How to Become an IT Project Manager: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 10, 2020

Research the requirements to become an IT project manager. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an IT project manager.

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  • 0:01 Become an IT Project Manager
  • 0:49 Career Requirements
  • 1:33 Career Steps to Follow

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Become an IT Project Manager

IT project managers oversee and direct the activities of information technology projects, including managing personnel, overseeing budgets and schedules, and executing a project communication plan. IT project managers may also be referred to as computer and information systems managers and must possess a bachelor's degree and considerable amounts of experience and on-the-job training.

The majority of computer and information systems managers work full-time, with overtime commonly reported as projects' needs require. Though many IT professionals are able to telecommute, project managers generally have to report to an office setting in order to supervise their team and the project as a whole. There are few physical demands or risks associated with this career.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's; master's will improve prospects
Degree Field Computer science, information technology, IT project management, or related field
Experience Varies; several years to reach a management position
Key Skills Possess personnel management, time management, monitoring, critical thinking, inductive reasoning and information ordering skills; strong communication, analytical, decision-making and leadership skills; able to use enterprise resource planning software, database user interface and query software, project management software, and pattern design software; able to conduct systems analysis
Median Salary (2018)* $142,530 yearly (median for computer and information systems managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Steps to Follow

Let's go through each of the various steps required to become an IT project manager:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Both O*Net Online and the BLS state that managers of IT projects must possess at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology or IT project management. The courses in these 4-year programs cover topics like:

  • Database management systems
  • IT security
  • Management information systems
  • Programming fundamentals
  • Project procurement management
  • Principles of project management

Elective classes may include quality management, organizational behavior, and information storage management.

Success Tip:

Complete an internship. An internship allows students to interact with experienced IT project managers and complete some of the same tasks they will perform when working in the field. This experience and these networking opportunities may make it easier to find a position in IT project management immediately after graduation.

Step 2: Gain Experience in the Field

According to the BLS, most computer and information systems managers have several years of work experience in the field of information technology. Employers often seek candidates who not only possess a bachelor's degree, but who also have experience working in project management or supervising individuals in an information technology department.

Step 3: Work as an IT Project Manager

After 3-5 years of experience working in an area related to IT project management, many individuals may be able to advance in their careers. O*Net Online states that IT project managers oversee IT projects by planning the project and managing staff.

Success Tip:

To improve employment prospects, consider earning a master's degree. The BLS states that many computer and information systems managers possess a Master of Business Administration degree, as this type of degree may be preferred by many employers. These programs usually require two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree.

Step 4: Pursue Career Advancement

With enough management experience, IT project managers can advance and become chief technology officers or even chief executives.

To recap, IT project managers usually need a bachelor's or master's degree along with several years of work experience.

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