5 Steps to Become a Project Manager [+ Career Outlook]

A woman standing in front of a chalk board lecturing two men

When a project goes off the rails, it costs every stakeholder time, and most importantly, money. That’s why the demand for effective and skilled project managers is forecasted to grow steadily — current projections call for 22 million new project management-oriented roles to be created globally each year through 2027.

With the right mix of experience, skills and education, now is the time to consider a move into a project management career. Here’s how to launch this new career endeavor in 5 easy steps.

What is Project Management?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” While this definition seems a bit vague, it helps to understand the definition of project when it comes to professional endeavors. Projects are any temporary effort that is aimed at creating value through a new or unique product, service or end result. 

When put into action, project management uses specialized processes and methods to achieve specific goals and objectives throughout the lifespan of a project; and when done correctly, projects are delivered on time and within budget. Here are some examples of what effective project management looks like: 

  • defining the reason why a project is necessary
  • capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales
  • developing and implementing a management plan for the project
  • leading and motivating the project delivery team
  • managing the risks, issues and changes on the project
  • monitoring progress against plan
  • managing the project budget
  • maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organization

Why Is Project Management Important?

As we’ve mentioned already, project management and project managers are essential elements of any endeavor for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Helping set achievable goals around planning budgets, timelines and project scope
  2. Keeping everything mission driven toward project completion
  3. Aligning project with short- and long-term business goals
  4. Creating a clear manager for all processes throughout the project
  5. Acting as quality control during the project lifespan
  6. Reducing overall cost of the project

What Does a Project Manager Do?

On the surface, project management seems like a simple role that oversees processes and keeps everything running smoothly. But as any seasoned professional will tell you, projects rarely go off without a hitch. This makes project managers (PMs) so essential — they are equipped with certain skills and knowledge that empowers them to work through any roadblocks and achieve project success.

In both the day-to-day and from project launch to completion, project manager tasks include:

  1. Creating end-to-end project plans and schedules
  2. Building and manage teams
  3. Assigning work, track progress and oversee time management/deadlines
  4. Setting cost estimation and budgets
  5. Problem solving project roadblocks 
  6. Monitoring project progress
  7. Ensuring stakeholder satisfaction

Key Skills for Project Managers

High quality project managers have a diverse mix of soft and hard skills that help them achieve consistent success across industries. Because they are asked to wear a lot of hats, project managers are expert multitaskers — and that applies to their skill sets as well.

Project Manager Soft Skills:

  • Leadership: When you’re in charge of a project, you need effective leadership skills to oversee the team, motivate performance and to help carry tasks over the finish line.
  • Anticipation: Projects are constantly evolving, so managers need to have the experience and insights to stay ahead of the game. Anticipating next steps and potential issues will help everyone adapt and keep projects on track. 
  • Communication: Without effective communication, no project can succeed. As the project manager you need to be able to effectively communicate with multiple, disparate stakeholders about constantly changing circumstances. 
  • Organization: Effective organization is critical for every PM — they are juggling all aspects of a project including timelines, budgets and personnel. 

Project Manager Technical Skills:

  • Planning and Forecasting
  • Risk Management
  • Budgeting
  • Tracking and Monitoring
  • Project Management Software

5 Steps to Become a Project Manager

1. Assess Your Current Applicable PM Skills

Many of the aforementioned soft and hard skills project managers need are common in other professions, so odds are good that you are already well positioned to be a PM. Take stock of your current strengths and weaknesses and see how you can draw a parallel between your current role and project management job. This is also a great exercise to help you prepare for any interviews you may have.

2. Seek out Project Management Education Opportunities 

There are formal project management education options for those who wish to take a more long-term approach. Many colleges and universities offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs in construction project management and general project management. If you’re looking for an alternative solution, consider a professional certificate program in project management. These programs are also typically offered by colleges and universities, but can be completed in a fraction of the time and at a much lower cost than a formal degree.

3. Get Certified

There are a handful of project management professional organizations that offer certifications that demonstrate your universal skills and knowledge. These certifications can carry weight, especially on a resume, so it doesn’t hurt to look into adding a few to your PM repertoire. Some top options include the Project Management Professional (PMP) and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certifications offered through the Project Management Institute.

4. Work on Your Resume & Apply

Once you’ve honed your applicable skills, beefed up your project management education and worked on a PM certificate, it’s time to start applying for jobs. You’ll want to make sure your resume is geared toward a project management role, so highlight your relevant experience before sending in your resume and application.

5. Gain Experience

You may have to start in an entry level position, but even that is valuable for your career. Gaining on-the-job experience will help you land a more high-level position as a project manager. Not only that, but it will also give you the skills and insider knowledge to help you confidently manage projects to success.

Project Manager Career Outlook

Steady job growth is expected through the end of this decade — 33% job growth by 2027 — and with that comes increased earning opportunities for project managers. The current average salary for project managers is $81,260, but that number is growing, especially when considered by specific industries. Project managers in construction are earning approximately $89,000 while IT PMs earn $104,000 annually.

Project Manager Education Resources

Project Management InstitutePM for the Masses
Project TimesThe Project Management Podcast
The Digital Project ManagerGetting Things Done
The Project Management Podcast
The Lazy Project Manager

Project Manager FAQs

What is project management?

Project management is “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” This thing of value — a project — is any temporary effort that is aimed at creating value through a new or unique product, service or end result.

What does a project manager do?

Broadly speaking, project managers act as leaders for a set project or task. When it comes to day-to-day responsibilities, PMs typically handle:

  • Creating project plans and schedules
  • Building and managing teams
  • Assigning work, tracking progress and overseeing time management/deadlines
  • Problem solving project roadblocks
  • Monitoring project progress

What skills are required for project managers?

These can be broken down into hard and soft skills for project managers:

Project Manager Soft Skills:

  • Leadership
  • Anticipation
  • Communication
  • Organization

Project Manager Technical Skills:

  • Planning and Forecasting
  • Risk Management
  • Budgeting
  • Tracking and Monitoring
  • Project Management Software


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