construction in Canada

Construction Job Titles & Salaries in Canada

There are many perks to careers in construction in Canada, but transitioning as a newcomer can be difficult. When you lack local experience it’s crucial that you get up to speed on the local market as quickly as possible. At Outpost Recruitment, we understand what employers are looking for when assessing international candidates and are committed to ensuring that our candidates find successful careers in construction. 

In our blog series, we’ve dealt with topics such as adapting your resume, networking, and organizing your job search, but in this article, we’re focusing on how to map your international experience to a role within construction in Canada.

First things first: don’t expect an employer to identify the best position for you. Do your research, target specific roles, and try to understand your strengths and weaknesses with regard to the local candidates you are competing against. This will help you in your quest to pursue a great career in construction in Canada.

It’s also essential to understand what the job titles used in various careers in construction in Canada actually mean. To help you out, we’ve built the following list of common job titles in construction and provided details on what to be aware of when comparing construction in Canada to international markets. Please be advised that we haven’t gone into detail about the generic duties and responsibilities of each role.

Note: The salary ranges outlined below are dependent on experience, education, project experience, location, etc. These ranges (in CAD) are purely a guide and are typical for permanent roles, with salaries for remote roles and shift rotations likely to vary. Superstars may well breach the upper salary limits.

Pre Construction job titles:

  • Pre Construction Manager – Client-facing role involving business development with a focus on coordination of pursuits and the tender process. Works on preparing early paperwork requirements prior to breaking ground and before handing over to a Project Manager.
    • Salary: $100k – 180k
  • Chief Estimator – Leads estimating team.
    • Salary: $120k -180k
  • Estimator – In Canada, general contractors will typically prepare their own Bill of Quantities for a tender. Some firms will allow an Estimator to help deliver a project once they have been successful but it’s more typical for an estimator to be focused solely on pre construction duties. Most companies seek career Estimators who are satisfied with focusing on estimating.
    • Salary: $60k – 160k
  • Design Manager / Design Coordinator – common role for design build projects from $50M upwards. There may be specific design roles for Civil/Structural, Mechanical, Electrical or combined roles depending on the complexity of the project.
    • Salary: $100k – 160k / $70k – $120k

Project Management job titles:

  • Project Manager (PM) – Typical role will include pre construction and project delivery functions such as planning, scheduling, budgeting, cost control, and contract administration. A key difference in construction in Canada is that the Project Manager will assume commercial responsibility for the project. The PM will deal directly with the client and subcontractors.
    • Salary: $90k – 160k
  • Senior Project Manager <> Construction Manager (CM) <> Project Director – Interchangeable construction job titles that describe an experienced PM who will oversee multiple projects and manage lower-level PMs.
    • Salary: $130k – 200k
  • Project Coordinator (PC) <> Junior PM <> Assistant PM – Project management role which focuses on any of the main PM duties. This role is typically a training area for aspiring Project Managers or a sandbox for international Project Managers while they adapt to the Canadian market. Some PCs may have a specific on-site focus, a commercial focus, or focus on project planning/scheduling. The Project Coordinator role will vary in terms of time spent in the office versus time spend on site.
    • Salary: $60k – 100k
  • Scheduler / Planner Emerging role for larger construction projects. Contractors are seeking experienced project planners now beyond candidates who are strong with scheduling software such as Primavera P6.
    • Salary: $120k – 180k

construction in Canada

Site Management job titles:

  • Site/Project Superintendent – Often coming from a trades background for buildings projects, this role will typically be held by an engineer for more complex technical projects. This role manages and supervises site operations for the project.
    • Salary: $90k -180k
  • Civil / Mechanical / Electrical Superintendent – Typically coming from a trades background, this role manages and supervises site operations for a specific discipline on larger projects.
    • Salary: $90k -160k
  • Foreman <> Assistant Site Superintendent <> Lead Hand – More common on larger projects where the Superintendent requires support for site operations.
    • Salary: $90k -160k
  • Health & Safety Manager / Advisor <> Certified Safety Officer (CSO) – This is often a career Health & Safety professional but may sometimes be an experienced tradesperson who is no longer keen to work on the tools.
    • Salary: $90k -130k  / $70k -100k
  • Field Engineer <> Site Engineer – This role is focused on technical engineering aspects of site operations and is more common on large infrastructure projects but may appear on a large buildings project ($40M+).
    • Salary: $60k -100k
  • M&E Project Manager / Coordinator – In recent experience, this role is more common for larger buildings projects (CAD$40M+). Depending on the size of the project there may be specialized Mechanical or Electrical PMs or PCs.
    • Salary: $90k -160k / $70k -100k
  • Quality Manager / Coordinator – Common for large infrastructure or building projects which will encompass quality audits and processes for construction.
    • Salary: $80k -160k

