Project Manager Job Requirements

Updated September 25, 2023

Project managers help conceive, carry out and complete tasks that are integral to business success. They perform various duties throughout the length of a project to ensure it meets the expectations of the business and stakeholders. A combination of education, skills, experience and other factors contributes to their ability to handle the many responsibilities of project management. In this article, we examine what project managers do and look at 11 requirements of project managers.

Related: Learn About Being a Project Manager

What does a project manager do?

Project managers take an active role in a business proposal to ensure that it meets its goals. They're present at every stage of the project life cycle. They define the goals of a project, create a plan to meet the goals, outline deliverables and tasks, assign duties and ensure proper completion, monitor and control progress on the project and help sign off on it when it's over. As the leader of a project team, the project manager is accountable for ensuring the project's completion is timely and within budget.

Project managers may perform various duties at each stage of the project life cycle, such as:

  • Initiation: Determine the purpose of the project, the criteria and desired outcome, stakeholders and funding

  • Planning: Create a comprehensive project plan that comprises the project's cost, timeline and risks, and determine the expected dates of project milestones and the activities involved in meeting each

  • Execution: Assign and ensure completion of tasks and resolve issues that hinder completion

  • Monitoring and control: Evaluate progress and ensure that personnel meet milestones and remain within budget

  • Closing: Ensure payment for third-party contractor or vendors, release resources, review work and evaluate performance for future application

Other duties that project managers perform throughout project life cycles is maintaining communication between involved parties, maintaining documentation, coordinating resources and leading meetings.

Related: 5 Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

Project manager requirements

Being a project manager requires a combination of skills, traits, education and other qualifications. Here are some requirements for being a project manager:

Skills

Project managers may benefit from having a variety of skills. Top project management skills include:

  • Scheduling: Planning a project requires that the project manager create an overall timeframe and also divide that timeframe into smaller components punctuated with milestones. Successful project managers can create schedules that are realistic, that use resources wisely and that aim for an agreeable completion date.

  • Budgeting: The project managers must also ensure that the project remains within financial constraints. This skill involves having the foresight to determine a reasonable overall cost that can provide enough financial resources to complete the job and controlling spending throughout the project to remain under budget.

  • Task management: Projects usually involve many small and large jobs, which the project manager creates and assigns. This skill requires knowing the tasks that go into completing a project and recognizing who is suitable to complete those tasks.

  • Leadership: Being in charge of a team assembled to complete the project, a project manager must keep individual members of the team on track and motivated, mediate and resolve conflicts between personnel and inspire the team to work as a unit.

  • Communication: A key responsibility of the project manager is providing information to all the involved parties, including stakeholders, contractors, personnel and customers. Throughout a project life cycle, the project manager must relay accurate instructions to personnel and report progress to upper management.

  • Negotiation: A project manager may experience changing demands by clients or stakeholders while a project is underway, or conflicts may arise between personnel or other parties. Negotiation skills can help the project manager keep both demands and personalities aligned effectively and diplomatically.

  • Reporting: Gathering and documenting information for future evaluation is among the key responsibilities for project managers, so strong reporting skills are essential. Reporting also goes into other stages of the project life cycle, including initiation, when the project manager helps set goals.

  • Problem-solving: Obstacles often arise during the life spans of projects. A key responsibility of the project manager is resolving hindrances, conflicts and challenges that hinder timely or accurate completion of the project.

  • Adaptability: Factors affecting the project, such as stakeholders' demands and budgeting changes, may arise and present significant challenges to the project manager and their team. Being adaptable can help manage one's own stress and also maintain the morale of one's team.

Related: 20 Skills Every Project Manager Should Have

Personality traits

Successful project managers often have certain personality traits, including:

  • Friendliness and charisma: The project manager oversees teams of personnel and also interacts with upper management, shareholders and other parties involved in the project, and a friendly, charismatic personality can contribute to keeping everyone happy and receptive to communication.

  • Firmness: As a leader, the project manager should also command authority so that the involved parties respect their position. The team, shareholders and other involved parties should feel confident that the project manager's decisions and vision are sound.

  • Pragmatism: The project manager should have a realistic sense of what they can achieve with the available resources in order to keep the project within budget and scope. Pragmatism may help with the project manager's ability to consider possibilities realistically, which is beneficial when trying to anticipate potential obstacles that could hinder project completion.

  • Being organized: Projects often involve many small and large facets, including tasks, personnel and separate timelines. The ability to stay organized can help the project manager keep from being overwhelmed by the challenge of keeping track of all the components.

  • Positivity: A positive attitude can inform one's belief that the project goals are achievable and also motivate others to feel optimistic about the team's ability to succeed. This can be especially important when facing changes in project expectations, delays and other challenges that commonly arise in the life cycle of a project.

Related: 14 Useful Personality Traits

Education

Businesses often require project managers have at least a bachelor's degree. Institutions do offer degrees in project management, but this specific degree isn't necessary to become a project manager. Rather, the degree may vary depending on your field or level of experience. For example, for an architectural project, a degree in architecture may be just as useful as a degree in project management. Other common degrees that project managers hold are in business or management. Further education, such as a master's degree in project management or a field related to your industry, can also be helpful.

Certifications

An alternative or complement to education is project management certification from recognized institutions. The Project Management Institute, or PMI, offers tiered certifications. Other certifying bodies include the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management, the International Institute for Learning and the International Association of Project and Program Management. Some common project manager certifications are:

  • Certified Associate in Project Management, or CAPM: CAPM certifies that the holder has knowledge of the fundamentals of project management. Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma or associate degree plus 23 hours of project management education.

  • Project Management Professional, or PMP: Offered by PMI, the PMP certification program provides comprehensive education on all facets of project management. Certification requires passing a 200-question exam, three to five years of project management experience depending on your education, a certain number of hours spent managing projects and 35 hours of project management training.

  • Scrum Master: Scrum is a project management methodology based on Agile principles, and Scrum Master certification shows that the holder understands Scrum and Agile frameworks. Certification requirements include completion of a 16-hour certification course and a passing grade on a certification exam.

Related: Guide To Project Manager Certifications (With Top Certifications)

Experience

For project management positions, employers often require three or more years of experience in a leadership role. This can include previous project management roles, supervisory roles or other management roles. Candidates may also need work experience in specific industries or fields depending on project types. For example, management of construction projects is likely to require that candidates have significant work experience in construction or a related industry.

There are several ways that a candidate can earn relevant experience, including:

  • Entry-level positions: Entry-level positions involving management duties can be valuable learning experiences for future project management roles.

  • Internship: Interning for an organization that needs help on projects allows you to learn under an experienced project manager.

  • Volunteering: If you're currently employed at an organization, try volunteering for tasks that include a managerial role.

Related: How To Get Job Experience (With Tips)

Training

There are many training opportunities for project managers. Institutions such as PMI also provide courses for professional development, focusing on its ideal skill set of technical project management, leadership qualities and strategic and business management. PMI also runs training courses for different leadership or management styles.

Otherwise, much of project management training comes from job experience or informal programs. Some project managers enter the role by assignment, without having previously directed education or training on the subject. Employers may also offer internal training programs that provide project management education or opportunities to learn under a mentor.

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

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