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General Contractor vs. Construction Manager: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A construction manager is responsible for the coordination and oversight of a construction project, while a general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day management of tradespeople and suppliers. Both roles are important in ensuring a construction project is completed on time, within budget and to the required standards. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties, skills and qualifications of general contractors and construction managers.

What is a General Contractor?

A General Contractor is responsible for managing all aspects of a construction project from start to finish. This includes hiring and supervising sub-contractors, ordering materials, obtaining permits, and scheduling inspections. General Contractors also need to be able to budget for a project and keep track of all the costs involved. They need to be able to negotiate with suppliers and sub-contractors to get the best prices. General Contractors also need to be able to solve problems that come up during a construction project.

What is a Construction Manager?

Construction Managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating construction projects from start to finish. They work with architects, engineers and other construction professionals to plan and execute projects according to schedule, budget and quality standards. Construction Managers also ensure that all health and safety regulations are followed on site. They may be involved in the hiring and supervision of construction workers and sub-contractors. Construction Managers typically have a background in engineering, architecture or construction.

General Contractor vs. Construction Manager

Here are the main differences between a general contractor and a construction manager.

Job Duties

General contractors and construction managers share some of their job duties, such as developing a construction plan, scheduling the project and hiring subcontractors. However, there are key differences in the other tasks they perform. Construction managers focus on managing the project from start to finish, while general contractors handle the entire process, including pre-construction planning and design.

General contractors typically work more with physical materials during the building process, such as concrete and lumber. They’re responsible for ensuring that the materials are installed correctly and can provide post-construction support if needed. Construction managers often work more closely with paperwork and scheduling. They ensure that the project is completed within budget and meets all necessary standards.

Job Requirements

General contractors typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some jobs may require postsecondary education, such as an associate degree in construction management. Many general contractors also pursue certification through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The NAHB offers several different designations for general contractors, including Certified Graduate Builder, Certified Green Professional and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. To earn these certifications, general contractors must complete coursework and pass an exam.

Construction managers usually need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. A Bachelor of Science in Construction Management is the most common type of degree for construction managers, but some also hold degrees in civil engineering or architecture. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in business administration or construction management. Additionally, many construction managers are certified through the Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMMCI). To become certified, construction managers must have at least four years of experience and pass an exam.

Work Environment

Construction managers typically work in an office setting, where they can manage the entire construction process from beginning to end. They may also travel to different job sites to ensure that their employees are completing tasks correctly and on time. General contractors often work outdoors at construction sites, where they oversee all aspects of a project’s development. This means that general contractors spend most of their days working with their teams on-site, while construction managers usually remain in offices throughout the day.


Both general contractors and construction managers are responsible for overseeing the construction process of a project from start to finish. This includes tasks such as coordinating workers, ordering materials, ensuring quality control, staying on schedule and within budget, and resolving any issues that may arise during construction.

General contractors typically have a team of subcontractors that they work with to complete the various aspects of a construction project. Construction managers, on the other hand, are usually employed by the company that is commissioning the construction project. As such, they typically have in-house teams of workers that they oversee.

Both general contractors and construction managers need to have strong communication and interpersonal skills in order to effectively coordinate workers and resolve any conflicts that may arise. They also both need to be highly organized and detail-oriented in order to keep track of the many moving parts of a construction project. Finally, both need to have strong problem-solving skills to be able to troubleshoot any issues that come up during construction.


General contractors earn an average salary of $69,149 per year, while construction managers earn an average salary of $85,208 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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