Project management may sound like a straightforward role, but the reality tends to be somewhat more complicated.
Yes, they’re all responsible for planning, organizing, and executing projects from inception to completion, and within the specified timeframe and budget. But different industries have vastly different approaches to project life cycles and work style—so the role of a project manager tends to vary across different industries, whether it’s information technology, software, construction or manufacturing. This article examines the role of a project manager, different pathways into the field and the key skills involved.
If you’re interested in learning more about this in-demand career track—you’ve landed in the right place.
How to Become a Project Manager
Most people working as project managers today have landed their via two main routes, which we’re going to call the “planned” project manager, or the “serendipitous” project manager.
The Planned Project Manager
The planned project manager has made their way into the industry through education and certification, not to mention a good deal of hard work. They’ve learned from industry experts and commenced their careers through research, guidance, and certifications. If you’re the type to pursue the “planned” route, you’ll need to decide on either a degree program or specific project management certifications like those offered by the Project Management Institute. This might be somewhat narrowed down by the industry you see yourself working in. You can also learn through skill development websites, or an online bootcamp such as our Technical Project Management Online Bootcamp. If you're going down this route, it’s essential to know if your certification has a validity date and or if you’ll be expected to reappear for an exam after a few years.
The Serendipitous Project Manager
The serendipitous project manager has arrive where they are through on the job experience, commitment, and research. Learning different management techniques like integration management, cost management, time management, communication management, risk management, and quality management can open a path towards project management.
Suppose you’re employed as a software developer for a few years, and you then realize you have a passion and talent for the project management side of things. You can make inroads by taking on small assignments, learning how to think like a project manager, applying your knowledge, and getting involved in meetings and discussions. In short, look for opportunities to learn and then implement your skills while managing projects. This can allow you to smoothly transition into the role of project manager.
Different Roles in Project Management
Based on the level of experience and seniority, a project manager might work in any of the following roles as they advance through their career.
Project facilitator: This is an entry-level position in project management. A project coordinator or facilitator is involved in project documentation, scheduling meetings, budgeting, time management, and other processes.
Project planner: This position involves updating and coordinating project schedules. A project planner is also involved in allocating resources and monitoring activities.
Assistant project manager: An assistant project manager works closely with a project manager to understand customer needs, develop budgets, organize resources, and plan different tasks.
Project manager: A project manager is involved in planning, executing, and controlling projects for investors or customers within time and budget, from feasibility through to completion.
Senior project manager: After several years of experience as a project manager, this senior-level position requires the ability to handle larger or more complex projects, or overseeing an entire portfolio of projects. Other senior-level positions in project management include:
Project leader: This role involves typically the same responsibilities as a project manager.
Project portfolio manager: Oversees a portfolio of projects.
Project director: A position for the head of the department.
Head of project: Position managing all projects in the organization.
Chief Project Officer: Leads all projects within the organization. Apart from the generalized titles mentioned above, different industries may have different titles for project managers. For example: Construction Project Manager Insurance Project Manager Engineering Project Manager Software Project Manager Architectural Project Manager
Skills Required for Project Management
We’ve listed below the general skills needed for all project management roles.
Communication: A project manager should be good in verbal as well as written communication. You’ll have the chance to show your communication skills through a resume, cover letter, and interview, and later while interacting with team members, stakeholders, vendors, and customers.
Problem-solving: It’s expected that you’ll encounter unexpected problems during the course of a project. So you’ll need to be able to meticulously solve a range of different problems.
Leadership: A project manager is required to manage different teams during the execution of a project. They should be able to lead their team efficiently, so that everyone moves towards the project goal cohesively.
Organization: Project managers need to have excellent management skills, as they need to organize different tasks, resources, and people efficiently and effectively. You’ll be expected to complete the project within the stipulated budget and time through exemplary organization.
Time management: There is always a deadline for any project, hence time management is of utmost importance in any field of project management.
Negotiation: A project manager needs to be a good negotiator to reach favorable outcomes on resources, budgets, and schedules.
Contract management: Project managers should know about contracts and laws. You’ll need to be aware of the process of selecting vendors and buying different goods and services in line with local rules and organizational conventions.
Risk management: Identifying and managing risk is one of the most important skills required for a project manager. To deliver a project successfully, you’ll be able to predict and mitigate the different risks involved.
Evaluating performance: A project manager must be able to assess the progress of a project and the team, their efficiency, productivity, and quality. Scheduling, planning, and resource utilization are essential skills for any project manager.
