Project Management Careers

Learn what it takes to succeed in a project management job, including what degree, skills, certification, and training can help you reach your career goals. Find out what project managers do and how much you can make as a project manager.

What Is Project Management?

It might seem a bit repetitive, but project management does just that - manages projects. But what does a project management career really involve? As a project manager, you'll perform tasks necessary to meet project goals set by stakeholders and coordinate the teams responsible for doing the work.

Project management is used in several different industries, including:

You'll encounter different stages throughout your career in project management; you'll typically start out as an associate or junior project manager and work your way into a more senior position with additional responsibilities.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

As you step into the role of a project manager, you can expect plenty of budgeting, scheduling, and process organization, as well as a lot of meetings with stakeholders and project teams. Project managers provide an important line of communication between the workers who develop a product, and the stakeholders and executives of the company. Much of your job will involve meetings to keep communication flowing and make sure a project stays on track. You could also be tasked with coordinating the marketing and distribution of the finished product.

You'll use computer software to move a project through different phases, and look at factors such as cost, quality, and risk management. Depending on the industry you work in, you could work in an office or out on a construction site. In the project management process, you, the project manager, bring together different branches of a company that may rarely see each other to collaborate on creating or improving a product or service.

As you advance in your project management career, you might design training procedures to familiarize coworkers or junior project managers on standard operations. You might also manage portfolios to align projects and determine where to invest a company's resources most effectively and beneficially.

Project Manager Job Description

The day-to-day duties of a project manager can vary, depending on the stage of project planning. From initialization to a project's conclusion, you'll

  • determine project vision, objectives, and scope
  • monitor progress on project deliverables
  • adhere to budgetary limitations
  • coordinate between teams, customers, and stakeholders
  • respond to unexpected changes throughout the project's execution
  • ensure quality and timely completion of the project

Essentially, you serve as the backbone of the project, making sure everyone involved is well-informed and supported.

Project Management Skills

As a high-level worker, project managers need to draw from many different skillsets to be successful. The following skills can be vital to your career as a project manager:

  • Communication is extremely important and defines the foundation of your job. Maintaining contact among stakeholder and your project team is vital during a project, whether it's in-person, over the phone, web conferencing, or an extended email conversation. A clear line of communication should be open at all times for the duration of the project.
  • Math is used throughout your career. Budget allocation and risk management all require careful use of numbers, and it's your responsibility to make sure projects stay within the approved cost range and are completed on time. Knowing where to place financial priority on a project can make a massive difference in payoff and exceeding goals.
  • Organization can make or break a project when many different tasks begin to pile up. As a manager, you'll need to determine which aspect of a given project needs immediate attention and when to place other portions on the back burner for later. Organizational skills are also invaluable in terms of time management when looking at the full scope of a project and making sure the team will reach the project deadline.
  • Problem solving can also be incredibly important; when a production cycle runs into unforeseen complications (and they always do), you must act quickly to resolve the resulting conflicts. Maintaining a positive outlook and keeping morale high, despite obstacles along the path of the project, can keep the process from getting out of control.
  • Familiarity with technology gives you a huge leg up on the job market. Staying at the forefront of emerging software and electronic equipment specific to your industry and project management helps keep you and your team relevant and competitive when looking for clients. There are also a variety of management software applications that you can use to help you and your team stay on top of deadlines.
  • Multitasking will become second nature when you enter the project management field. Between juggling multiple phases of a project and an entire staff of workers from different departments, the ability to make multiple decisions at once will be invaluable as you progress toward completion.
  • Motivation and endurance are required for the long hours necessary to meet deadlines set by higher-level executives. As the project continues, teams may become burnt out or frustrated. With the right words and encouragement, you need to be the one to get everybody on the same page and ensure the project meets its goals.

Project Management Certification and Education

Each title comes with its own educational and professional prerequisites depending on the industry, company, and specific position. While not required, an undergraduate or graduate degree in business or a related field will likely help possible project management job prospects. Project management degree programs are available, but many find that project management certification programs are more valuable in landing a job as a project manager.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is an internationally-recognized organization designed to help businesses and organizations maintain the highest of standards in project management. Many different certification titles are available: the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAMP) for those starting out in a project management career, the Project Management Professional (PMP) that indicates your expertise in the field, and the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) that demonstrates your understanding of resource management strategies. Those who have a certification may need to maintain their credential by meeting the continuing education requirements.

Project Manager Salary

Your salary will vary depending on the industry you work in as a project manager. The median salary statistics below are from project managers in several fields.

Industry Median PM Salary
General Project Management $71,699
Construction $71,606
Engineering $88,714
Retail $73,585
Restoration Project $54,750
Quality Improvement $77,186
Litigation Support $75,339

*Source: PayScale.com, 2018