Contract Administrator vs Project Manager Career Paths


contract administrator v project coordinator

The construction industry is filled with job and growth opportunities for a range of careers and roles. With an expected growth of 5.8% and 1,388,500 construction jobs in Australia by 2026, becoming a contract administrator or project manager will set you up to be in two of the most highly sought-after construction jobs now and in the coming years.

If you’ve worked on a construction site before, you’ve probably come across both a contract administrator and a project manager. Both these jobs follow different career paths, but both offer long-term success for those ready to ‘get off the tools’ while remaining in construction.

What does a contract administrator do?

A contract administrator oversees the planning, negotiation and delivery of contracts on construction projects. They are responsible for ensuring that contracts are properly drafted and executed by both parties. Contract administrators also negotiate contracts with project managers and stakeholders, ensure the obligations within it have been met, and often oversee the delivery of goods and services relating to the contract.

Contract administrators can travel too – they may travel out to each site to negotiate with subcontractors, oversee worksites to ensure they are meeting contract obligations, and work with a team right up until project completion.

Skills required for contract administration

There are a handful of interpersonal, professional, and ‘hands-on’ skills that are required to be a contract administrator. Some of these will come from your own experience, and many can be learned through a formal contract administration qualification.

The top skills required for a successful career in contract administration are:

  • Strong knowledge of the construction industry
  • Literacy skills
  • Financial understanding of construction costs
  • Understanding of legal codes relating to construction workplaces
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Stakeholder management

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How to become a contract administrator

If contract administration sounds like the right pathway for you, there are options available to ensure you set yourself up for success. Contract administrators need a good understanding of how construction sites work, which is why many of them already work in construction.

Along with construction experience, a formal qualification such as CAL’s Certificate IV in Building Project Support (Contract Administrator) (CPC40320) will equip you with the skills you need to succeed in this career path.

In this certificate IV, you will learn how to:

  • Identify, analyse and prepare construction contracts and plans
  • Apply building codes and standards to the construction process
  • Arrange building applications and approvals

This course is completely online and self-paced, making it perfect for those already working and allowing you to work and gain further experience while you study.

With both experience and a formal qualification, a contract administrator can expect to have a salary of $120,000 a year. This role is also projected to grow by 8.8% over the next five years, making it a ‘safe’ long-term option.

What does a project manager do?

As a project manager, you will coordinate the work of various tradespeople on a building project. You will also communicate with them and keep them informed of progress. A project manager must keep records of everything that happens during the project. This includes who did what, when, how much was spent, and any other details that track and pertain to the project.

Communication between the project manager, teams and stakeholders is essential to ensure that everyone knows what needs to happen next. If there are any issues, they need to be resolved as soon as possible so that the project can continue smoothly.

Skills required for project managers

Many skills that make up a great project manager are picked up from experience in the construction industry and from a formal qualification.

The top skills required for a successful career as a project coordinator are:

  • Sound knowledge of the construction industry
  • Strong leadership ability
  • Understanding of IT and construction software
  • Time management skills
  • Planning and organisational skills
  • Problem-solving

Soft skills such as great communication and interpersonal skills are vital for project managers, as liaising with team members and stakeholders is a significant part of this job. Communicating effectively to get a project completed to standard and on time are skills within leaders that will allow them to manage well and succeed in project management.

How to become a project manager

If project management is the right choice for you, you can take the steps now to set yourself up for a rewarding career. Most construction project managers already work in the construction industry, as they need a good amount of knowledge on how construction sites work and need to be managed.

Along with experience, CAL’s Certificate IV in Project Management Practice (BSB40920) will afford you the right skills to see you become a successful project coordinator in the construction industry.

Through the certificate IV, you will learn how to:

  • Apply project management techniques to ensure projects are finished on time and within budget
  • Manage project human resources to ensure you have the best people for the project
  • Oversee stakeholder engagement to ensure all parties are aware of project requirements and key information

CAL’s qualifications are completely online and self-paced, allowing you to work and maintain your job and on-site experience whilst also gaining your qualification.

With this qualification and relevant industry experience, project managers in construction can earn a salary of $136,000 a year. The job growth for this role is at an expected 8.8% over the next five years. This makes it a great option for those wanting to find a long-term career.

Pathways in the construction industry

There are many pathways to ‘off the tools’ jobs in the construction industry that still allow you to work closely to the action. These two career paths are strong choices for those looking for a change while remaining in a growing industry.

The construction industry is strong in that it will always be growing and withstanding economic stresses. In Australia, it generates $156 billion in reported gross value added and accounts for 9.6% of our workforce. This makes it a secure career choice for those looking for long-term options.

CAL offers pathways into both these construction career options, with the Certificate IV in Project Management Practice (BSB40920) and Certificate IV in Building Project Support (Contract Administrator) (CPC40320). Both will give you the fundamental skills for a thriving career.

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