CAREER PATHWAYS

Looking for the perfect job?
Explore our Career Guides!

Read More

What is a Project Manager and How to Become One

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

In the dynamic landscape of modern businesses, effective project management serves as the linchpin for success. But what exactly is a project manager, what does a project manager do, and how does one embark on this career path? In this article, we’ll delve into how to become a project manager, the project manager job description, and the skills required, and provide actionable steps to kickstart your journey into this rewarding profession.

Career Summary

Project Manager Salary

Project Manager Salary

Your expected salary as a project manager will likely be made up of a larger base pay, and may sometimes include a smaller amount in additional pay and bonuses.

According to Glassdoor, the average project manager salary in the USA in 2024 can be summarized as follows:

  • Lower-end: US$ 73,000
  • Median: US$ 98,000
  • Higher-end: US$ 134,000

When compared to the average national income, which is US$ 59,428 according to Forbes, this salary can be considered quite high

What is a Project Manager?

A project manager is a professional responsible for overseeing the planning, execution, and completion of projects within an organization. They act as the central point of contact, coordinating resources, managing timelines, and ensuring that the project meets its objectives and stakeholders’ expectations. With a keen eye for detail and strong leadership skills, project managers navigate complexities and drive teams towards success.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

Project managers play a multifaceted role, balancing strategic thinking with hands-on management to deliver results. Their duties include defining project scope, creating schedules, allocating resources, managing budgets, and mitigating risks. 

They facilitate communication among team members, stakeholders, and clients, fostering collaboration and alignment throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, project managers continuously monitor progress, identify bottlenecks, and adapt strategies to keep projects on track and deliver them within scope, time, and budget constraints.

Project Manager Career Progression

  • Project Coordinator: You assist senior project managers with administrative tasks, such as scheduling meetings, updating project documentation, and tracking progress.
  • Assistant Project Manager: You take on more responsibility, managing smaller projects under the guidance of experienced project managers and gaining hands-on experience in project execution.
  • Project Manager: You lead medium-sized projects independently, overseeing all aspects from initiation to closure, including planning, resource allocation, risk management, and stakeholder communication.
  • Senior Project Manager: You handle larger and more complex projects, provide mentorship to junior team members, and contribute strategic insights to organizational project management processes.
  • Program Manager: You oversee multiple interconnected projects or a portfolio of projects, aligning them with organizational goals and ensuring synergies across initiatives.
  • Project Director: You provide oversight to entire project management teams, set strategic direction, and ensure alignment between projects and organizational objectives.
  • Chief Project Officer or Vice President of Project Management: You hold executive responsibility for all project management functions within the organization, driving excellence and innovation in project execution across departments and divisions.
Project Manager Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as a Project Manager

  • Leadership Opportunities
  • Variety of Projects
  • Problem-Solving Challenges
  • Team Collaboration
  • Tangible Results and Impact

Worst Aspects of Working as a Project Manager

  • High Stress Levels
  • Tight Deadlines
  • Managing Conflicting Stakeholder Priorities
  • Handling Budget Constraints
  • Accountability for Project Failures

Useful Skills to Have as a Project Manager

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Effective Time Management
  • Leadership and Team Management
  • Risk Assessment and Management
  • Adaptability and Problem-Solving

Popular Project Manager Specialties

  • IT Project Management
  • Construction Project Management
  • Healthcare Project Management
  • Agile Project Management
  • Marketing Project Management

How to Become a Project Manager

Project Manager 5 Steps to Career

Education

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Project Manager?

While a degree is not always a strict requirement for becoming a project manager, having one can significantly enhance your prospects in this field. Many employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree, often in fields related to business administration, management, engineering, or computer science. However, extensive relevant work experience, coupled with professional certifications and demonstrable project management skills, can sometimes compensate for the lack of a formal degree.

What are the Benefits of Getting a Degree in Business Administration?

Getting a degree in business administration or a related field is important for several reasons:

  • It provides you with foundational knowledge in key areas such as management, finance, and organizational behavior, which are crucial for effective project management.
  • Employers often prefer candidates with formal education as it demonstrates your commitment to learning and acquiring essential skills.
  • A degree can open doors to entry-level positions and opportunities for career advancement within project management roles.
  • It equips you with critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are invaluable in managing complex projects and making strategic decisions.
  • Networking opportunities and access to resources provided by academic institutions can further support your professional growth and development as a project manager.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree in Business Administration?

