How to Become a Project Manager
Companies across industries rely on project managers to oversee budgets, teams, schedules, and resources.
Every project, from creating an ad campaign to constructing a skyscraper, needs a manager with a good eye for progress and quality to ensure its success. Are you a natural leader and an effective diplomat? Do you have a knack for carrying out projects from conception to completion? Do you live and breathe spreadsheets? If your answer is yes, you may want to learn how to become a project manager.
Project management is in high demand in a wide array of industries, including technology, education, construction, and business. Once you get started, you can expect a career with a promising future and high earning potential.
If you’re interested in a project management career but aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Learn about the typical duties of a project manager and what it takes to advance your career in this growing field.
What Is a Project Manager?
A project manager is a professional who plays the lead role in all stages of a project. Project managers are in charge of planning, executing, and monitoring short- and long-term projects, including managing all the teams, budgets, resources, and risks involved. A highly skilled project manager strategically delivers results with as little money and as few resources as possible.
What Does a Project Manager Do?
A project manager determines how a project will be planned and carried out from start to finish. Project managers use a variety of approaches, such as scrum (teamwork, accountability, and progress), waterfall (specific sequential steps), and agile (large projects broken down into manageable tasks) to complete projects.
Some day-to-day project manager responsibilities include:
- Determining the scope of a project
- Developing effective strategies to carry out a project and meet deadlines
- Estimating the costs and resources needed to carry out a project
- Communicating the project mission to team members and customers in a clear and concise manner
- Leading teams, assigning roles, and providing support where needed
- Negotiating with customers and stakeholders
- Establishing and maintaining effective communication with customers and stakeholders
- Assessing and mitigating potential risks, such as a financial loss or schedule delay
- Monitoring the performance and progress of teams involved in a project
To better understand the responsibilities and skills involved in this position, check out this typical project manager job description on Monster.
How to Become a Project Manager
Many project managers come from technical background like IT, software engineering, or construction. Those with technical experience are often able to hone their ability to motivate employees and manage budgets to excel in a project manager role. But even if you don’t have a background in your particular industry, you can gain knowledge of the process through coursework or while on the job.
Established techies can move into a project management position without a college degree or certification, but obtaining a master’s in business administration will help you stand out to employers. An educational background in business, finance, economics, human resources, or marketing can also put you ahead of the game.
Thinking about becoming a project management major? Check out these project manager scholarships for help covering the costs of your education.
Project Management Certification
Leading projects in the workplace is the best way to hone your organizational, leadership, and management skills, but the Project Management Institute (PMI) also offers online project management education courses and as well as project management certifications.
Those who are just starting their project management careers might pursue a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) while professionals who already have several years of experience but wish to advance their careers might wish to receive their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification). Many employers look specifically for candidates who are PMP certified.
You must pass a different PMI exam depending on the type of certification you wish to pursue. Other certifications offered by the PMI include PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA), and Program Management Professional (PgMP).
During your project manager training, you will learn these essential skills:
- Project organization and planning
- Risk assessment and mitigation
- Project budgeting
- Leadership ethics
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Exceptional leadership skills
- The ability to multitask and adapt to changes
- The ability to manage teams and resolve conflicts
- A strategic mindset
- Strong attention to detail
How Long Does It Take to Become a Project Manager?
The time it takes to become a project manager depends on where you’re starting and what your goals are. If you want to become a project manager before landing your first job, it could take you about four years to complete an undergraduate degree. Then, it can take another one to three years to complete your MBA or other master’s degree program, if you decide to go that route.
If you’re already established in the tech industry and have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need to pursue a master’s degree or PMI certificate program to be considered for a project manager position. If you choose the PMP option, you’ll need 36 months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of project management training to schedule an exam.
How Much Does a Project Manager Make?
Monster data reports the average project manager salary is $73,570, but it ranges from $39,930 to $128,429, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), depending on your experience level and industry. The average project manager salary by industry is:
- $87,550 in the federal executive branch of the government
- $84,250 for management of companies and enterprises
- $67,720 at colleges, universities, and professional schools
- $83,610 for management, scientific, and technical consulting services
- $97,340 for computer systems design and related services
You can look up the average salary for project managers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
How to Find Project Manager Jobs
Now that you have a comprehensive view of how to become a project manager, you’ll need a project manager resume and a project manager cover letter that highlight your unique skills and qualifications.
Once your resume and cover letter are ready to go, check out Monster’s list of project manager jobs to find an employer in your area.
According to the BLS, the top five states for project manager jobs are:
The top five U.S. metro areas with the most project manager jobs are:
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