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How to Become a Project Manager – A Step-by-Step Guide

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Project management is one of the most in-demand skills in the world today. If you want to start a new career or enhance your current one, becoming a project manager is a great option.

This article will discuss project management, the different types of project managers, and the skills and experience you need to succeed.

We’ll also provide tips on pursuing a career in project management and advice for those already working in the field. Let’s get started!

What Is a Project Manager?

A project manager (PM) plans, executes, and completes a particular business venture. In general, the more complex the project, the greater the need to have a PM to organize all the parts.

Project managers are in charge of managing and completing specific projects. They’re concerned with a project’s timeline, ensuring it gets completed on time or even sooner. They also ensure that a project stays on budget.

Project managers handle all business or construction elements, but they are not general managers. They talk to project personnel, clients, supervisors, and other people to set objectives to keep a project on track.

One way to manage projects is by creating diagrams that show how you must complete key project elements. Industries that use project managers include:

  • Construction
  • Engineering and architecture
  • Computer and other high-tech fields
  • Real-estate development

In addition, many other companies, both large and small, also use project managers.

What’s It Like Being a Project Manager?

Being a project manager is an exciting career. You get to work with a team across business and technology domains, leading them through the project’s life cycle to deliver great products.

As a project manager, you’ll be responsible for creating plans and schedules. These will guide your teams from ideation through launch, making sure everyone knows what needs to happen next and motivating them along the way.

Well-rounded project managers instill a climate of psychological safety. Here, individuals are comfortable expressing their ideas, making mistakes, accepting vulnerability, and being responsible.

Such leadership ensures that businesses produce quality services and goods. They see that team members are focused on getting results.

Good project managers lead by influencing stakeholders and negotiating. They find a way to work alongside everyone.

Suppose you’re looking for an exciting position that keeps things fresh by combining leadership skills with hands-on technical knowledge. In that case, project management may be just right for you!

Key Roles of a Project Manager

PMs break a project down into phases. This step-by-step approach makes a large project manageable. Below, we share some of the typical phases.

Planning and Developing the Project Idea

A project manager plans and develops a new project. New projects typically start with the business leaders. Once executives identify a need, the project is passed on to a PM to fulfill. They pull from their experience with existing products or processes within a business. From this understanding, the project path emerges.

Also, they should know available resources that can help implement the new idea’s plans. Such resources include money, personnel, and time.

In the next stage, they develop a plan for handling all aspects of their particular project. After identifying the key activities involved, the PM determines critical paths that require urgent attention. It is also essential to decide which steps can wait.

PMs must also allocate adequate resources towards each activity depending on the level of importance. Such management avoids wasting time and resources.

Monitoring the Project’s Progress and Setting Deadlines

Project managers need a unique process of monitoring and evaluating all project activities. They should be able to identify areas that need urgent intervention due to problems, delays, or any other matters which may threaten the successful completion of a project.

A timeline helps them see that the plan is on schedule and that the project follows the allocation plan of resources. Also, they set deadlines for each member involved in implementing the project.

Monitoring prevents delays beyond the intended time frame. Once everything is within scope, it becomes easier for PMs to monitor proceedings.

The key responsibility here lies in ensuring that everyone involved understands the process and needs. Also, team members must complete the project by the set deadline.

Building and Leading the Dream Team

A project manager is not just restricted to monitoring and implementing a project. They also need to be good at people management. They must assemble the right team with the necessary skills, manage them effectively, and motivate them when required.

Keeping everyone on their toes while working towards common goals is no easy task. But, it is one that an experienced project manager can achieve.

But most importantly, the success of any project depends mainly on the team involved in it. There isn’t much hope for a successful outcome if the group isn’t cohesive or motivated.

Money Management

Another crucial role of a project manager is to manage money. This includes budgeting, forecasting, and estimating a project’s cost. They should also be able to identify areas where they can cut down expenses without affecting the quality of the final product.

What’s more, they need to keep track of all financial dealings of the project.

Failure to handle money matters effectively may lead to disastrous consequences. Such outcomes include losing funds, delayed payments, or even bankruptcy. You must manage the money if you want your project manager career aspirations to pan out well.

