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Project Leader Vs. Project Manager

Though many companies do not distinguish between these two careers, readers will compare the degrees, yearly earnings, career outlook, and job duties of project leaders and project managers.

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Comparing Project Leaders to Project Managers

Project leaders and project managers are subject to the deadline for a project, and both attempt to meet the standards of the client and company leadership. Readers will learn about the similarities between their education and job growth, while also exploring the differences between their salaries and responsibilities.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Project Leaders Bachelor's Degree $81,628 8% (Managers, All Other)
Project Managers Bachelor's Degree $71,013 8% (Managers, All Other)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Project Leaders vs. Project Managers

Project leaders and project managers are often treated as interchangeable positions for smaller project teams. On larger teams, however, these professionals may work together to keep the project on track. Project leaders may utilize a budget on a project and motivate team members. Project managers, however, help set the budget based on cost analysis and review the efficiency of the team.

Project Leaders

Hiring team members based on their skills allows project leaders to ensure they have the best people for the job. They also apply monetary resources logically by favoring the most necessary aspects of the project. Perhaps most importantly, project leaders often act as liaisons between their team members and the company leadership. On software development teams, they may be known as scrum masters and lead development sprints. These days of intense development are the project leader's chance to tell the team what stakeholders are looking for in terms of technical requirements. Finally, these leaders are responsible for completing plans to patent the product.

Job responsibilities of a project leader include:

  • Attending and even planning meetings with other leaders, such as the project director
  • Developing reports on the progress of the projects, as well as the financial conditions
  • Testing product prototypes
  • Keeping the team focused and moving forward

Project Managers

Project managers define the objectives of the project after meeting with company leaders and learning about the specifications for the deliverable, or finished product. Along with company leaders, they also approve project plans and job orders while prioritizing important tasks. Additionally, project managers create a document, much like a contract, that details the plan and deliverable. They may also recommend changes to the resources allocated to the project, including financial support and employees. Throughout the life of the project, these leaders may deal with setbacks and inform stakeholders of these and any changes that have to be made to go on with the project.

Job responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Providing quality assurance tests on the end product
  • Supervising technical staff and leaders on projects, especially those related to software development
  • Ensuring employees are adhering to contracts or company policies
  • Breaking the project into smaller tasks

Related Careers

As someone interested in a career as a project leader, you could also look into a position as a scrum product owner, as both may work on technical projects. Additionally, if you are curious about a job as a project manager, you could explore a position as a project coordinator, as both are charged with completing documents and reports.

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