Commercial Management job titles:

  • Commercial Manager – Across buildings sectors, the commercial management function is often led by the Project Manager for projects up to $200m. Across infrastructure, contractors will always hire Commercial Managers to work in pre and post contract duties. This is an emerging commercially-focused role, but not very common in construction in Canada except for large projects (CAD$40M+) as commercial duties are typically under remit of the PM.
    • Salary: $120k – 180k
  • Contracts Manager Typically seen more often in infrastructure construction. In buildings, a Project Manager or Project Coordinator will likely carry out contract formation and administration activities.
    • Salary: $80k – 150k
  • Project Controls Manager – North American role which combines contract management, accounting, and progress reporting for projects.
    • Salary: $120k – 160k

Job titles that are not typically seen in careers in construction in Canada:

  • Quantity Surveyor – All cost control and commercial management duties for the project are part of the PM’s remit. A QS moving to work in construction in Canada must either find a rare Commercial Manager role, or reinvent themselves as a project management professional (PC or PM). Quantity Surveyors tend to adapt and become excellent commercially aware Project Managers. If keen to pursue a career in pre construction, a Quantity Surveyor can work as an Estimator. This is one of the most popular careers in construction for newcomers in Canada.
  • Contract Administrator – These duties within Buildings and Infrastructure will most likely be picked up by a PC who has a focus on costs and contracts.  This role can often be found on large projects ($40M+) but is not very common. It’s more common in the Industrial sector to see this role.
  • Site Agent – This common role in the UK is a combination of a PM and Superintendent. A Site Agent will need to decide on a site-focused (Superintendent) or project management (PM) role.
  • Project Engineer – This role is more commonly seen with engineer consultancy firms. In construction in Canada, you may see a Project Engineer role on larger infrastructure or industrial projects.

Careers in construction in Canada: Where to start?

When it comes to transitioning to one of the many careers in construction, it is vital that you get off to a good start. To help you achieve this goal, we at Outpost Recruitment have compiled some top tips that will help you hit the ground running.

Stay humble

It is important to remember that whether you’re starting a career in construction from scratch or transitioning from another sector, you may have to bide your time before landing your dream job. It is vital to use this time as an opportunity to learn and gain experience before progressing your career.

Be passionate

If you are eager to excel in your career in construction then you need to be passionate about what you do. Why settle for simply being good at what you do when you can be great? The best construction candidates we work with at Outpost Recruitment are always eager to better themselves by acquiring new techniques and developing professionally.

Be persistent

If you want to be a success in your career in construction in Canada then it is likely you’ll have to be persistent. You may not get your dream job right away, but by remaining persistent you stand a great chance of succeeding in the long run.

Professional Engineer Status

Engineers from abroad can’t use ‘Engineer’ in their job title until they are registered with their provincial engineering body and have obtained their Professional Engineer (P Eng) status. This usually takes a couple of years in Canada.

International candidates who hold their Chartership can gain P Eng status via the Washington Accord once they gain 12 months of Canadian work experience and sit an ethics exam.

‘Engineer-in-training’ is a term is used by engineering graduates who are working towards their P Eng status. Chartered engineers can transfer their status to Canada once they register with the provincial P Eng body.

Refer to Engineers Canada and specific provincial engineering organizations if you need more information

Gold Seal Certification and careers in construction

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) Gold Seal Certification Program is a comprehensive certification program that is internationally recognized. Candidates need to fulfill two years of local Canadian experience. The qualification is interchangeable with the CIOB Chartership from the UK.

CONTINUE READING: Explore the Outpost Recruitment blog series for more straightforward career advice.

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