Project Performance and Evaluation

After project completion, the PM needs to conduct a performance evaluation. Such a review identifies areas that need improvement. This helps to avoid any future problems. Reviews also provide an accurate estimate of how much the entire project cost in terms of time and resources.

This information is valuable to make a strong case for or against future investment in similar projects.

It may even lead to modifications in the planning and execution of future projects. But whatever the outcome, an intelligent PM learns from past experiences and applies them to future projects.

Ensuring Stakeholder Satisfaction

Another role of a project manager is to ensure that stakeholders are satisfied with the project. The PM must communicate regularly with stakeholders throughout a project.

It helps to provide feedback on how things are going and make necessary changes before proceeding further. The aim here should always be meeting stakeholder expectations without compromising on quality or exceeding the set budget.

If managed correctly, stakeholders will be more likely to trust and work with the project manager on future projects. However, if things go wrong, it can lead to tension and even conflict. Therefore, it’s always better to take a proactive approach rather than wait for things to spiral out of control.

Solving Problems

No project is without its fair share of problems. As a project manager, it’s your job to anticipate and solve these issues before they cause any significant disruptions. This may require thinking outside the box, being resourceful, and having an excellent team to back you up when things get tough.

Failing to do so may lead to delays, budget overruns, or even project failure. It’s essential to have problem-solving skills as one of your critical assets if you want to make it in this field.

Steps to Become a Project Manager

There are various critical steps to becoming a project manager. This section will list seven steps you need to take to become a successful project manager.

Step 1: Get Your Education, Experience, and Certification

The first step is to get an education. You can start by taking a four-year degree in a relevant field such as business administration or management.

However, companies set their own standards for project managers. A bachelor’s degree provides a solid education, especially in business. And certificates show your competency. Yet, there are no national requirements for project managers.

You need to check the project management requirements for each potential employer. If there are any required degrees or certifications, ensure you complete them before applying for jobs.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Step Two is to gain experience. Project managers are great leaders who can excel in any industry. That means you could apply your project management skills across various industries and organizations.

The best way to build these essential skills is by gaining real-world experience through internships, volunteering opportunities, or part-time jobs. In addition to that, you need to ensure you acquire the necessary soft skills for project management, such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills.

Step 3: Attend Networking Events for More Opportunities

The third step towards becoming a successful project manager is attending networking events. Conferences and workshops will connect you with other professionals in the field. Networking increases your chances of getting more employment opportunities. You will also learn about the latest trends and developments in the industry.

Step 4: Get Involved in Professional Associations

Fourth, get involved with professional associations related to project management. Through memberships, you can build your network of professional connections. You will also learn more about the profession and stay up-to-date with advances in the field.

Step 5: Stay Current on Project Management Trends

Fifth, it’s essential for aspiring project managers to keep themselves updated on current project management trends. You can do this by reading blogs or attending seminars on current PM trends. This will develop your project management skills for managing more significant projects in the future.

Step 6: Develop Leadership Skills

Leaders are essential in the project management world. As a project manager, you’ll need to effectively lead and motivate your team towards achieving the desired results. You can develop your skills by attending leadership training courses or workshops.

Step 7: Use Technology Tools

Lastly, technology tools help you manage projects more efficiently. Various software and online tools can assist in tasks from scheduling to creating reports. Be sure you investigate these tools and learn how to use them before starting your next project.

Necessary Skills for a Career in Project Management

There are a few essential skills you will need to have a successful career in project management. You can learn these skills through experience and education. However you acquire these skills, they are necessary for any project.

Effective communication — As a PM, you will need to communicate with stakeholders at all levels of the organization. You will also share with internal and external team members.

Strong leadership skills — A successful PM must lead and motivate their team through challenging projects.

Ability to manage time and resources effectively — Time management and prioritizing tasks help PMs stay on track despite changes or setbacks.

Familiarity with technology — To manage complex projects, you must work with various software programs and tools.

Organizational skills — Good project managers are efficient and detail-oriented, simultaneously managing numerous tasks.

Risk management — As a project manager, you will identify and mitigate risks throughout the project life cycle. Therefore, it’s essential to understand risk management principles.

