Learn About Being a Project Manager

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

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.

What does a project manager do?

A project manager is responsible for planning and managing the execution of a project from start to finish. They may work in many different industries, including construction, engineering, law, health care and technology. Project managers lead a project team, create a budget and timeline for project completion and ensure that the project is progressing accordingly. Project managers are ultimately responsible for a project’s success or failure. Additional project manager duties include: 

  • Creating a detailed plan and establishing a budget and timeline for a project’s execution

  • Ensuring that team members understand their roles in the project and can perform tasks effectively and to the client’s standards

  • Regularly communicating progress to clients and stakeholders

  • Responding to client needs and adapting the project’s plan for completion accordingly

Average salary

Project manager salaries vary depending on the field the project manager works in, their level of expertise and the employer’s geographic location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $82,053 per year

  • Some salaries range from $22,000 to $173,000 per year.
     

Project manager requirements

Candidates must meet specific educational requirements to work as a project manager and may need additional training and certifications to work on certain projects:

Education

Most project managers hold a bachelor’s degree in a field such as business administration or management. Some employers may require project managers to have a technical degree in areas such as information technology. Project managers may also earn degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels and can specialize in their industry’s fields of study. In addition to their degree, project managers usually have extensive work experience in their field, and many hold a professional certificate in project management.

Training

Project managers receive training through work experience and are encouraged to participate in professional development courses throughout their careers. The Project Management Institute offers professional development opportunities to strengthen three core areas of project management: leadership, technical project management and business and strategic project management. 

They can also train in different styles of project management. For example, Agile project management is a more dynamic, adaptable style of project management, while the PRINCE2 method of project management uses a more linear, controlled approach.

Certifications

Experienced project managers can earn professional certifications to access work opportunities for mid to senior-level projects. Aspiring project managers have several certification options available to them. The most recognized organization through which project managers can acquire certification is the Project Management Institute. The most common general certifications the PMI offers are:

Certified Associate in Project Management

The CAPM certifies a project manager’s knowledge of project management fundamentals and processes. Candidates who don’t have the prerequisites to become certified Project Management Professionals may choose the CAPM certificate to access project management work opportunities and continue to gain experience in the field before becoming certified PMPs. To become a certified CAPM, applicants should have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, or an associate’s degree as well as 23 hours of project management education.

Project Management Professional

 The PMP certification is internationally recognized and allows professional project managers to work in many different fields. After obtaining a PMP certification, certified PMPs must maintain their certificates by completing 60 professional development credits every three years. To become a certified PMP, project managers must have a high school diploma or GED, 7,500 hours leading projects and 35 hours of project management education. Alternatively, they could have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 4,500 hours leading projects and 35 hours of project management education.

The PMI also offers certifications in areas such as risk management, scheduling and business analysis. Other organizations that provide project management certifications include the International Association of Project Managers, the American Academy of Project Management and the A/E/C Project Management Association. 

Skills

Project managers need several skills to motivate and direct their team, communicate with clients and be responsive to changes as the project progresses. Here are some key skills used in project management: 

Organization

Project managers need strong organizational skills to manage every aspect of a project. For example, the initial organization of the project is essential to its success. Project managers need to understand the scope of the project, set deadlines and accurately calculate the cost of material, services and personnel before establishing a budget. 

Communication

Project managers need to communicate the broader vision for the project as well as smaller project goals and give clear direction to the team. They also need communication skills to provide the client with regular updates on project progress and may act as liaison or spokesperson for the project to external stakeholders. 

Critical thinking

Project managers need to be able to analyze problems that arise during the process. They must be able to think objectively and come up with solutions. 

Leadership

Project managers need to be able to motivate and lead a team strategically and operationally. They promote teamwork, evaluate team progress and resolve conflicts between team members. 

Risk management

Project managers need to be able to assess risks when planning and executing a project. For example, if a project manager is aware that the project may encounter a costly issue, they must anticipate the problem and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. 

Project manager work environment 

Project managers typically work in an office environment, though they may occasionally need to be present at the project’s physical worksite. They spend much of their time sitting or standing at a computer station, typing correspondence, using project management software and placing business calls. They usually work a regular full-time schedule, though they may need to work overtime or irregular hours depending on project deadlines. Project managers work in a wide variety of industries, such as banking, marketing, engineering, technology and architecture and may occasionally need to travel for work.

How to become a project manager

Here are the most common steps needed to become a project manager:  

1. Earn a degree.

Project managers usually need to earn a bachelor’s degree, though some begin a career in project management with a high school diploma or associate’s degree and equivalent experience. Aspiring project managers typically pursue a degree in business management. However, they may choose to specialize in engineering or marketing and earn a certification in project management once they gain experience in their chosen field. For example, a project manager who wishes to work in IT project management may choose to study computer science and gain on-the-job experience before obtaining a certificate in project management. 

2. Gain relevant work experience.

Experience working in a specific field is essential for project managers, even if it is not in project management. For example, a marketing manager who wants to start a career in project management could draw on their experience heading marketing campaigns. 

3. Become certified.

Project managers who become certified through an organization such as the Project Management Institute prove they have the necessary hard and soft skills to become a professional project manager. Obtaining a certification also gives project managers greater access to mid to senior-level project management positions. 

4. Apply to positions.

Project managers should apply for jobs in fields where they have expertise or experience. They should tailor their cover letter to open positions and update their resume with relevant experience and skills needed to perform the job.

Project manager job description example

The Jackson City Museum of Contemporary Art is seeking an experienced project manager to supervise the planning and execution of in-house and external exhibitions. The project manager will facilitate communication between museum departments and the exhibition staff for the duration of the project. They will be the primary contact between the museum and external partners on projects and will act as the spokesperson for media coverage. Candidates should have two to three years of relevant experience and a bachelor’s degree. PMP certification preferred.

Primary duties also include:

  • Establishing a budget for projects and ensuring that the project remains within budget

  • Communicating task requirements to project team members

  • Organizing meetings and developing agendas to ensure the project team is aware of deadlines and any changes

  • Creating contracts and ensuring all parties comply

Related careers

  • Product manager

  • Construction manager

  • Operations manager

  • Business analyst

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