Project Manager Career Ladder

Project managers direct projects from the planning stages through to completion. They have great options for career advancement, depending on their years of experience and fields of specialty.

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Career Advancement for Project Managers

A project manager is responsible for the budgeting, planning, delegation, and timely completion of a specific project. A project manager can advance in several ways. One is by moving to the level of senior project manager through years of project management experience. Another is by becoming a program manager, overseeing a group of projects in a specialist field. Both career tracks are considered here, including several specialization options and the requirements for each.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2016-26)** Qualifications
Senior Project Manager $104,349 8% (all management occupations) Several years of project management experience
Engineering Program Manager $112,295 6% (architectural and engineering managers) Bachelor's degree in engineering or related field; technical and management experience
Healthcare Program Manager $75,962 20% (medical and health services managers) Master's degree in health administration or similar
IT Program Manager $111,806 12% (computer and information systems managers) Bachelor's degree in information technology or related field; IT work experience

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Senior Project Manager

A project manager with extensive experience can advance to the role of senior project manager. A senior project manager often oversees a team of project managers and other staff, and therefore must be adept at managing a diverse group of people. Extensive field knowledge beyond that of the standard project manager is what sets an individual apart for this job advancement. Strong skills in communication, delegation, and goal setting are also vital. A bachelor's degree may be preferred, but is not always required. More than education, several years of proven project management experience is what employers are looking for in a senior project manager.

Engineering Program Manager

A project manager with experience directing engineering projects can advance into the role of engineering program manager. A program manager directs several related projects at once, coordinating all technical requirements, staffing needs, budgeting, scheduling, and more. They must be able to anticipate and problem-solve issues with simultaneous projects. Most engineering program managers work within tight deadlines. They meet with company management, clients, contractors, and other employees, coordinating needs and providing updates as needed. A bachelor's degree in an engineering-related field, as well as technical experience and business management proficiency, are requirements for this job.

Healthcare Program Manager

Project managers in the healthcare field can move up to healthcare program manager. Healthcare program managers coordinate staff, equipment, finances, and facilities in order to ensure high-quality and high-efficiency care. Good communication skills are a must as they work with a broad range of people, including the media, volunteer organizations, local authorities, and healthcare professionals. They may also be responsible for hiring non-medical staff, preparing business plans, and escalating patient care to specialty hospitals or medical centers. A knowledge of CRM systems is a common requirement, as is familiarity with healthcare statistics and data analysis. Strong candidates for this in-demand field have a master's in health administration or similar degree.

IT Program Manager

A project manager with a strong blend of technical and managerial skills may find themselves in the job of information technology (IT) program manager. This professional is responsible for directing the projects within a company's IT department, or several simultaneous projects within a computer-services organization. This includes meeting regularly with other department heads and coordinating staff. The ability to communicate clearly, a strong technical background, and proven leadership skills are essential for this role. Several years of IT work experience and a bachelor's degree in IT or a related field are common requirements, though some organizations may accept an associate's degree.

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