Careers in Construction: Scheduling

To conclude Careers in Construction Month, we’ll learn about a team that is essential in ushering a project from preconstruction through execution in the field – the scheduling department.

What do Schedulers do?

Schedulers are involved in the entire lifecycle of a project. In the proposal phase, they create an initial schedule for the project. Once the job is awarded, they develop, monitor and analyze the schedule from preconstruction through the completion of the project. Schedulers also prepare accurate and flexible project planning documents which highlight critical areas and risks.

Creating and maintaining a schedule is both science and art. The “how” – using the scheduling tool – is the simplest part of schedule creation and maintenance. The “why” – setting up the schedule to maximize usage and flexibility – requires experience to make appropriate determinations and is a more challenging skill to develop. Understanding the “what” – construction means and methods – is a skill that is honed throughout an entire career.

In order to be most effective, schedulers need exceptional interpersonal skills in addition to technical expertise. When project team members are busy gearing up to start a job, schedulers need to build excitement and urgency in order to get the project team to think and talk through the plan before work in the field begins. Schedulers interview key project team members to develop and shape the plan, and they also facilitate discussion and analysis of the plan to integrate the thoughts and concerns of stakeholders into the schedule. Throughout the project, the scheduler works with the project manager to analyze the schedule and make adjustments as needed to maximize success in the field. Knowledge of how to build a project is essential to a scheduler’s success, yet strong communication skills are required to extract maximize efficacy from the schedule.

Building a Career in Scheduling

Schedulers come to the role with different backgrounds, but most schedulers have a degree in Civil Engineering, Construction Management or a related field. Experience with different construction markets, exposure to construction logistics, techniques, materials and equipment, and an understanding of scheduling software (particularly Primavera P6) are essential to working in this field.

Beyond formal training, there are many other skills that are important for this role. Project managers and superintendents often balance a large workload, so it’s up to the scheduler to find a way to get their input and buy-in on the schedule, even if it’s not at the top of their priority list.

Schedulers also need to have strong analytical abilities and a technical background, allowing them to understand drawings and learn on the fly. It’s also important that schedulers maintain a big-picture view of the project while simultaneously focusing on the thousands of little details that form the schedule. A big-picture view is essential for understanding the relationships between various portions of the project, and the scheduler must relate that big-picture view to the details that make up the itty bitty building blocks of the schedule. They also need to be able to visualize the project in different stages in order to forecast potential risks and opportunities.

While working as a scheduler demands a varied skill set, there are many benefits to choosing this challenging career path. Life as a scheduler is never boring because schedulers get to participate in a variety of different projects in numerous market segments, allowing them to constantly switch gears to address a variety of challenges. Due to the variety of projects schedulers work on and the ever-changing nature of construction, schedulers are constantly learning about unique situations and new means and methods. They are also constantly teaching and honing their own skills in scheduling analysis and communication through their interactions with project teams. There are opportunities for schedulers in the field and in the office, appealing to different personalities. Finally, because of a scheduler’s involvement with a project from start to finish, they are in the unique position to help build the plan on paper and see it all the way through completion in the field.