Collaborative spirit — A good team player is crucial for any project. The best PMs can work closely with others while still leading their projects from the top.

What Education Do I Need to Pursue a Career in Project Management?

Project management is a profession that requires experience, skill, and education. A project manager typically has a degree in business administration, engineering, or another relevant field.

They also have years of experience working on projects in various industries. However, some project management courses are available for those who want to enter the profession without a four-year degree.

There are certificate programs and even online courses that can teach you the basics of project management. The most important thing is finding an accredited program that will provide you with the skills you need to succeed as a project manager.

The two most common ways to become a project manager are as follows:

  1. Set out to be a project manager, acquire certification, and take a position as a project manager.
  2. Alternatively, you can continue developing project management skills at your current job and work your way up the project management career ladder without attending a program.

What Degrees Are Beneficial to this Career?

Because project management is such a broad field, many majors can help prepare you for this career. Check below for some of the common ones.

Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration or Management

A bachelor’s degree in business administration shows potential employers that you have a broad knowledge of the corporate world and understand how businesses run.

This understanding can help project managers be more successful at their job. They know how to navigate a large organization better than someone without this business background.

Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering

If you want to become a construction project manager, an engineering degree will likely be necessary for this career path.

Most construction project managers oversee the planning, execution, and completion of a construction project.

An engineering degree will give you the specific skills required to do this job effectively.

Bachelor’s Degree in Project Management

A degree in project management shows employers that you want to be a project manager. It also provides the in-depth know-how of managing projects from start to finish.

With this qualification, you can be highly beneficial as a PM in any industry. It will teach you all the key concepts and theories related to project management.

Bachelor’s Degree in Economics

An economics degree can help you with the financial aspects of your job. Building a business case to present to stakeholders is a large part of project management. An understanding of economic principles assists with this task.

It will also help you manage your project’s budget, one of the most critical parts of being a successful project manager.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

If you are interested in becoming a technical project manager, computer skills are necessary. You may also find that having solid coding knowledge helps you appropriately manage software development projects as well.

Bachelor’s Degree in Communications

Communications degrees teach people how to effectively communicate with others using different tools such as e-mail, presentations, or meetings. This skill is valuable when dealing with teams.

Are There Special Certifications a Person Might Need?

In some industries, a project manager may need to obtain special certifications. For example, those working in the IT field may want to get Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Some of the other special certifications you might need in this career include:

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

This entry-level certification is ideal for people with less than three years of experience. Those who pass the exam demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, and application of project management terms, processes, and methodologies.

Candidates for this certification need 23 hours of project management education before taking the exam. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and takes four hours to complete.

Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)

This certification is for those with significant experience in project management. The CPMP demonstrates that the individual has an advanced understanding of all aspects of project management and can apply this knowledge in real-world scenarios.

To obtain this certification, you must have at least seven years of experience in project management. You will also need 35 hours of education in project management. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and takes four hours to complete.

Master Project Manager (MPM)

Experienced project managers who want to demonstrate their expertise in all areas of the profession opt for this certification. The MPM exam covers risk management, stakeholder management, and contract management.

To qualify for this certification, you must have 15 or more years of experience in project management. You also need 120 hours of formal project management education. The exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions and takes five hours.

Certified Project Director (CPD)

This certification is for leadership positions for those who wish to demonstrate their understanding of advanced project management principles.

The Certified Project Director (CPD) is a globally recognized and highly regarded certification. According to the Global Association of Quality Management (GAQM), it is the most prestigious level of project management.

To obtain this certification, you must have at least 20 years of experience as a project manager or director, along with 160 hours of formal project management education. The exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions and takes six hours.

What Is the Work Environment for this Career?

The work environment of a project manager can vary depending on the company. However, in general, a project manager’s day-to-day duties can be to:

  • Communicate with team members and other stakeholders, including clients or customers
  • Manage deadlines to complete projects on time and within budget
  • Organize and track progress on projects by creating reports or presentations
  • Work collaboratively in a team while also having strong communication skills to keep everyone informed about what’s going on throughout each stage of development

The hours can also vary. Some project managers may have more flexible hours, while others might need to put in extra time during crunch times. But generally speaking, this is a nine-to-five job.

