Being a project manager is a fantastic job. It’s a career that will give you so many opportunities in so many different areas. But you have to deliver projects to build a reputation as someone who is successful in the role.
To do that, you need to understand the project manager skills, responsibilities and duties so you can apply them to your own work.
You’re here because you want to learn more about the role of a project manager and what it means to develop those skills to lead successful projects. The resources on this page will let you explore those ideas, guided by a range of expert interviewees who themselves have acted as senior project managers for many successful projects. What will you learn from them?
Let us help you learn more about the project manager function in an organization so you can build your career in the field. We’ll give you a description of what it means to be a project manager. You’ll take away practical tips and thought-provoking ideas for how to make your projects successful.
Listen now to this featured podcast on project management skills
Project managers are people who lead projects. They have responsibility for planning, scheduling, budgeting and monitoring the work until it is completed. They work with a team to achieve the expected results and use a range of tools and techniques to ensure a successful delivery.
You don't have to have the job title of 'project manager' to be doing project management in your role. Today, project management skills are in high demand. Research on the future of project management by KPMG shows that 35% of organizations have completed more than 50 projects in the past year. That's a lot of change happening in a lot of places!
All of those initiatives would have been led by a PM.
There has never been a better time to become a project manager. Project management skills have been in demand since the Pharaohs commissioned the pyramids and the demand shows no sign of slowing down.
Here is why we think the outlook for project managers is more positive than ever before.
The PMI Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 report states that employers will need nearly 88 million individuals in project management related roles.
A study on the contribution of project management by APM showed that 7.9% of all UK employment is in project-related roles. We can expect this to be similar in other countries with equivalent economies.
The project management impact on the economy is one third of national GDP according to research by IPMA. That's only expected to grow!
As you can see, the demand is there. That's because more and more industries are becoming 'projectized' which means they structure their work and deliverables via projects.
Organizations are keen to improve project management maturity across their departments, building a stable and repeatable framework for delivering change. In this fast-paced, complex world, being able to adapt to market conditions and respond to disruption is key to staying in business.
That means project management is definitely a viable career choice. Whether you want to work in catering or construction, or any other industry, the people making changes and keeping pace with the evolving economy are project managers. Sometimes they might be behind the scenes, but they are definitely there... and you could be to.
As you can see, project managers work across all industries and professions. The importance of project management skills remains the same, regardless of the discipline. While it might be difficult for a digital project manager to suddenly pick up managing a large oil and gas project, the core project management process groups and skills remain the same.
You can change industry, but many people choose one industry to make their project management career in so they can develop deep subject matter knowledge in that field.
As we've seen, project managers work across all industries and all sizes of companies, both commercial organizations and non-profits. Our podcast episodes include experts from a range of different organizations to show you the full extent of how project management is used.
Are you ready to take your next step in this exciting career? Here are some of the different types of project manager role you’ll see in job adverts.
Construction Project ManagerConstruction project managers work on build projects. Managing a build site is a complex project, often with many suppliers and trades who need to be coordinated to ensure the construction completes on time and to the expected budget.
Agile Project ManagerAgile project managers work across a range of Agile disciplines. The role can be varied, depending on what the team needs. For example, the role of project manager in SAFe Agile would be different to someone taking on the project management responsibilities in a small team using Scrum. Becoming a project manager in an Agile team is a good choice if you want to work in a fast-paced environment delivering incremental value to users and customers.
IT Project ManagerThe IT industry is huge, and there are lots of options for project managers wanting to make this area their career. For example, you could work in software design or development, infrastructure, IT architecture or digital. IT project managers need to be able to see the big picture, handle complex technical environments, and work with a range of skilled IT colleagues and teams from around the business. The project management salary in IT can be very good, especially at the top level when delivering complex business systems.
Engineering Project ManagerProject management in an engineering environment involves leading a team to develop and manufacture a product. The team takes the product from concept to completion, and the project manager plays a critical role in ensuring the work is coordinated, planned, managed and delivered on time and on budget, meeting all quality criteria and the client’s specifications. Project management skills in the engineering disciplines would include a detailed knowledge of relevant safety standards, laws and regulations as well as a good working knowledge of the manufacturing process and the ability to work with various suppliers and subject matter experts.
As we saw in the project manager definition above, a project manager is someone who delivers change.
