How To Become a Project Manager in 7 Steps (Plus Salary)

Updated September 25, 2023

A project manager oversees every aspect of a project from initial planning through completion. Candidates for this role can benefit from acquiring a variety of skills and experience. If you're interested in becoming a project manager, it can be helpful to learn about how you can prepare for the career, as this can help you secure the necessary qualifications.

In this article, we review a list of steps for how to become a project manager and discuss their role and skills.

What does a project manager do?

Project managers have a variety of responsibilities, but their primary focus is to plan, procure and oversee the execution of a project. Project managers can typically work in many different industries as their skills in overseeing teams and processes can be valuable in various kinds of workplaces. As a project manager, you may perform the following tasks:

  • Develop ideas and turn them into actionable project plans

  • Devise a plan of action for the completion of a project and create specific tasks to complete

  • Form a team that handles project tasks

  • Oversee project teams and ensure all team members understand and fulfill their duties

  • Work with stakeholders that the project might affect

  • Manage monetary aspects of a project including the creation of a project budget

  • Train and coach team members to perform to the best of their abilities while working on a project

  • Submit the completed project to managers or clients

Read more: Learn About Being a Project Manager

Types of project managers

There are several types of project managers, including construction site project managers, project managers employed by the government and engineering project managers. Many other industries employ project managers to oversee specialized tasks and operations as well. Some industries that use project managers include:

  • Information technology (IT)

  • Construction

  • Health care

  • Finance

  • Manufacturing

  • Marketing and advertising

  • Government and public administration

  • Energy and utilities

  • Telecommunications

  • Retail and consumer goods

  • Transportation and logistics

  • Education

  • Non-profit organizations

  • Consulting and professional services

Related: Learn About Being an IT Project Manager

How to become a project manager

Here's a list of steps you can take to start your career as a project manager:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Many project managers begin their careers by earning a bachelor's degree, as this is usually the minimum education requirement for the job. There are several areas of study you can choose from for your undergraduate degree, but many aspiring project managers major in either project or business management. Other related majors you can pursue include marketing, project management or studies in the field you plan to work in, such as engineering or IT.

Related: What Can You Do With a Project Management Degree?

2. Choose a specialization

A project manager can work in several different industries and for various types of companies. Determining which field you want to work in can help you decide the next steps you can take to become a project manager. 

For example, if you want to become a project manager in construction, you might take time to learn about types of construction projects or speak with other employees in construction about effective management techniques. Other common areas of specialization for project managers include:

  • Energy

  • Marketing

  • Electrical

  • Systems

  • IT

  • Health care

Related: Understanding The Types of Project Manager Jobs and Methodologies

3. Become certified

Earning a project management certification can help distinguish you from other applicants and may be required for some project manager positions. There are several types of certifications you can earn, including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications offered through the Project Management Institute.

Each certificate has different requirements. For example, the PMP certification requires individuals to have 7,500 hours of practical experience for people with an associate's degree or less and 4,500 hours for those with a bachelor's degree or higher. 

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: 10 Project Manager Certifications To Boost Your PM Resume

4. Gain experience

Gaining on-the-job experience can be an especially important part of preparing to work as a project manager. Once you decide which field you want to work in, search for entry-level positions that can offer you experience managing projects in that industry. For example, if you hope to work as an IT project manager, you might work in an entry-level job that involves computers to develop your technical knowledge and skills.

Related: How To Get an Entry-Level Job (Plus Top Jobs and Salaries)

5. Network

Networking is important for project managers for several reasons. First, you may find mentors who can help you develop your skills and notify you of opportunities to pursue. It's also important because you may have colleagues who've worked on similar projects who may provide extra guidance on how to manage it effectively.

6. Engage in continuous learning

Continuous learning is important for project managers because you may experience different types of projects throughout your career. Staying up to date with current trends and technologies can help you effectively manage diverse teams and allow you to increase your skills, making you a more effective project manager.

7. Build your management skills

As you build your professional expertise, focus on improving your management skills. Since project managers often oversee other employees, they typically have strong management skills that help them guide and motivate their teams. 

You can develop these abilities by volunteering for priority tasks or larger responsibilities at your current job or asking your supervisor about how to advance to a lower-level management position. Once you have outstanding management skills, you can inquire about moving up to a project manager position or search online for open roles at other companies. 

Related: 5 Essential Management Skills (Plus How To Develop Them)

Skills for a project manager

Project managers often have a number of both hard and soft skills depending on the particular industry they're working in. The following are the skills that most successful project managers share:

  • Leadership: Project managers lead and motivate teams of people to work towards a common goal. This requires strong leadership skills, such as the ability to delegate tasks, provide guidance and create a positive work environment. 

  • Financial management: Project managers are responsible for managing the budget for a project and have strong financial management skills to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and the project stays within budget.

  • Decision-making: Project managers make quick and effective decisions, even under pressure. They weigh the pros and cons of different options and make informed choices to keep the project moving forward. 

  • Team-building: Project managers build and manage effective teams. This requires the ability to select the right people for the job, manage conflicts and create a positive and productive team dynamic. 

  • Time management: Project managers manage their own time effectively and ensure that the project stays on track. They prioritize tasks, delegate effectively and make the most of available resources. 

  • Communication: Project managers communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, including team members and clients. They convey complex information in a clear and concise manner and are able to negotiate and resolve conflicts. 

  • Critical thinking: Project managers analyze complex situations and make informed decisions. They identify potential problems and develop effective solutions to keep the project moving forward. 

  • Negotiating: Project managers negotiate with stakeholders, suppliers and team members to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. They find mutually beneficial solutions and resolve conflicts. 

  • Quality management: Project managers ensure that the project is completed to the required quality standards. They identify potential quality issues and implement measures to address them and ensure that quality control processes are in place.

  • Risk management: Project managers know when to take business risks and when not to. They may decide to go ahead with a project even though it's risky because it has high potential returns.

Related: 20 Essential Skills Every Project Manager Should Have

Average salary for project managers

The national average salary for a project manager is currently $82,702 per year. Many factors can affect this salary, including industry, location and years of experience. For example, project managers who live in New York City can earn an average of $97,762 per year, while those in Washington D.C., can earn an average of $91,323 per year. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the links provided.

Job outlook for project managers

While the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide job outlook data specifically for project managers, they offer data for various management occupations, which includes project managers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, management occupations are expected to grow 8% between 2021 and 2031. This is an average growth expectancy compared to other occupations.

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