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Comparing Contractors With Other Common Roles

There are a few key parties who may often be involved in a given construction project or related need, and each has some specific roles and purposes that it’s important to be aware of. Three of the most well-known such entities in the construction world are contractors, project managers and construction managers.

At Contractors School, we’re proud to assist contractors around Utah with all their needs, from licensure and starting a business to existing business management and more. Here are some basics on the roles and responsibilities carried out by each of these three entities, plus some key similarities and differences between them.


Also often referred to as general contractors, this type of construction professional is responsible for the main coordination, management and oversight elements of a given project. Contractors are hired by clients to handle specific projects or tasks within them – such as building a new home or office building – and will then oversee the work of various subcontractors who specialize in different areas of construction.

It’s often simpler to think of the general contractor as the “captain” of the ship, so to speak – they handle the big-picture elements while specific tasks are delegated out. Contractors may also be responsible for some specific tasks:

  • Hiring subcontractors: General contractors must hire and oversee all subcontractors, who perform specific tasks like electrical or plumbing work.
  • Obtaining permits: Most construction projects require permits from the local government, and it’s up to general contractors to obtain these before work can begin.
  • Estimating costs: Contractors will often be responsible for providing project cost estimates to clients.

Construction Manager

When it comes to strategy and overseeing of the entire construction process, construction managers are the ones in charge. They’ll work closely with contractors and other parties to develop a detailed plan for building, renovating or otherwise completing a given project.

Construction managers may also be responsible for:

  • Project budget management: Construction managers will oversee all finances related to a project and ensure it stays on track.
  • Timeline management: These professionals are responsible for ensuring all elements of a project move forward according to the desired timeline.
  • Safety management: Construction managers must ensure that all safety protocols are followed on-site.
  • Team management: With so many different parties involved in most construction projects, construction managers are typically responsible for coordinating and managing the entire team.

Project Manager

The most flexible and variable of these three roles is the project manager. In some cases, project managers will supersede even the general contractor on a project, managing its broad details; in others, they will be below the GC or even the construction manager, with their role confined to a specific detail or component of the project.

There will often be multiple project managers involved in a given construction project, each overseeing different areas or elements.

  • Quality control: Project managers are responsible for ensuring the quality of all work completed on a project.
  • Budget management: Similar to construction managers, project managers will also oversee finances and help ensure projects stay on budget.
  • Communication facilitation: Whether it’s between contractors and subcontractors or with clients, project managers play a key role in facilitating effective communication throughout the construction process.

Basic Similarities

As you may have already realized just from reading to this point, these three roles have some significant crossover in terms of responsibilities:

  • Management and communication: All three of these entities are heavily involved in managing different aspects of a construction project, and all play key roles in efficient communication.
  • Timeline and budget: Contractors, construction managers and project managers will all be responsible for keeping projects on track both financially and from a timing standpoint.
  • Risk management: Whether it’s safety protocols or overseeing finances, all three must be very detail-oriented and effective at managing potential risks that could arise during construction.

Key Differences

At the same time, there are some major differences to note in addition to what we went over above. In terms of timeline, for instance, project managers are usually on board from the start; construction managers might not be, and contractors will often come on once the project design is set.

In terms of ownership, contractors are business owners, while project and construction managers are typically employees or contracted individuals. And in terms of direct responsibilities, contractors oversee everything; construction managers oversee strategies and timelines but not every detail; and project managers may have a very specific focus within the scope of a project.

If you’re entering the construction world, understanding the differences and similarities between these three entities will be crucial as you navigate your career path. And if you need any assistance with contractors licensing or other needs, we have you covered at Contractors School. Contact us today to learn about any of our contractor services around Utah!


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