what you want in this feild. I'm not saying that it would be a complete waste of time but if you are going into construction thats what you ought to take. At 19 years old that extra 2.5 years is nothing and before you know it you will have the degree that you really want it may seem like it's draging by but it wont take long compared to a life time. With that being said I as others have stated I have a degree in a feild (auto paint and body) that I do not work in and I probably will never work in full time but I do use the welding and sheet metal skills that I learned in school quite a bit so school is never a waste of time I just think it would be better to take the courses you need for the feild your going into I dont know that it will help you land more jobs but you will have a head start on things you did not already know.
 

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I think it's great that your thinking in this direction. College is a good thing, if you have the opportunity than i would do it no questions asked. At least you have 4-5 years to weather the storm.:laughing:

I used to run large very plumbing projects in Milwaukee Wisconsin. While doing this I obviously had to work with large general contractors. The people they hire almost always have college education, it's not required but that's what they desire. This is all commercial work like building brand new hospitals etc. This type of work is not for everybody and is best suited for larger cities. Around here we have a colege called MSOE, and they specialize in this as well as engineering. Most of the project managers come from their.

Residential is a whole different ball-game and doesn't require much of a formal education. In both cases "on the job experience" is what makes the difference.

If you go to school you can always do both, having a degree is a pretty cool thing to have.

Mike
 

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I think it's great that your thinking in this direction. College is a good thing, if you have the opportunity than i would do it no questions asked. At least you have 4-5 years to weather the storm.:laughing:

I used to run large very plumbing projects in Milwaukee Wisconsin. While doing this I obviously had to work with large general contractors. The people they hire almost always have college education, it's not required but that's what they desire. This is all commercial work like building brand new hospitals etc. This type of work is not for everybody and is best suited for larger cities. Around here we have a colege called MSOE, and they specialize in this as well as engineering. Most of the project managers come from their.

Residential is a whole different ball-game and doesn't require much of a formal education. In both cases "on the job experience" is what makes the difference.

If you go to school you can always do both, having a degree is a pretty cool thing to have.

Mike
Yeah, to kind of elaborate on what Mike said here (which is very true).

First distinguish between:

1) Residential
2) ICI (Industrial, Commercial, Institutional)

For the former, any sort of formal education/certification you have is a "nice to have". Residentail GC's are a mixed bag. Therein, you can find everything from Licensed Architects, P.Eng's, Certified construction managers, Licensed carpenters/Electricians/Plumbers with a bunch of degrees/Certifications with 20, 30 years experience....ALLLLLLL the way down to guys with very little experience and no degrees and certifications and everything in between.

Becoming a residential GC is rather simple. The bar of entry is low. A simple test/exam, a fee, GL policy and you're more or less in business and ready to go. Your "employer" is JOHN. Q. PUBLIC., the question is will he care how accredited you are? Most HO's just look @ past work. Also, it's possible that a very experienced carpenter with no degree/certification could build a better house than any Architect/Engineer. So having degrees/certifications is no guarantee of success in residential. Nor is there much additional "job security/prospect" for the future of working for other GC's once you factor in the investment required. So it's really up to you, but it's more of a "nice to have" rather than a requirement. Most GC's just pick up accreditations as they advance in their careers and add to their skillsets, mostly for personal self development reasons.

A good GC already understands the fundamental theories and principles of Project Management (critical path) to such a degree as is practical for his operation. The core of the management knowledge a successful GC needs to have comes from years and years of actual experience on the job site and managing various jobs. Understanding every aspect of the job, to how it all goes together, being able to forecast problems...all those parts of value engineering, assessing risk, scheduling, budgeting, etc.....then just being able to put that knowledge/assessment into excel, word and MS documents. Actually running the jobs is far more personal than in other sectors, knowing your trades, employees, clients, vendors, etc....it's not rigorously structured like in ICI.

In ICI on the other hand, experience and accreditation/degrees go hand in hand with one another. For example, every large construction company has both kinds of construction managers:

-guys who came up through the ranks
-guys who got in directly through degrees/BA's, Eng. etc.

For the former group, say a guy started off as a carpenter. He got into an apprenticeship program, worked his way up to junior, mid level, yourneyman then finally a fully certified carpenter. This requires both schooling and on the job training/experience and usually 3-5 years. Then he gets some experience working as a fully licensed carpenter and works his way up to lead carpenter/foreman, from there he may take a few additional courses (advanced blueprint reading, construction safety, etc.) or his employer will bump him up to site supervisor. He may then take some courses on project management, coordinating, estimating, etc. and work his way up to assistant estimator, manager, coordinator. Then up and up...so experience and accreditation goes hand in hand in this scenario.

In the latter scenario, some kid with an engineering degree/construction mangement falls right into an assistant construction manager, estimator, coordinator immediately out of school. It all depends on the employer.

This might sound stupid to you, but my advice first and foremost is to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. We're not all wired the same and most of us find out what we're actually good at through trial and error, but if you can identify your own personality at this point you will be ahead of the game. I tried my hand at a whole bunch of stuff before finding "where I fit in", and where my personality and the way I'm wired is most usefull. For example, I'm a terrible carpenter. I could never be an electrician or plumber either. Why? I don't have the patience or attention to detail required, I don't like getting dirty and I don't like working with my hands.

