The Difference Between Project Managers and Project Engineers

The Difference Between Project Managers and Project Engineers

Construction projects, even small ones, require a lot of planning to be successfully completed. For example, according to a 2022 poll, it took an average of 15.4 months from start to completion for new privately owned residential buildings with multiple units in 2021, unchanged since 2018. On the other hand, building one-unit buildings took around 7.2 months on average.

Projects of this scale require leadership from the very beginning — particularly in the takeoff and submittal process — which often comes in the form of either a project manager or a project engineer (if not both). Software can also assist in this process by helping with collaboration, filing documents and pinning down details such as construction submittals and construction takeoff estimation.

What Is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a crucial part of any construction project, small or large. They're responsible for planning, executing, and managing the entire project from beginning to end, coordinating with both internal and external stakeholders. 

The duties of a project manager range from setting objectives based on budgets and resources to monitoring progress and ensuring deadlines are met. They also provide guidance to team members and can be involved in decision-making processes, such as what materials or services should be purchased.

Additionally, they serve as a liaison between multiple parties involved in the construction, including contractors, architects, engineers, subcontractors, and other specialty crews. They are often also in charge of recruiting and supervising staff. To help with the planning process, project managers may use concrete estimating software or drywall estimating software to help create accurate estimates for projects.

In essence, project managers are responsible for ensuring projects come in on time and within budget by considering all necessary factors to complete the task.

What Is a Project Engineer?

A project engineer is also a key part of any construction project, and though their duties may overlap with the project manager's in some ways, there are substantial differences. In short, a project engineer focuses on executing plans developed by the project managers — namely, technical ones like design drawings from architects, engineers and subcontractors.

Project engineers provide technical support to the project manager for all design, construction and operational activities. They are in charge of overseeing the accuracy of engineering drawings and documentation, as well as managing multiple specialty crews throughout the duration of the project. Additionally, they take part in budgeting tasks such as cost estimating, materials procurement, scheduling, and job-site inspections.

Project Manager vs. Project Engineer

While these two integral roles overlap in certain areas, they are distinct from one another.


The educational training for a project manager and a project engineer is quite different. Project managers typically focus on gaining the necessary experience in business management, such as accounting, budgeting, finance, and human resources. They may also have degrees in related fields, such as computer science or engineering. Likewise, the training may include the following:

On the other hand, project engineers often require more technical skills and pursue a degree in civil engineering, construction engineering, or industrial engineering. Their training may include the following:

  • AutoCAD or Revit certification;
  • Building and Project Codes Certification;
  • Construction Project Management Training.

By understanding their respective roles in the planning process, construction companies can ensure that a project runs smoothly.


To become a successful project manager or engineer, both positions need significant experience working in the construction industry.

Project managers usually need at least five years of experience in construction projects. In comparison, project engineers should possess at least two to three years of practical work knowledge in any type of communication systems-related field, such as surveying or electrical systems. Experience is critical as both positions need to be familiar with the different complexities of a construction project.


Generally speaking, salaries for both project managers and project engineers can vary depending on the size and complexity of the job.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for project management specialists is an impressive $94,500. The lowest-earning 10 percent made below $49,750 per annum, and the highest earned over $159,140 annually.

On average, project engineers take home approximately $95,300 yearly. Annual salaries range from below $60,850 for the lowest 10% of earners and $129,620 for the highest 10%.

Do I Need Both Project Engineer and Project Manager?

The answer to this question largely depends on the scope and size of a construction project. If a business is working on a massive undertaking or something that requires complex engineering and building tasks, then it’s highly likely that both positions are necessary. Factors that can affect the decision include:

  • The size of the project;
  • The complexity of the job;
  • Whether it is a short or long-term project;
  • A need for any distinct engineering requirements;
  • If the necessary resources are available.

To put it into perspective, consider the following examples:

  • If a company is working on the construction of a skyscraper, then it’s likely that both roles will be needed. The project manager would be responsible for setting deadlines and budgets for the job, while the engineer can provide technical advice on how to make the project come to fruition.
  • In contrast, if a business is completing smaller-scale tasks such as renovating an office space, one person may be able to take up both roles without issue.

Regardless of the size and scope of the job, having a project manager and engineer working together can help to ensure that all functions of a construction project move forward as planned.

Is a Construction Project Manager the Same as a Construction Manager?

No, construction project managers and construction managers are two different roles. A construction project manager directs a wide range of construction projects, handling aspects like:

  • Setting project goals and objectives;
  • Collaborating with a team of designers, contractors, and subcontractors;
  • Creating reports and presenting them to senior personnel.

A construction manager oversees the entire process from start to finish. They are more focused on on-site operations and day-to-day activities at the job site. This role would be responsible for the following:

  • Preparing budgets and timelines for the project;
  • Making sure that plans comply with building regulations;
  • Monitoring progress throughout the project.

Construction managers do not need special qualifications but possess a good knowledge of building laws, codes, and regulations.

Overall, a project manager, engineer, and possibly construction manager on site can help ensure that projects are completed without hiccups. The key to successful completion is understanding their distinct roles in the planning process and ensuring they work together as a team.

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