Not that long ago, it was possible to make a good living without going to college. Careers in the manufacturing and construction industries, in particular, were not only lucrative ones but accessible by high school graduates who didn’t have much of an affinity — or enthusiasm — for more education.
In many ways, that’s changed. Nowadays, more and more employers are requiring their workers to have an Associate’s degree at the bare minimum, with preference going to those who have their Bachelor’s. And that goes for the construction industry as well as for business, teaching, accounting, and other fields. William Ondulich, whose career has spanned all aspects of the building industry, talks about some of the reasons to pursue a degree in construction management.
1. There’s More Competition Than Ever Before
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, cosntruction-related programs at four-year colleges saw a 5.7% increase in 2019. That means it’s going to be harder and harder to secure employment in this field without an undergraduate degree. It used to be the case that construction workers could achieve supervisory and advisory positions through experience on building sites, but no more — or at least not as easily. To land a job or gain clients, you pretty much have to hit the books for a couple of years.
2. It Provides You With More Possibilities
What does a graduate of a four-year construction management program do for a living? There are a surprising number of options. They can enter the workforce, or they can go on to study architecture, engineering, project management, or even law with a specialization in construction. Like William Ondulich, they can land building official, plans examiner, or code inspector positions. Or, especially if they do have hands-on experience, they can use the business skills they’ve acquired in college to start their own construction company. Another option is to become a freelance construction consultant.
3. A Degree Augments Experience
Make no mistake, says William Ondulich, a degree is not a substitute for real-world experience. What it does do, however, is allow you to enter the workforce with a substantial advantage. There are some aspects of the industry that you simply can’t learn by swinging a hammer — just as there are also crucial elements to construction that you won’t learn in the classroom.
In other words, it’s best if you have both education and experience. Many students log on-the-job hours during the summer vacation and other school breaks or even while pursuing their four-year degree. The latter setup will require a lot of work and dedication, but it’s worthwhile for the edge you’ll have when it comes time to find employment.
4. It Boosts Your Bottom Line
In this industry as in almost every other, getting that diploma may be expensive, but it will pay off in the long run. People with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees make more than people who don’t. Enough said?
5. Networking and Job Placement Benefits
There are benefits to a college education that extend beyond the nuts-and-bolts (no pun intended) of what you learn in the classroom, explains William Ondulich. Most four-year schools have job placement programs, so you will get a little assistance landing a position where you can use your newfound knowledge.
Not only that, but you’ll be better positioned to do some networking. Your instructors and classmates will continue to be good business connections once you’re out there in the real world. Even just having an alma mater in common with a potential customer or colleague might be enough to tip a bid in your favor.