Project Manager


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not classify project management as an occupation, so it does not track job outlook for this profession. However, it tracks construction managers and computer/information systems managers, which include project managers. The outlook for construction managers and computer/information systems managers is better than average—17 percent anticipated through 2018. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a 2006 article, notes that managing projects is "an increasingly important responsibility for many workers, as more organizations use teams and project-based methods to get work done."
 
As another indicator of the profession's growth, the Project Management Institute—the largest project management association in the U.S.—has grown rapidly since 1999, from about 43,000 members to about 500,000 members in early 2009.
 
According to a 2009 survey commissioned by the Project Management Institute, full-time project managers in the U.S. reported median annual earnings of about $90,000. Those managers with the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification earned about $100,000 annually. These amounts include salary and bonuses, which is a key point, since project managers' compensation often includes bonuses for completing projects early or under budget. The employment website Wetfeet.com reports project managers and coordinators can make anywhere from $46,000 to $150,000, depending on experience and performance.
 
Construction managers earn a median salary of $79,860, with a range of $47,000 (lowest 10 percent) to $145,920 (highest 10 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer and information systems managers make an average of about $112,210.
 
Project managers plan, organize and oversee the completion of specific projects. They are concerned with the schedule of a project: making sure it is completed on time or, even better, early. They also carefully plan to ensure that a project comes in at or below its budget.
 
Project managers coordinate all aspects of a business or construction project, but don't take on the role of general managers. They communicate with project personnel, clients, supervisors and others to define goals and make sure a project stays on track. One way they do this is to create network diagrams showing the order in which key project elements must be completed. Industries that use project managers include the building trades: construction, engineering and architecture; computer and other high-tech fields; and real-estate development. In addition, large companies from many other sectors also may use project managers.
 
To be a successful project manager, you will need the following characteristics: leadership; good communication skills; ability to delegate, plan and organize; ability to handle stress well; and flexibility.
 

Education & Degree Path

Formal training is often required for project managers. Depending on the field, a project manager may need an engineering degree. In most cases, you also need a business degree, either undergraduate or, preferably, an MBA. Some colleges and universities offer degrees or concentrations in project management, both at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Many of these can be taken online.
 
Certification. The Project Management Institute offers several levels of certification, including the PMP, or Project Management Professional, credential. The credential is awarded to managers who show appropriate background and experience, plus pass an exam.
 
The International Project Management Association is another credentialing organization, which offers a four-level series of certificates to project managers worldwide (72,000 certifications issued in 30-plus countries since 1998). These certificates often require exams, submission of work portfolios, and interviews to achieve. The IPMA's U.S. chapter is the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management.
 
Entering the Field. Offer to become involved in small projects going on in your company, including working on technical jobs such as tracking schedules using computer software, reviewing documents and writing reports. Project coordinator, for example, is an entry-level position in the project-management track.
 
Career Changers. Sectors that are fastest-growing include biotech and high-tech. Look at opportunities to enter these sectors, especially when the economy is slow (which tends to cut construction jobs). If you already work in a biotech or high-tech company, see if you can become a member of a project team, perhaps as an assistant manager. Taking project management coursework and acquiring certification may also help open doors.
 

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Sources for salary and job growth include the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Summer 2006; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition, listings for Construction Managers and Computer/Information Systems Managers; the Project Management Institute; and Wetfeet.com.

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