As a construction professional, you’re constantly learning and obtaining experience, increasing your value at every turn. You should also be searching for ways to mark that experience so you can compete for promotions or become more marketable to a prospective employer. One of the best ways to prove you have what it takes is to obtain construction certifications.
Since the construction industry is ever-expanding, so are the types and volumes of construction certifications available. Deciphering which are worth it and which might apply to your role (or desired role) can be a challenge. This guide will help.
What is a construction certification?
Put simply, a construction certification is a document or designation that proves your competency or mastery in a specific role.
The typical path to certification includes applicants sitting through a predetermined number of hours of coursework, taking an exam, and paying a certification fee. Once you’re certified, you become more valuable to your current employer, as well as prospective employers.
Generally speaking, construction certifications are offered by trade organizations, governmental agencies, or private companies with expertise in the construction industry. These certifications typically have some prerequisites that applicants must meet, such as work experience or education, and the coursework can vary from four hours to 8,000 hours, depending on the certification. Some courses are available entirely online, while others require in-person training.
15 types of construction certifications to consider
There are tons of construction certifications to choose from, with certain certifications being more applicable to a specific job role than others. The following are some types of construction certifications to consider based on roles within a construction company.
Entry-level construction personnel should focus on getting the basic courses out of the way first. These courses are available through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They include 10-hour and 30-hour certifications.
The 10-hour course is strictly entry-level, while the 30-hour course provides a more in-depth look at workplace safety. There aren’t any prerequisites to meet, and the 10-hour course costs around $80, while the 30-hour course costs roughly $180.
Also, consider some of the certifications offered by the American Concrete Institute (ACI). There are many courses to choose from, and some are very applicable to entry-level construction employees. The requirements are fairly low, and courses range from $150–$750, depending on the certification.
The most popular course is the Concrete Field Testing Technician Grade I, which lasts for five years and costs around $500.
The Nation Association of Safety Professionals (NASP) also offers a course free from lengthy job experience requirements. NASP’s Certified Safety Manager designation requires taking a 40-hour course and passing the CSM exam. You will need some industry knowledge to pass the test, but there aren’t any requirements to take it.
Finally, for those fresh out of college and working in assistant project manager roles, the Construction Management Association of America offers the Construction Manager-in-Training certificate program. There are four levels of certification, but the basic certificate is suitable for those in entry-level construction management positions. The exam costs between $75–$125, aside from veterans who can take the exam for free.
If you have eight years of work experience in the field, four of which were in a leadership role, you might qualify for the Construction Management Association of America’s Certified Construction Manager program. This construction certificate is universally sought after, and it’s the only construction management certification endorsed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The CSM certificate shows employers that you know how to manage a construction project and teaches you effective management techniques and skills. The course entails 300 total credits. Applying and taking the test costs around $350, while the cost of the individual credits will vary.
Project management professionals should also check into the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s an excellent way for those still green in Green Building to get their feet wet and learn how to manage projects designed with minimizing environmental impact in mind. There aren’t any prerequisites, but the course is best suited for those with experience in the field. The cost ranges between $250–$550, and the test takes about two hours.
The Associate Constructor certification offered by the American Institution of Constructors (AIC) is also worth pursuing for new project managers. This certification shows that its holders are experienced in the field but will also uphold the AIC’s Code of Ethics. There aren’t any specific requirements to meet. The test takes two hours, and the entire registration and testing fee costs $165.
The AIC also offers a more advanced certification: The Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) is the next level up from the AC certification. There aren’t any prerequisites, but project managers are likely to require at least a few years of experience to pass the exam. The exam cost $300 for non-AIC members.
Project managers can also benefit from obtaining a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. This certification is offered by the Project Management Institute, and it has several requirements. First, applicants must have a four-year degree and 36 months of leading projects, or a high school diploma and 60 months of leading projects. Both routes also require 35 hours of project management education. Beyond the cost of the college degrees, registration for the test cost is $555 for non-members of the PMI. However, the 35 hours of training can cost as much as $5,000.
Financial and credit management
For those involved in the financial management aspect of construction, one of the best certifications to aim for is a CBA, or Credit Business Associate certification. Offered through the National Association of Credit Management, this certificate shows that you’ve mastered basic financial accounting, business credit principles, and introductory financial statement analysis. There isn’t a minimum work experience, and the application fee is $470 for non-members.
The NACM also offers a Certified Credit Executive designation for those it deems capable of managing the credit function at an executive level. It involves passing a rigorous four-hour exam involving accounting, finance, domestic and international credit concepts, management, and law.
The course requires a CBA and a CBF (Credit Business Fellow), or 10 years of experience plus a 4-year degree, or 15 years of experience plus being 57 years old or older. Each of the three paths also requires 125 NACM Career Roadmap Points as well.
For those with 3–5 years of experience in financial management, consider pursuing a Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional (CCIFP) certification from the Institute of Certified Construction Industry Financial Professionals. This designation shows competency in accounting and reporting, income recognition methods, budgeting and planning, risk management, taxes, human resources, legal issues, and information technology. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree plus 4,000 hours of experience, or 8,000 hours of experience with a high school degree.
Credit and financial managers at businesses of any size should also consider going through the Levelset Payment Academy. The Payment Academy will educate you on the ins and outs of mechanics liens and their notices, credit management, and lien waiver fundamentals. Levelset also adds new courses regularly. There are no prerequisites to take the course, and joining is free of charge. You’ll also earn a certificate for each course passed successfully.
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Are construction certificates worth it?
It’s smart to question whether construction certificates are worth it, as they take time and very few are free. But, there are a number of reasons why it’s worth pursuing a certificate, particularly the ones featured above.
Build a stronger company
The more knowledge and experience you have, the better you’ll be at making decisions that affect the entire company. And, with a company atmosphere that values certifications, employees and executives will strive to learn more. Plus, the sheer variety and volume of certificates available means that employees can begin to specialize in areas that interest them, leading to better career satisfaction and loyalty.
From another perspective, certifications make recruiting and finding the best employees easier. Should a company be looking for someone with financial management experience, a CBA or CCIFP may help a candidate stand out from the crowd. With better, more qualified employees, the business grows.
Make your job easier
To earn a certification, you need to show proficiency in a particular area, which means you’ll have to study and learn. This allows you to grow your experience and knowledge as you expose yourself to more in-depth aspects of the field or specialty. Ultimately, you’ll be able to rely on this experience when faced with challenges or inefficiencies, making your job easier.
Earn more money
If you’re still wondering if construction certificates are worth it, this one benefit will prove it. People who hold certain construction certificates can make considerably more than those who don’t. Some estimates for PMP holders alone indicate that they earn more than 20% more than project managers who don’t hold the certificate.
Beyond that actual raise in salary one might see from a certification, they’ll also become more marketable, giving them more leverage when interviewing with prospective employers.
Foster professional development and career growth
Don’t discount the importance of loving what you do. By pursuing specific certificates, construction employees can specialize in areas that interest them. This professional development might make them eligible for certain teams or departments within an organization, leading to better job satisfaction.
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