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By Erica Konieczny
April 1, 2016
The job postings for most construction industry superintendents tell a mixed story. Superintendents are in demand from residential builders like D.R. Horton, to crossover opportunities like those at 84 Lumber who manage framing crews. In fact, work variety for superintendents is continuing to expand due to their general management and problem solving skills. However, superintendent jobs vary from area to area meaning candidates with experience and professional skills are quickly separating from those without.
Most superintendents work directly under a project manager and oversee all construction activities on a site. Superintendents need strong organizational skills because they manage a wide variety of trades. To be successful, they must have a deep understanding of construction processes and materials. Excellent communication skills, good problem solving, an eye for detail, and strong interpersonal skills are all traits employers seek.
Of course, they also need the requisite skills in handling the administrative side of the job and, more than ever, this means being proficient in computer technology. From document management to using collaboration software, the more technologically savvy you are, the more value you provide. While many employers say they’d like to have someone with a four-year degree, the reality is that any superintendent with a few year’s experience and a sound track record can compete in today’s market.
The superintendent demand is highly variable across the country. Online job boards showed Houston, Dallas, New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Seattle, Austin, San Diego, and Orlando as top areas of demand. Simply Hired, a popular online job board, listed more than 4,000 superintendent jobs that were posted in just 7 days, while Monster listed more than 1,000. Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia showed the greatest numbers of online job listings for construction superintendents.
Work is more available and pay is usually greater in metropolitan areas, and the requirements for advanced superintendent skills are highly desired. Dealing with environmental concerns and the general congestion of building in metro areas, requires superintendents with keen planning and problem solving skills.
Job listing sites like Indeed and Payscale show that construction superintendents earn, on average, $65,000 – $71,000 per year. These are median numbers so there is some variation depending on your location, but these numbers reflect the current experience level across this field. With two-thirds to three-quarters of superintendents having more than 10 years experience, the median pay is on the high side for someone with less experience.
It’s often difficult for superintendents to move from one type of building project to another. For example, a residential superintendent with ample experience might still find difficulty moving into commercial construction. The differences in materials, processes, and delivery methods often mean that superintendents experienced in one sector of construction, need specialized training before getting up to speed on another. Employers often don’t move forward with this due to the risk and wait time.
Many companies that build in multiple locations have openings for construction superintendents where travel is required. Besides general contractors, these positions also exist with design groups, corporations that oversee their own construction projects, and developers. Hospitality and retail projects are the most widely available, however, there are increasing opportunities with firms that specialize in particular aspects of construction. For example, modular construction, concrete work, and roofing often have traveling superintendents. More specialized segments such as utility and communications tower construction, alternative energy projects, and pipeline construction, by nature, require superintendents who travel with the projects.
Breaking into overseas work usually requires that you work for an international construction company. It’s important to have very specific skills and experience that closely match the unique needs of specialized projects.
Untethering themselves from the job trailer with tablets and smartphones, construction superintendents are on the cutting edge of mobile computing, however, they will see new technologies coming their way more and more quickly. From augmented reality, to robotic information kiosks that allow workers and superintendents to hold video conversations, the super’s role is easily the information manager and troubleshooter.
There is often a wide range of responsibilities assigned to superintendents. On some jobs the super acts almost like a project manager, while on others they might only oversee certain aspects of the construction project. The job duties are often varied, making it difficult to find matching skills and experience in the job market.
From a career perspective, superintendents seem to find the most success by working their way into projects they like the best. Then they typically expand their skills and experience in those positions. Many superintendents will advance to a project management position and beyond. These senior roles typically require a college degree or specialized courses, but once you’re in, the right attitude and continual learning can open doors to greater responsibilities.
Construction superintendents have reported a high level of job satisfaction. People with a passion for building who are also tech savvy, find the role most rewarding and thrive in this industry.
Learn how to efficiently manage all aspects of a job site's activities using Procore’s project management tools and gain insight into best practices with Procore’s Superintendent Certification.
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