Construction Superintendent vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?
Three people in construction safety gear looking at a crane on a jobsite

Understanding the difference between a Superintendent and a Project Manager in the construction industry

If you are looking for a career in the construction industry you've probably come across the roles of Project Manager and Superintendent. At first glance, they may seem similar, and they do share the end goal of a finished project. However, there are significant differences in their daily responsibilities that contribute to the success and safety of a construction project.

Project Manager responsibilities include:

  • Working off-site
  • Planning and coordination of the construction project
  • Developing the project schedule, budget, and scope of work
  • Communication project goals to stakeholders and partners
  • Identifying and managing safety risks
  • Negotiating contracts and schedules
  • Managing relationships with client and subcontractors

Superintendent responsibilities include:

  • Working on-site
  • Managing day-to-day operations of a construction site
  • Supervising the work of subcontractors and laborers
  • Ensuring work is completed on schedule
  • Coordinating the delivery of materials and equipment
  • Tracking details using productivity software
  • Enforcing OSHA standards and safety protocols

Day-to-day expectations on a construction site

A Project Manager principally works off-site, occasionally visits the job site, and manages the construction project as a whole. They work with a project admin who handles the timelines and with project accountants who deal with the budget all while maintaining communication about any updates to stakeholders.

A Superintendent works on-site or “in the field” managing the day-to-day operations, directing craft workers, and ensuring the job site is safe for everyone. 

Education and qualifications

A Project Manager typically requires a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering, Architectural Engineering, or Construction Management, with experience and career progression in the field. For a Superintendent role, construction supervisor experience is necessary, and it could require a degree in Construction, Civil, Architectural Engineering, or Construction Management.

Separate roles working as a team

In smaller construction companies, it is common for one individual to hold both the Superintendent and Project Manager roles, while in larger organizations they are two separate roles.

Typically, the size and complexity of the project along with the structure of the organization determine the responsibilities of a Superintendent and Project Manager.

Mortenson's Focus on Collaboration

Collaboration between Team Members is paramount at Mortenson, and this is especially true for the Supt/PM relationship.

Free-flowing communication between these two critical project roles helps to quickly identify hurdles, minimize disruption, and maximize our efficiency in addressing challenges.

A long haired woman looking at an ipad with a man on a construction site wearing safety helmet and neon vest

Communication is key

The Superintendent and the Project Manager play critical roles in a construction project's success, and they work closely together daily to ensure the project goals are on schedule. Both can be high-pressure at times and handling that with grace is not always easy but the team work and common skillset of communication between a Project Manager and a Superintendent can ensure that large-scale builds are delivered on time, on budget, and most importantly -safely.