So you might assume I make a terrible GC. But the truth is, for what I lack in patience and attention to detail in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc....I make up for when it comes to planning, budgeting, managing, designing, etc. I have a great lead carpenter, his attention to detail and patience is very respectable, but sit him down to plan out a job based off some CD's and after ten minutes he would rather put a bullet in his own head. Why? That's just the way he's wired. He's great at what he does, I'm good enough at what I do, and together we get it all done. Point is, not only will you end up miserable if you don't like what you do...you'll never be any good at it so be honest with yourself. Once you're goot at what you do, success will inevitably follow.
 

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College is fine if you know what you want, and, it is essential to get that degree and/or go through a specific program. Most 19 year olds do not know what they want to do, which is fine. If you aren't certain as to what you want, I would hold off with the college thing until you know. It's a lot of time and money to spend.

What does the construction curriculum consist of?
 

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This is great, these are the types of posts I love to respond to. Let me start Cannon by saying I've been where you are, I was 23 and just out of the Army starting at a Community College for civil engineering and all I wanted to do was work. I loved construction. Now I'm 27, have an Associates in Civil Engineering and I'm in my junior year of my B.S. in Construction Management (I transferred my A.S. into the first two years). Recently I competed in the Assciated Schools of Construction Design/Build competition for Region 1, we placed 2nd. The competition was sponsored by Pizzagalli and Gilbanes two respected names in CM work. What I took from that experience was you have to have a degree whether it be in civil engineering or construction management if you want to work on projects really above residential. I know some guys on here might disagree with me but that is my take. Your young and you have plenty of time. Make good use of the 2.5 years, take extra classes that will transfer to the school you want. Once you have that degree they can never take it away from you. Good luck man.
 

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For those of you considering a construction management degree, has anybody reviewed school curriculums up here in the northeast, specifically the metro-area? Any recommendations?

Thank You,
Amado
 

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Yes

I too was in your shoes roughly 15 yrs ago. I graduated with a degree in Construction Science and struggled with engineering calc I and II. It sure did pay off tho. With this degree you really broaden your options. I worked for a large firm building water treatment plants upon graduation and now I am a project manager for a regional university managing all of their construction, roughly 35 million in last 5 yrs and an expected 12 million over the next 2 yrs. If I get tired of Academia I can move on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you guys for all the great advice!

I have been researching all day and spoke with my boss.
Basically came to the conclusion that yes, a BA in const. Management would be advantageous in the sense that it is a credential to add under my belt, but really, construction is about experience. I wouldn't necessarily be any better of a contractor, and really life is about having a good time, in the long, AND short term. Not to mention, I am 19, who really know what I will be doing, 4 years from now I could be sailing ships down the Amazon!:boat:

At this point I think I will shoot for a BA in something English oriented from a university, and at the same time get an AA in Const. Management from a community college (which requires basically no math). That way I still have some kind of construction credentials, as well as a 4year college degree.

Thanks again for all the advice! Please keep it coming, as I have quite a bit more time to figure things out!

For those who are interested, this is the course outline for an AA in Const. Management for my local community college as well as their course summary:

Courses Required for the Major in Construction Management:

First Semester (Fall)
CM 100 Fundamentals of Construction Management
ARCH 23 Materials and Methods of Construction
ARCH 48 Intro to Architecture, Construction & Design
Related Professions
MABS 60 Microcomputer Business Applications
MATH 95 Trigonometry

Second Semester (Spring)
CM 110 Construction Graphics
ARCH 27 Fundamentals of Building Structures
ARCH 240 Fundamentals of the International Building
Code
SPCH 6 Workplace Communication or Supervision & Management 234 - Communication for Business Management
or BSEN 74-Business Correspondence

Third Semester (Fall)
CM 240 Construction Cost Estimating
CM 248 Construction Project Administration
ENGN1A Surveying

Fourth Semester (Spring)
CM 244 Construction Scheduling
ARCH 160 Professional Practice
LERN 62 Successful Job Search Techniques (Required for placement in summer internship position)

Fifth Semester (Summer)
LERN 63 (Concurrent work in internship position required) ......1
Total Units ........................................................ 42

Course Summary:
The Associate in Science Degree Program prepares students to enter the Construction Management Profession in responsible positions. This program is comprehensive and provides students with the practical knowledge and skills required to be effective in professional environment, such as:
• Estimating and construction costing.
• Scheduling techniques, including CPM methodology.
• Quality control and quality assurance techniques.
• Project control methodologies.
• The legal environment of the design and construction process.
• Building Codes, Zoning Ordinances and other regulations.
• Written and verbal communications.
• Technical mathematics.
• Computer skills.
Upon successful completion of the curriculum students receive the Associate in Science degree. Students who complete the curriculum with final grades of C or higher in their major technical courses receive the Associate in Science degree in Construction Management. The California State Contractors License Board gives graduates who receive the Award of Achievement credit for one and a half of the four years of practical experience required of applicants for the State building contractor’s license.(This is awesome because with my work experience up until my time of transfer, plus this, will enable me to get my license as soon as I graduate!) Upon graduation from the Construction Management Program, students are qualified to enter the profession through a wide variety of employers such as Construction Managers, General Contractors, Sub-Contractors, as well as Architectural and Engineering offices.
 