The job description for a project manager varies from company to company, role to role. You’ll see project manager jobs advertised at a relatively low salary, responsible for largely administrative projects, and other roles that require deep project management skills and industry knowledge, that command a much higher salary.
However, the core responsibilities for a project manager remain the same across roles and industries. A project manager is responsible for:
You’ll see these responsibilities on job descriptions. The level to which the role has responsibility for these tasks depends on the seniority of job in the organization and the type of project the role will be leading.
Below, you'll see those core responsibilities outlined in more detail by two career stages. Find out what a project manager does at the beginning of their career and also at the point where they have more professional experience.
As you can see, when you look at what exactly does a project manager do, the list is long!
In summary, project managers are people who know how to organize the work and other people in order to achieve a goal. They spend time looking at the big picture but also diving into the detail – and they know when to do each of those. The role of the project manager is quite special. You motivate a team, manage and control the work and provide leadership. But you rarely have people working directly for you on a project.
In today’s economy, project managers work in environments where there is much uncertainty and complexity, and when you are trying to get things done, that can be difficult! That’s why the project manager’s role is one that navigates office politics with ease. You’ll spend a lot of time engaging stakeholders and communicating, building trust throughout the team at all levels. In fact, some people say that communication is 80 per cent of the project manager’s role.
Whether you work in healthcare or heavy engineering, policy or procurement, catering or construction (or any other industry), there will be project managers in your field. You can work as a project manager in an employed capacity, or as a contractor. You can work via an agency or run your own independent consultancy. It’s a very flexible career and those who invest in their development find there are almost endless opportunities to make the job your own.
Project management is a diverse and exciting business area. You can put your skills to use in any industry, from architecture to zoology. There are lots of opportunities to specialize, either in a methodology, framework or project management approach, or in a particular type of project, such as oil and gas or hospitality.
Here are some of the top reasons we hear from students about why they want to choose a career in project management.
PMI regularly carries out a career survey that answers the question, “How much do project managers make?” The average project manager salary depends on where you are based in the world, how much experience you have, what certifications you hold and other factors like your industry.
The PMI Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Eleventh Edition (2020) shows that an experienced, certified project manager in the United States can earn around $124,000 per year including a bonus.
Your project management career is as unique as you are. You can become a project manager straight out of college, after graduating with a relevant degree. You can move into project management later in your career, after becoming a subject matter expert in your field and taking on more and more project work.
Here are some common project management career paths.
By now you can probably see why a project manager is important in an organization. Let's review the advantages: these are things you can use in an interview situation to explain why you are interested in the role and to show you understand what the role has to offer the organization.
A project manager:
Project manager skills are important for business because they help deliver change in the most effective and efficient way. It’s crucial that organizations can quickly respond to change in today’s project economy.
A project manager is the person who champions the change and leads the team to deliver the results the business wants to see. They add value to the organization by ensuring work is planned and structured efficiently. When someone takes the project manager role on the team, the team members can focus on doing their work in a supportive environment. They can spend their time on what they do best. They are using their technical and subject matter expertise to deliver great results while the PM coordinates and provides the framework for the work.
Project managers have access to a range of tools and techniques that help them plan, track and manage the work. Part of the skill of being a project manager is knowing what tool to use when, and how to adapt it to fit your environment. Projects all have unique characteristics, and what worked on your last project might not be appropriate this time round. That’s why tailoring is core project management skill, so you always apply the right techniques to the project you are currently working on.
By now you might be asking yourself, “How do I become a project manager?” There are 4 steps to consider.
If you were wondering how to be a project manager, hopefully that has helped you think through the different stages of starting your career.
Our curated collection of podcasts on this page – and the other resources you’ll find in our archives – are also a great starting point for you, whether you are investigating if being a PM is the career for you, or if you want to build your skills to succeed at work. Which one will you listen to first?
Complexity is not increasing on all projects but generally speaking, the larger project is, the more complex it is. This is particularly true if your project involves a lot of technology, if it involves a lot of software and especially if it involves software and hardware integrated together. These are areas ripe with complexity.
The role of the project manager is a fulfilling career option, and there are many opportunities for you to take your career journey in the direction that most appeals. Through the range of expert interviews in our podcast archives, you can listen to the experience of professionals from around the world, in a whole host of different industries.
Many commentators say that demand for people with PM skills is growing. We agree there has never been a better time to build on your skills and advance your career. We’re here to support you in the journey!
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