How a master’s in construction management can prepare you for emerging industry trends

The professional landscape in construction is continually evolving. Changes to available technology and a focus on sustainability, along with a growing population shift to urban centers, are affecting building project management. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the percentage of the population living in cities will increase 13 points by 2050. That equates to more than half of the people in the world calling cities home.

This shift may not only impact the number of construction projects necessary to accommodate the demographic change, but it has also compelled the industry to consider ways to innovate, creating structures that are more environmentally friendly and economical to build. This strategic thinking and planning begins at the management level, where individuals with the advanced technical acumen and competencies in leadership and applied research related to construction are in growing demand.

A master’s degree in construction management can help you expand your knowledge related to three primary areas currently shaping the construction industry: alternative project delivery methods, sustainability and technology. With courses covering subjects such as leadership principles, construction productivity and information technology in construction, a construction management degree can enhance the professional experience you’ve already gained in the field, increasing your qualifications for supervisory positions.

A construction manager looks at plans with an engineer.

Accommodating key trends in construction

Change in the construction field is resulting from the overarching need to lessen project costs and enhance opportunities for collaboration. The popular model of design-bid-build is giving way to alternate delivery methods to align with the reality that construction is not a one-size-fits-all industry. For instance, the traditional approach emphasizes cost competition, but some projects require the right technical expertise more than the most affordable plan. The focus is shifting toward greener building designs and the integration of more technology at all stages, allowing firms to showcase innovative designs and methods. Individuals at the management level must know and adapt to new trends, exhibiting proficiencies that integrate different strategies for an organization’s continued success. A master’s degree in construction management can help you gain expertise to handle industrywide developments, including:

Alternative delivery methods

While the design-bid-build pattern is still commonplace for construction projects, other options continue to gain popularity, according to e-Builder. These include:

  • Design-build: Skipping over the standard delivery method’s bid portion, this option results in a contract where the designer and owner work together from a project’s inception. As a team, they address changes, solve problems and make recommendations for the project. This collaborative effort can require well-developed communication skills as a key component to success.

  • Integrated project delivery: Also focused on collaboration, this delivery method mobilizes all project participants to contribute to every aspect of the job. This joint effort can then lead to construction projects that are more efficient throughout the build’s life. Working together with a varied group of people usually requires strong problem-solving abilities as well as an organized and detail-oriented manager.

  • Construction management at risk: A guaranteed maximum price at the outset of a project is the defining trait of this delivery method. Based on the parameters and the implicit costs, the construction manager commits to staying within an agreed-upon budget. Understanding the construction process, including the project management side, can prove essential to accurate project delivery of this type.

Sustainability and green construction

Sustainability is perhaps one of the more significant trends in construction. It can change building design strategies, with innovations leading to today’s conventional buildings having a smaller carbon footprint and structures that are better for the environment as well as the people who inhabit them. From roofing design to indoor climate control to energy conservation, sustainable developments in construction are leading to improved construction materials and better health considerations.

“Regardless of the sustainability target, by so many owners opting to build more sustainable projects, certain features are now being integrated into standard processes in the construction industry,” which tomorrow’s managers will likely need to adapt to in their work and business strategies, says Dr. Kristen Parrish, assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University.

This demand can mean staying on top of new regulations and standards, especially when trying to gain LEED certification for a building. Some contractors even recycle materials during construction, regardless of whether they seek LEED credits, to align with changing norms. Construction professionals must plan, design, construct and operate a building with special attention to energy and water use, indoor environment quality, material selection and the building’s effects on a site. Extending your competencies in operations, facilities or leadership principles can help you innovate and manage sustainable and green building projects.

Although sustainability can be defined differently, according to Dr. Parrish, she does feel the demand for sustainable projects is increasing. Whether it’s earning a certification such as LEED, hitting a specific energy or water use target or requiring compliance with internal standards for sustainability, those at the management level in the construction field will most likely encounter sustainability parameters to incorporate into building projects.

The digital shift’s impact on construction design

Traditionally, construction has been lower down on the list of industries incorporating technology, according to e-Builder. While the field is beginning to catch up, integrating technology into the business model for construction projects is still an emerging trend, one that you can prepare to address with a construction management degree.

The construction industry has been observing a major paradigm shift in recent years to adopt new and emerging technologies to drastically improve performance, according to Dr. Steven Ayer and Dr. Pingbo Tang, assistant professors in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at ASU. This shift creates opportunities for innovation and technological developments.

Some technologies utilized in construction, according to Deloitte, include:

  • Monitoring work and site safety in real time with drones

  • Tagging equipment to ensure it remains within the specified work area with geofencing

  • Creating digital models to present a more realistic visual representation of a design

Preparing for management-level career options in construction

With such impactful trends altering the construction industry, managers will most likely need a combination of proficiencies to keep up with changes and ensure projects move through to completion in a timely manner. With an advanced degree in construction management, you can build the managerial and technical expertise required to stay on top of these key industry developments.

Abilities that can make you a capable leader in light of the aforementioned trends include:

  • Knowledge of regulatory requirements and sustainability standards: Green building guidelines include a combination of regulations, certification guidelines and industry norms. Construction managers often need to understand how to account for each consideration at every stage.

  • Expertise in contracting strategies and risk management: The optimal delivery method varies from project to project. If you understand the principles that underpin this decision-making to maximize profit while reducing costs and risks, you can determine which delivery strategy works best for each job.

  • Command of emerging technologies: These tools include 4-D, 5-D and 6-D building information modeling as well as augmented reality and virtual construction. You can differentiate yourself in the field by learning how to use these solutions and others.

This suite of competencies can help prepare you for management-level positions in construction, such as construction manager, construction and building inspector and first-line supervisor of construction trades.

Three ASU construction students review plans.

Advance your competencies with a construction management degree from ASU Online

With so many potential opportunities arising as the construction industry evolves, professionals in this field can gain the technical knowledge to capitalize on leadership positions and adapt to changes. A Master of Science in Construction Management from ASU Online can help you address these demands through improved competency in project, program and company management.

Core courses are broken up into three areas: project management, project controls and construction technology. Within each, students work with faculty and industry leaders to learn, apply and discover solutions and new approaches to actual construction challenges and real-time problems. The hands-on education in construction and facility management you receive while earning your master’s degree in construction management can equip you with the technical, managerial and applied research skills to advance in the construction industry.


68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Trends in Construction: Alternative Project Delivery Methods on the Rise by e-Builder

What is Design-Build? by Design-Build Institute of America  

What’s the key to sustainable construction by the World Economic Forum

Propelling Green Construction into the Mainstream by ASTM International

What is green building? by the U.S. Green Building Council

Technology disruption: Digitizing E&C by Deloitte

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Construction Managers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Summary Report for Construction and Building Inspectors by O*Net OnLine

Occupational Employment Statistics for First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

ASU Online – Online Master of Science in Construction Management

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