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Let me throw in a few things to think about:

1. Will you be in debt when you get out of school and how much? Student loan debt can be an anvil around your neck that you cannot get rid of. Do not end up $100,000 dollars in debt with the ability to only make $30,000 a year or find yourself chronically unemployed. It is a recipe for a tragic life. Look at the numbers carefully.

2.It could be a problem if you hate math. Geometry and trig are important, I don't know so much about the calculus.

3.If you don't like the path to get to a four year college degree, maybe you should investigate a technical school. A tchnical school is much different from university level education. You do not have to take all those classes that do not directly apply to your your chosen career.

4. The foreseeable futue for construction does not look good right now.

5. Watch the cost of your education. If it is too high, it may not be worth it. Refer back to #1.
 

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College is fine if you know what you want, and, it is essential to get that degree and/or go through a specific program. Most 19 year olds do not know what they want to do, which is fine. If you aren't certain as to what you want, I would hold off with the college thing until you know. It's a lot of time and money to spend.

What does the construction curriculum consist of?
I could have saved myself a lot of time and money (debt) if I didn't go right into university after high school.

I pretty much agree with what Heritage has written.

If you enjoy what you do, you will be good at it. If you are good at something, and not lazy (or a misplaced sense of self-entitlement) you will succeed.

Be sure it's what you want before you spend all that time and money on college.
Also, if you are taking out loans to get your education, seriously do something practical. A degree in English might sound like something you'd enjoy, and if you have the money for it, go ahead. Don't take out a loan for something that is not going to pay for itself in the future.

Also, calculus isn't really all that bad. Remember you just need to pass, which means only 60% at most schools. :laughing:
I know people's whose motto was: 'C' is for Continue. :laughing:
 

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Let me throw in a few things to think about:

1. Will you be in debt when you get out of school and how much? Student loan debt can be an anvil around your neck that you cannot get rid of. Do not end up $100,000 dollars in debt with the ability to only make $30,000 a year or find yourself chronically unemployed. It is a recipe for a tragic life. Look at the numbers carefully.


5. Watch the cost of your education. If it is too high, it may not be worth it. Refer back to #1.
This advice is worth more then the education you are seeking!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Also, calculus isn't really all that bad. Remember you just need to pass, which means only 60% at most schools. :laughing:
I know people's whose motto was: 'C' is for Continue. :laughing:


Unfortunately, since I would be a transfer student, I would have to get at least Bs, most universities in CA arnt accepting anything below that.
 

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If you like school go for it, but if you don't skip school but don't skip the learning. I've changed careers 3 times now, only my first had anything to do with my degree, but I keep learning everyday.

From trial and error I've learned more than any MBA I've ever run across.

Just don't decide to not go to school and not learn, that is a sure way to end up at the tail end of everyone else.
 

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When I started in college, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I ended up in Civil Engineering. There wasn't a specific Construction Management degree at that time, however, there was a construction option track within the Department of Civil Engineering.

What helped me was my school had a very strong co-op program. Starting with my 3rd year, I worked a quarter, when to school for a quarter, etc, then finished full time for my last (5th year). I got a lot of great experience, a degree, and the company I was a co-op student for hired me full time upon graduation.

Fast forward a lot of years.

Today, if you don't have a degree, you are not going to get a job in commercial construction. You probably won't even get an interview. Is it right? No, but there are so many people looking for a job today, it's a way to eliminate a lot of candidates.

Key to day is knowing how to use a computer, how to write, and how to push paper. Yes, someone actually has to build the project, but if you want to do more than wear a toolbelt, you need a degree.

You can make a good living working with tools, if that's what you want to do. It is however, harder to do today than it was, say even 10 years ago.

CM vs CE degree? My opinion is a CE degree is harder, and thus, gives you more credibility when talking to others with degrees.

Remember, I'm talking about commercial/industrial construction.
 

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I wasn't any good at math when I started school, in fact I tested into a basic math class freshman year where we were adding and subtracting thousands :laughing:. That was more basic than what I thought I needed to be in but it was good starting out in basic algebra and relearning the basics and working up through calculus 2/Diff Eq. I hated math because I didn't understand it at first but going slowly in college and relearning everything it became somewhat easy compared to the other classes.

In short, I didn't really read this whole thread but if it's the math you're apprehensive about don't let that hold you back from getting a degree in whatever you want to major in, seriously.
 

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I went to school and got a BA in construction management and no I don't feel it is necessary and there are lots of people on here who are proof that you can be successful without a degree at all... However the construction management degree will get your foot in the door at a GC where you can really learn what it takes to run a business. Don't let the math part hold you back there are plenty of teachers and teachers assistant who jump at the chance to help someone willing to try. There are also plenty of classes that are very interesting/useful with little to no math so they will free up time for the handful of tough classes.

You don't need the degree i just feel it will make the road to your end goal of being a GC as clear as possible... Just my $.02
 
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