The duration of a degree in business administration can vary depending on several factors, including the type of program (e.g., full-time, part-time, accelerated), the specific requirements of the institution, and any prior credits or transferable coursework. 

Generally, a bachelor’s degree in business administration typically takes around four years of full-time study to complete. However, some programs offer accelerated options or allow students to transfer credits from previous education or work experience, which can shorten the duration of the degree.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Business Administration at University?

The cost of studying business administration depends on a variety of factors. According to College Tuition Compare, undergraduates can expect to pay US $9,432 per year in-state and US$ 26,918 per year out-of-state. Graduate tuition on the other hand is about US$ 10,867 in-state and US$ 19,485 out-of-state. 

Can I Become a Project Manager Through Online Education?

Yes, you can certainly become a project manager through online education. Many accredited universities and institutions offer fully online programs in project management, allowing you to earn certifications, diplomas, and bachelor’s, or master’s degrees remotely. 

These programs often provide the same quality of education and curriculum as traditional on-campus programs, covering essential project management principles, methodologies, and best practices. Additionally, online education offers flexibility, allowing you to balance your studies with work or other commitments, making it a viable option for aspiring project managers.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Project Manager?

  • ProjectManagement.com: Explore a wealth of articles, webinars, and resources on ProjectManagement.com, an authoritative platform operated by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Here, you’ll find valuable insights, best practices, and community discussions to enhance your project management skills and knowledge.
  • PMI.org: Dive into the world of project management through PMI.org, the official website of the Project Management Institute (PMI). Discover industry-leading standards, certifications, and resources designed to equip you with the tools and expertise needed to excel in your project management career.
  • Association for Project Management (APM): Access a treasure trove of project management resources on the website of the Association for Project Management (APM). From publications and events to training courses and membership benefits, APM provides a comprehensive platform for advancing your project management skills and connecting with professionals in the field.
  • International Project Management Association (IPMA): Expand your project management expertise with the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Visit ipma.world to access a wide range of resources, including standards, publications, and events, curated to support your professional development and success in the field of project management.

Practical Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for Aspiring Project Managers?

Internship opportunities for aspiring project managers can vary depending on the industry and the organization.

However, some common internship roles that provide valuable experience in project management include:

  • Project Management Intern: Assisting project managers with various tasks such as project planning, scheduling, documentation, and stakeholder communication.
  • Assistant Project Coordinator Intern: Supporting project coordinators in administrative tasks, tracking project progress, organizing meetings, and maintaining project documentation.
  • IT Project Management Intern: Working alongside IT project managers to assist with software development projects, infrastructure upgrades, or system implementations.
  • Construction Project Management Intern: Gaining hands-on experience in construction project management by assisting with site visits, coordinating subcontractors, and monitoring project timelines and budgets.
  • Healthcare Project Management Intern: Interning with healthcare organizations to learn about project management in a healthcare setting, assisting with initiatives such as process improvements, facility expansions, or technology implementations.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Project Manager?

As a project manager, you’ll learn a diverse range of skills essential for success in the role, including:

  • Leadership: You’ll develop the ability to motivate and inspire team members, providing direction and guidance to achieve project goals.
  • Communication: You’ll refine your communication skills, effectively conveying information to stakeholders, resolving conflicts, and fostering collaboration among team members.
  • Time Management: You’ll master the art of prioritizing tasks, creating schedules, and managing deadlines to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • Problem-Solving: You’ll learn to identify and address challenges that arise during projects, employing creative solutions to overcome obstacles and keep projects on track.
  • Risk Management: You’ll gain expertise in assessing and mitigating risks associated with projects, proactively identifying potential issues, and implementing strategies to minimize their impact.
  • Negotiation: You’ll hone your negotiation skills, reaching agreements with stakeholders, managing expectations, and resolving conflicts to achieve project objectives.
  • Adaptability: You’ll develop the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and unforeseen challenges, adjusting project plans and strategies as needed to maintain project success.
  • Strategic Thinking: You’ll cultivate a strategic mindset, aligning projects with organizational goals and identifying opportunities for innovation and improvement.
  • Resource Management: You’ll learn to allocate resources efficiently, including finances, personnel, and materials, to optimize project outcomes.
  • Stakeholder Management: You’ll understand the importance of building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders, ensuring their needs and expectations are addressed throughout the project lifecycle.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Project Manager?

