The project manager role is one of the most important and versatile roles across a wide variety of industries, including Life Sciences, Mining, Oil & Gas, and Renewable Energy. A career as a project manager can be extremely rewarding and provide excellent opportunities for promotion and career advancement.
In this in-depth Project Manager career guide, we’ll take a closer look at everything you need to know about a Project Manager career path. We’ll pay special attention to what project managers do, salary ranges, education requirements, any certifications you may need, and how you can become a Project Manager.
What does a Project Manager do?
It's obvious from the name that the role of a Project Manager is to manage projects. Still, looking deeper than that, Project Managers are among the most important team members in any organization. Project management professionals are critical in ensuring that the goals, people, resources, budgets, and timelines of their assigned projects are all aligned in order for final products to be created on time and on budget.
Project planning has a lot of variables and requires a lot of hard work that may not be immediately obvious. This includes creating project plans, setting project milestones, allocating resources, monitoring progress, motivating employees, and satisfying clients/stakeholders. There are typically 5 phases of a project that a manager will guide their team through. These 5 phases are:
- Opening: Defining a project's objectives and goals as well as identifying high-level requirements and stakeholders.
- Planning: Developing the project scope, schedule, budget, resource allocation, and assembling the necessary team.
- Execution: Taking action to put a project in motion including establishing project processes and safety measures.
- Monitoring & Control: Tracking and reporting on the project's progress and correcting issues as they arise to keep the project on track.
- Closing: Giving the final product to the client, conducting post-project evaluations, and identifying areas for future improvement.
These project phases will vary depending on the industry and project scope.
Why are Project Managers so important?
In addition to ensuring that projects are delivered on time, a good Project Manager can be a key to employee retention. This is because project Managers serve as the line of communication between stakeholders, clients, and team members, representing the interests of each group simultaneously.
For example, suppose a team of employees feels overworked and burned out. In that case, a Project Manager's role is to speak with management and other stakeholders about employee concerns and adjust the project timeline and constraints accordingly. On the other hand, stakeholders rely on Project Managers to give timely, accurate information about a project's status and keep each team member focused on execution.
Project Managers are crucial across all types of projects in every industry, and project or product management skills are valuable for any professional.
Project Manager Career Guide
What skills does a Project Manager need?
Depending on the specific project or product being managed, a role as a Project Manager can require various unique technical skills. Still, many soft skills will be universal to any Project Management job. To start a career in project planning, it is best to develop the following project management skills and find ways to highlight them on your resume:
- Leadership: Ability to build, unify, and motivate a team to complete a goal.
- Communication: Ability to accurately and effectively get information across to team members, stakeholders, and clients. This includes both written and verbal communication.
- Problem-solving: Ability to quickly identify and effectively resolve issues.
- Risk management: Ability to identify, assess, and mitigate or eliminate risks that could impact a project's success.
- Time management: Ability to effectively manage and prioritize tasks and deadlines to ensure the project is completed on time.
- Flexibility: Ability to adapt to changes and unexpected circumstances while still delivering required results.
- Negotiation: Ability to work with stakeholders, clients, and team members to reach mutually beneficial agreements in high-stakes situations.
What are the education requirements for a Project Manager?
There aren't any hard and fast rules when it comes to education requirements for an entry-level project management job, there are some trends in the data worth noting. It is most common for Project Managers to have at least a Bachelor's degree. According to reports, roughly 68% of all people working as Project Managers have a Bachelor's degree. Roughly 14% of Project Managers and 19% of Senior Project Managers have a Master's degree.
Regarding college majors, the most popular degree for Project Managers is Business (29%). However, many Project Managers have more specific, technical degrees in fields like Engineering, Computer Science, Software Development, or Construction.
What certifications does a Project Manager need?
In addition to your years of experience as a manager, Project Management certifications are one of the first things an employer will look at when reading your resume. Here are some of the most helpful certifications to help you stand out as a job applicant:
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
- Project Management Institute (PMI) Risk Management Professional
- Master Project Manager (MPM)
- Six Sigma Green Belt
- Certified Manager Certification (CM)
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Certified Construction Manager (CCM)
- Program Management Professional (PgMP)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
What is a Project Manager’s average salary?
According to Salary.com, as of December 2022, the average salary for an entry-level Project Management job in the United States is $70,614. The range for Project Manager salaries typically fell between $62,810 and $79,874 for these entry-level positions.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) found that the average Project Manager's salary is much higher for employees with more experience. According to the PMI report, Project Managers with 5-10 years of experience on average make $100,000 a year, with PMP-certified managers making even more at $108,000.
How to Become a Project Manager
Becoming a project manager typically involves a combination of formal education and professional work experience. As previously discussed, a Bachelor's degree in a relevant field such as Business, Engineering, Construction Management, or another industry where you would like to work is a great place to start. While some employers also prefer candidates with a Master's degree in Project Management, this is not typically a requirement. However, like in any field, a Master’s degree may improve your long-term earning potential.
Additionally, gaining hands-on experience is essential. Having real-world experience with the types of projects you are managing will give you greater credibility and influence with both team members and stakeholders. For example, if you want to work as a Project Manager for a technology company, it is best to have prior experience as a team member for a similar company.
Obtaining a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is highly valued by many employers and can help speed up your career advancement. The certification requires a certain amount of experience and passing an exam. Learn more about PMP certification here.
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