Scheduling and budget allocation: Skills like budgeting and utilization of funds as well as scheduling abilities are extremely important for all project managers.
Project Management Certificates
A reputable project management certification is a sure-fire way of qualifying for this coveted job. There are certifications suited for entry-level candidates as well as seasoned professionals. Some of the most sought-after project management certifications are: Program Management Professional Project Management Professional (PMP) Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Portfolio Management Professional PMI Risk Management Professional PMI Scheduling Professional PMI Agile Certified Practitioner PMI Professional in Business Analysis
Aspiring project managers can reach out to their network through colleagues, friends, or referrals via a training institute or through the PMI. They’re advised to apply for relevant project management positions online, as well as on popular job portals and company websites. Some of the places where you can seek project management-specific positions are listed below:
Project Management Institute (PMI): Top employers often post their jobs on the PMI portal. You can upload your resume to the portal, browse through relevant listings, and apply for positions that you feel are a match for your experience.
LinkedIn: Creating a detailed LinkedIn profile allows you to network with other professionals in the same or related fields and connect to different recruiters and employers. The site also has regularly updated job listings and is popular with top organizations across the globe, and particularly in the US.
Glassdoor: Glassdoor provides information about different positions and profiles hosted by every organization, a review of the working culture, salary data, and interview tips by existing or former employees. You can get an idea of the type of openings in project management through this portal.
Indeed.com: This is a popular online job search platform. You can post your resume and skills here, and apply online directly to any open positions. It matches job seekers with prospective employers and provides information on the organization, its culture, work profile, and salary structure. Some of the top companies hiring project managers at various levels are:
Cisco: This telecommunication giant, headquartered in California, has a huge requirement for project managers to handle their equipment production, software, and other tech services.
Southern California Edison: With more than 5 million customers for its electric infrastructure, this organization has numerous opportunities for project managers.
Jacobs: A renowned name in industries like construction, aerospace, defense, pharmaceuticals, and transportation, Jacobs has a range of project management opportunities available.
SAIC: This company is into logistics and supply chain, with a good number of customers. Project managers in SAIC have posted good reviews regarding the work environment and salaries.
Microsoft: This tech giant is a pioneer in computer software and allied technologies, and happens to be one of the most reputable places to work for. Needless to say, they have numerous global opportunities, especially for project management professionals skilled in the Agile framework. Many more companies like JP Morgan, CBRE, Verizon, Insight Global, Citi, Deloitte, TEKsystems, IBM, PPD, ADP, Northrop Grumman, JLL, Tata Consultancy Services, and Cognizant Technologies Solutions hire droves of project management professionals each year.
Project Manager Salaries
Project management is a booming field, and the Project Management Institute has predicted more than 6 million job openings in 2020. This indicates that there’s huge scope for project managers. As for the salary rate, it differs depending on the industry, job level, prior experience, and geographic location.
According to the PMI’s 2020 survey, the mean annual salary of project managers in the US is $118,970. This varies with the industry type, however. For instance, the median salary of a project manager in the agriculture industry is $134,500. For consulting, the figure is $134,140. For aerospace, you’re looking at $129,730; while for pharmaceuticals, the median salary is around $133,240.
A survey by PMI fixes the salary range of project managers from entry-level to high-level between $55,000 to $175,000. Entry-level and mid-level project managers earn from $65,000 to $91,000 a year, while director-level project managers can easily take home about $148,250 annually.
On the education front, the PMI further reports that project managers with PhDs earn $129,000 per year on average. Those with just high school diplomas make $108,000 a year, and project managers with bachelor’s degrees earn around $114,000 annually.
In general, a project manager with a certification from PMI earns around $127,000 per year.
Australia, Switzerland, the US, the Netherlands, and Germany are among the countries with the highest salaries in project management. Egypt, India, and China fall at the bottom of the project manager pay-scale. Within the US, New York and San Francisco are the top payers for project management.
More Than A Job: Start Your Project Management Career
We hope this article has provided you with useful insights into the scope, titles, and salaries in the field of project management. If you’re interested in pursuing this exciting career track, check out our Technical Project Management Online Bootcamp. Through this fast-tracked training program, you’ll discover how to leverage the tools used by top employers and work through a project-based course that builds your portfolio. You’ll have the support of industry experts, a rigorous curriculum, and paired workshops. Contact our team today to find out more.