Project Expeditor vs. Project Coordinator: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The PMP certification can be a valuable qualification for project professionals to have. To earn this certification, you must pass an exam that covers various topics, including organizational structures and the roles of the project expeditor and project coordinator. If you're preparing to take the PMP exam or plan on pursuing it in the future, it's important to understand what these concepts mean and how they relate to one another.

In this article, we define PMP, explain how the roles of a project expeditor and a project coordinator relate to it, examine the major similarities and differences between project expeditors and project coordinators, look at some other roles in PMP and provide tips for passing the PMP certification exam.

What is PMP?

PMP refers to the Project Management Professional certification. It's the most prestigious professional qualification for project professionals, offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Because PMP certification is so widely recognized, having it bolsters your credibility as a project professional. It validates that you have a deep understanding of the concepts of project management, can apply effective practices across industries, overcome challenges related to project management and possess a great deal of project management experience. Thus, individuals with PMP certification stand to enjoy numerous advantages, including higher salaries and improved candidacy for jobs.

To obtain PMP certification, you must fulfill the prerequisites, apply for certification and pass a comprehensive exam. There are two sets of prerequisites, only one of which you have to fulfill. If you have a four-year degree, you need:

  • 4,500 hours of project management experience

  • 35 hours of project management education

However, if your highest education qualification is a high school diploma or an associate degree, you need:

  • 7,500 hours of project management experience

  • 35 hours of project management education

The exam comprises 200 multiple-choice questions across three knowledge areas, which are people, process and business environment. One of the essential areas of knowledge you should know to pass the exam is the concept of organization structure, which refers to the hierarchy of individuals, responsibilities, workflow and reporting protocols within a specific framework. PMP identifies four organizational structures:

  • Functional: The hierarchy is based on functions, with members grouped into departments by specialty, all departments working independently of one another and each department having its own manager. Complete authority in this structure belongs to the position of functional manager, while the project manager plays a smaller role.

  • Project-oriented: The project manager has complete authority over and accountability for a project.

  • Matrix: This structure combines the functional and project-oriented forms. There are three matrix classifications—weak, balanced or strong—each determined by the level of authority of the project manager.

  • Composite: This structure combines all the forms.

Read more: How To Get a PMP Certification

What is a project expeditor in PMP?

A project expeditor is the role of a project manager in the functional organizational structure and the weak matrix organizational structure. In this capacity, the project expeditor is a staff assistant, reporting to the functional manager. They don't have the authority to make, execute or enforce decisions, but they may contribute some input. They also coordinate communication between the stakeholders of the project, including the functional manager and the various independent departments involved with it. Very large projects may have multiple project expeditors to facilitate communication, logistics and functions.

What is a project coordinator in PMP?

A project coordinator is also a project manager who operates within the functional and weak matrix organizational structures. They report to the functional manager of the project but hold some level of authority and deciding power, particularly concerning the allocation of resources. Aside from a limited decision-making role, the project coordinator partially manages the project by ensuring that departments are adhering to the schedule and making progress. They report this information and other project changes to the functional manager and carry out other tasks the functional manager assigns.

Similarities between project expeditors and project coordinators

There are several similarities between project expeditors and project coordinators in PMP. These are:

Organizational structure

Both project expeditors and project coordinators operate within the functional organizational structure and the weak matrix organizational structure. They're both project managers who play a limited executive role in the project. Each structure vests authority in the functional manager, who oversees the major components of the project, including the budget.

Related: Organizational Structure: Definition and Types

Limited decision-making

Though one has more authority than the other, expeditors and coordinators both have limits to their decision-making power. Project coordinators have some authority to make important decisions that direct the project. For example, they often direct resources, deciding how to allocate them. For project expeditors, their effect on decisions is most limited to input, but that may have some influence on project direction.

Support

In the functional and weak matrix organizational structures, project expeditors and project coordinators report to the functional manager. Thus, they both play a support role that helps to ensure the smooth execution of project goals. Their specific duties may differ, but each is important for executing tasks that the functional manager needs help with completing. One of those tasks is communication. For project expeditors, communication is a primary duty. Project coordinators also facilitate communication by reporting the progress of each department to the functional manager and other stakeholders.

Project expeditors vs. project coordinators

There are also two major differences between the roles of the project expeditor and the project coordinator. These are:

Level of authority

The principal difference between project expeditors and project coordinators is the level of authority they have within the organizational structure. Project expeditors have no official authority over the project. Their role relates to coordination and support, not direct decision-making. Project coordinators, however, have a higher position within the structure. Often, they're responsible for directing project resources, which can have a direct effect on project quality and speed of completion. Project coordinators also have more managerial powers than expeditors, working to ensure that departments make progress and meet milestones.

Related: What Is Resource Management? A Guide to Resource Allocation and Planning

Responsibilities

Though they have similar functions, project expeditors and project coordinators perform several different tasks. One of the project expeditor's main responsibilities is communication. They give reports on each department's progress to the functional manager as well as convey questions and issues. The functional manager then directs them on how to proceed or what information to relay back to the departments. This communication role also relates to logistics, as they keep in contact with vendors to deliver materials and other goods.

The responsibilities of project coordinators relate more to helping the functional manager oversee and control the various aspects of the project. Taking on some managerial and decision-making tasks lightens the workload on the functional manager and helps to facilitate the completion of milestones.

Tips for passing the PMP certification exam

Consider these tips to help you pass the PMP certification exam:

Understand your motivation

Your motivation is why you'd like to obtain PMP certification. You might want to improve your earning potential, seek a more desirable position, earn validation for your abilities or just challenge yourself. Regardless of what your specific motivation is, be clear about it to yourself, and frequently remind yourself what it is. Having an obvious goal can keep you focused and help you remain resilient as you prepare for the exam. You can also share your motivation with others, including your employer, so they can offer support and help you along the way.

Related: How To Answer “What Motivates You?” (With Examples)

Have a plan

Having a plan can help acclimate you to the routine of preparing for the exam. This is especially important if you also have other important duties to address, including your job. First, determine how long you need to prepare. From the day that your application is approved, you have one year to complete the exam. Some may feel they need the whole year, while others may need only a portion. Then allocate certain hours of every day for studying. It's a good idea to create a schedule that accounts for obligations as well as events, such as holidays.

Find useful resources

There are various books, places and people you can consult to get yourself ready for the exam. Consider locating a nearby training provider who can create a structured study plan for you. Alternatively, you can find a local PMI chapter, which may offer study groups or can direct you to other authorities. Also, conduct research online about the best exam-prep books for the PMP exam. If possible, combine these efforts to establish a strong system of resources at your disposal.

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

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