The work-life balance of a project manager can vary depending on factors such as project deadlines, team dynamics, and organizational culture. At times, you may experience periods of intense workload, requiring long hours and dedication to meet project milestones. However, with effective time management and delegation skills, you can strive to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. It’s important to establish boundaries, prioritize self-care, and communicate openly with your team and stakeholders to ensure a sustainable work-life balance over the long term.

What is the Career Outlook for Project Managers in the USA?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of project management professionals, categorized under “Project Management Specialists” is projected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

Project Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Project Manager?

  • Agile Project Manager: Agile Project Managers lead projects using agile methodologies, focusing on iterative development, collaboration, and flexibility to deliver high-quality outcomes in dynamic environments.
  • IT Project Manager: IT Project Managers oversee technology-related projects, such as software development, system implementations, or infrastructure upgrades, ensuring alignment with business objectives and technical requirements.
  • Construction Project Manager: Construction Project Managers manage construction projects from inception to completion, coordinating subcontractors, managing budgets, and ensuring adherence to safety and regulatory standards.
  • Healthcare Project Manager: Healthcare Project Managers oversee projects in healthcare settings, such as hospital renovations, electronic health record implementations, or clinical process improvements, while ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations.
  • Marketing Project Manager: Marketing Project Managers coordinate marketing campaigns, product launches, or branding initiatives, collaborating with cross-functional teams to achieve marketing objectives and maximize ROI.
  • Operations Project Manager: Operations Project Managers focus on improving operational efficiency and streamlining processes within organizations, leading projects such as supply chain optimizations, facility expansions, or quality improvement initiatives.
  • Project Management Consultant: As a Project Management Consultant, you provide expertise and guidance to organizations on project management best practices, methodologies, and strategies to enhance project success and organizational performance.

What Type of Companies Hire a Project Manager?

Various types of companies across industries hire project managers to oversee and execute their projects.

Here are some examples:

  • Technology Companies: From software development firms to tech startups, technology companies hire project managers to lead the planning, development, and implementation of IT projects and product launches.
  • Construction Firms: Construction companies employ project managers to coordinate construction projects, ensuring that they are completed on time, within budget, and in compliance with safety regulations.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems hire project managers to oversee initiatives such as facility expansions, electronic health record implementations, and process improvements to enhance patient care and operational efficiency.
  • Consulting Firms: Consulting firms across various industries, including management consulting, IT consulting, and engineering consulting, hire project managers to deliver client projects, manage client relationships, and drive business results.
  • Manufacturing Companies: Manufacturing firms hire project managers to oversee projects such as process improvements, new product launches, and supply chain optimizations to increase operational efficiency and competitiveness.
  • Financial Institutions: Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions hire project managers to lead initiatives such as system upgrades, regulatory compliance projects, and process enhancements to improve customer service and operational effectiveness.
  • Marketing Agencies: Marketing agencies hire project managers to coordinate marketing campaigns, branding initiatives, and digital projects, ensuring that they are delivered on time, within budget, and aligned with client objectives.
  • Government Agencies: Federal, state, and local government agencies hire project managers to manage infrastructure projects, public service initiatives, and IT projects to serve the needs of the public and meet regulatory requirements.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofit organizations hire project managers to oversee fundraising campaigns, community outreach programs, and operational projects to achieve their mission and serve their constituents effectively.
  • Retail Companies: Retailers hire project managers to lead initiatives such as store renovations, merchandising projects, and e-commerce platform implementations to enhance the customer experience and drive sales growth.

Should I Become a Project Manager?

In conclusion, whether or not you should become a project manager ultimately depends on various factors, including your personal interests, skills, and long-term career goals. Throughout this article, we’ve explored the role of a project manager, the essential skills required, potential career paths, and the diverse industries that hire project managers. 

It’s crucial to make an informed decision by considering these key points, assessing your strengths and interests, and envisioning how a career in project management aligns with your aspirations. While project management offers rewarding opportunities for leadership, problem-solving, and professional growth, it also comes with its challenges and demands. 

Therefore, take the time to reflect on whether the role of a project manager resonates with you and whether you possess the necessary skills and traits to thrive in this dynamic field. By making a well-informed decision, you can embark on a fulfilling career path that aligns with your passions and leads to long-term success and satisfaction.

Careers Related to Project Manager


Lace Brunsden

About the Author

Read more articles by Lace Brunsden