Some common traits of successful project managers include:

  • Stress management
  • Problem-solving
  • Detail-oriented
  • Organized
  • Calm under pressure

The Benefits of Being a Project Manager

There are many benefits to becoming a project manager. Some of these include:

  • Manage and lead teams — You’ll get to lead teams and help them achieve the project’s goals.
  • See projects from start to finish — You’ll be responsible for planning, organizing, and executing a project from beginning to end. This means you’ll have a lot of control over the outcome.
  • Impact on your company — As a project manager, you can significantly benefit your company by improving its processes and meeting its objectives.
  • Lucrative salary — Project managers often earn high wages due to their in-demand skillset.

Challenges of Being a Project Manager

No matter what, there will always be drawbacks to any job. And being a project manager is no exception. Here are just a few of the potential issues:

  • You may have to work long hours, especially if you’re working on a project with a hard deadline.
  • Depending on what kind of projects and clients you work with, you may have to travel.
  • While certain aspects of being a project manager require technical expertise, most parts of the job involve dealing with people.

What Is the Average Salary?

In the United States, the average salary of a project manager is $77,000. This is according to a 2020 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS report also states that the bottom 10% earn a median of $42,180, and the top 10 percent earn up to $135,220.

Related Resource: The 19 Highest Paying Business Degree Jobs in 2021

Are There Opportunities for Advancement?

In addition to a competitive salary, advancement opportunities for project managers are on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in this profession to grow by more than 30 percent in the next decade. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

As organizations expand their scope and start new projects, they need qualified individuals to ensure those initiatives stay on track and within budget.

Many companies provide excellent training programs that help employees earn certifications or advance their skills to transition into corporate management roles over time.

How to Advance a Project Management Career

To move up in a project management career, you need experience and expertise. Most companies want their managers to have at least five years of hands-on experience leading and executing projects.

Additionally, pursuing certifications can demonstrate your dedication to the field and help you stand out from the competition.

The most common certification for project managers is the Project Management Professional (PMP), offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). To qualify for this credential, you must have a four-year degree, three years of project management experience, or 35 hours of PMP-related training.

The PMP designation is not necessary to become a project manager. But it can be beneficial to have this certification if you are looking for advancement.

Related Resource: Masters in Project Management Online: Why Earn One?

FAQs

Can You Become a Project Manager with No Experience?

It’s possible to get a project management position without prior experience. This is if you can demonstrate your dedication to the industry and have the abilities necessary for the job.

However, it’s always best to have some experience in the field before making a career change. It can be challenging to learn on the job without any prior experience.

First, the best way is to look for project management internships or entry-level positions. This will allow you to learn about the industry and develop your skills. Once you have some experience, you can start applying for project management roles.

Is it Hard to Become a Project Manager?

Becoming a project manager isn’t easy. It takes years of experience and hard work to manage projects effectively. However, it is possible to become a successful project manager with the right skills and knowledge.

There are many different ways to become a project manager. You can get a degree in project management or take courses online or in person. Many certification programs are available to give you the skills to start managing projects.

Is the PMP Exam Hard?

The short answer is yes, it’s challenging. But you shouldn’t let that deter you from pursuing your goal of becoming a certified project manager.

What Degree Is Best for a Career in Project Management?

The best option we would recommend is a bachelor’s degree in business or a closely related discipline. Most project management jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Many schools now offer project management degree programs. Such a targeted degree would be ideal in your path to becoming a project manager.

Are Project Managers in Demand?

In a recent study by the Project Management Institute, there will be an increase in demand for project managers as various industries invest more into projects.

Recent surveys show that employers want to hire project managers who can communicate effectively. Also, they want to hire people who have excellent leadership skills and critical thinking abilities.

Conclusion

Becoming a project manager is not an easy path. It requires dedication, hard work, and determination. However, if you can complete the necessary steps, you will earn the reward of a fulfilling and exciting career.

The good news is that you can start your journey towards becoming a project manager even today! Remember, always stay ahead of the curve by keeping up with the latest trends and technologies in the field.

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