What Does a Site Manager Do? Everything You Need to Know
Updated 19 March 2023
Site managers are critical people within the construction industry who work to ensure a construction team completes a project on time and within budget. Site managers have the opportunity to earn a stable income as construction professionals continue to build new developments. If you're interested in careers in construction, you might wonder ‘What does a site manager do?’ and learning more about this field could help you decide if it's right for you.
In this article, we discuss the common roles and responsibilities of a site manager, dive into the skills, qualifications and experience needed for the position and answer some FAQs about working as a site manager.
What does a site manager do?
A site manager works on construction sites and takes responsibility for a construction project. This duty involves ensuring the completion of projects to the client's specifications, on time and without going over budget. A site manager might also be responsible for the safety of construction workers and is usually in charge of allocating resources to specific tasks. A site manager's responsibilities might include:
Overseeing the direction of a project, ensuring that teams complete it according to the client's requirements
Reviewing progress and meeting with quantity surveyors to keep track of costs
Supervising and coordinating construction workers
Finding solutions to problems that occur throughout a project
Performing regular safety inspections
Liaising with other construction professionals, clients and members of the public
Selecting and ordering the right tools and materials for a job
Preparing and checking site diagrams, drawings and reports
Writing up progress reports and other documentation
Securing permits and licenses for construction projects
Negotiating contracts with clients
Hiring team members and subcontractors to work on the project
Preparing budgets and making sure the team uses them in the most economical way
Requirements to become a site manager
Site managers are skilled professionals with experience in many aspects of managing a construction site. There are specific requirements to become a site manager, including education, knowledge and skills such as:
No formal educational requirement is necessarily needed to become a site manager, but it may be beneficial. This usually requires a qualification, such as a Certificate II, III or IV in Building and Construction. You can obtain these credentials through an apprenticeship. Site managers may also hold a higher qualification, like a Diploma of Building and Construction (Building), an Advanced Diploma of Building and Construction (Management) or a Bachelor of Construction Management.
Professionals whose role involves routinely working on construction sites generally need to hold a WHS white card. This card certifies that you have completed a short training course on working safely on construction sites. Site managers usually hold this card for several years before going into site management. This is typically a requirement for all construction site workers. These cards don't expire as long as you continue working in construction.
Most site managers begin their careers in entry-level roles in the construction industry and work their way up to management status, so site managers usually have many years of experience working on construction projects. This allows them to build their knowledge of the different aspects of managing a project while working their way up. Site managers can proficiently use specific tools or operating large machinery, such as diggers, concrete mixers and drills. They are also familiar with the national or state-wide regulations for building and working on construction sites.
There are many different skills that are useful to a site manager, in addition to an in-depth knowledge of construction best practices. Some skills that could be useful to you if you decide to become a site manager include:
Communication skills: Site managers work with a variety of different construction professionals, including designers, labourers and surveyors, and may try to communicate effectively with them. They also spend time discussing plans and budgets with clients, which means that listening skills are essential.
Problem-solving skills: There are several risks throughout a construction project, meaning site managers may regularly use excellent skills in critical thinking and finding innovative and cost-effective solutions.
Decision-making skills: A site manager is responsible for the delivery of a construction project, which involves making various decisions, including on materials and the best way of completing a project. It's important that they can weigh up the pros and cons of a decision to make the best choice.
Commercial awareness: A large part of a site manager's job is ensuring that a team completes a project in the most cost-effective way. This means that a good level of industry knowledge and commercial awareness is key.
Leadership and the ability to motivate others: Site managers supervise and guide a wide array of professionals, so the ability to effectively lead other workers, including motivating them to do their best work, is a great asset for a site manager.
Attention to detail: While site managers are aware of the overall progress of a project, it's important that they can also focus on the small details so that they can spot any potential problems before they arise. Strong attention to detail can be a big benefit for a site manager.
How to become a site manager
If you're at the beginning of your career and considering working towards a site manager role in the future, here are the steps you can take:
1. Complete an apprenticeship
Most site managers work as construction workers for several years before going into management. The most common way to get into this trade is through an apprenticeship. This can allow you to learn valuable skills on the job while getting paid for your work. You can also finish your apprenticeship with a nationally recognised qualification that may help you to secure work.
Related: How to Become a Construction Worker
2. Get your first job and build experience
Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you can begin looking for work as a construction worker. As you continue to work, you can build your skills and experience of working in different types of construction. As you prepare to transition into management work, you may want to look for opportunities to take on extra responsibilities in your current role. This might include helping site managers to select and order materials, getting involved in budget discussions and even leading a small part of a project.
3. Consider further education
Many future site managers decide to seek further education part-time alongside their work. You could study for a diploma, an advanced diploma or a bachelor's degree. This could enable you to build on your existing skills and knowledge by learning about management topics, such as budgets and decision-making on a construction project.
4. Search for site manager jobs
When you are fully qualified and have gained considerable experience working in construction and managing small projects, you can begin seeking work as a site manager. You may start by finding a job as an assistant site manager and working your way up to managing a full site. You can search for jobs using the Indeed job search function.
Site manager FAQs
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about working as a site manager, to help you decide if it's the right career path for you.
How much can a site manager earn?
The national average salary for a site manager is $129,073 per year. You may earn more or less than this depending on your level of experience, qualifications and location. For example, the average salary in Victoria is $133,273, while in New South Wales, the average is $137,055.
Who employs site managers?
Site managers may work in any company involved in the construction of new buildings or structures. This might include:
housing and residential property developers.
the public sector.
companies that own a lot of land, such as retailers or infrastructure companies.
What is the difference between a construction manager and a site manager?
Professionals may use the terms 'construction manager' and 'site manager' interchangeably, but they don't always mean the same thing. A construction manager may only be responsible for a certain part of a construction project, while a site manager usually leads the whole project. A construction manager may sometimes work under the direction of a site manager. A site manager may also have the job title of site agent, construction site manager or project manager.
What are a site manager's working conditions like?
Site managers may work outdoors on construction sites during the construction phase of a project. They also work in office environments during the planning and review stages. Working as a site manager can include working long hours, particularly as a project nears completion. Site managers may need to wear safety equipment such as hard hats, goggles and reflective clothes.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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