Project Management: The 7 Levels of Project Manager Roles

Updated March 10, 2023

Project management and project managers are an important role, one that ensures projects proceed and reach completion according to plans, and larger companies may use multiple levels of project managers to oversee team performance. Understanding the different levels of project management can help you decide which career path you want to take within your field.

In this article, we discuss what a project manager does, their key skills and the different levels of project management a company may use.

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What does a project manager do?

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A team member presents project information during a team meeting as their colleagues listen from a conference table.

Project managers are mid-level and senior-level staff responsible for the execution of one or more projects. A project manager oversees staff working on a project, assigning duties and tracking progress to deliver the project as ordered. Common duties for a project manager may include:

  • Meeting with senior company officials to discuss project plans and requirements

  • Planning projects with team members to create a structure for the completion of the project

  • Explaining the project and individual responsibilities to team members

  • Delegating tasks to team members to keep the project on schedule, using knowledge of individual skills to best use each employee

  • Coordinating with other teams and departments to ensure the integration of efforts to complete the project

  • Monitoring progress on a project and making adjustments as needed to meet project goals

  • Advising employees on tasks to help them complete their activities more efficiently

  • Assessing performance metrics at the completion of the project to identify areas for improvement and elements that worked well for future projects

Related: Understanding the Project Management Phases

Skills for a project manager

Project managers possess a range of both hard and soft skills. Important skills for a project manager include:

  • Adaptability: An adaptable project manager can respond calmly to the needs of their team and provide help where needed across a broad range of activities.

  • Budgeting: Budgeting skills allow a project manager to get the most use out of the money available by spending and using staff efficiently to maximize the benefit each provides.

  • Decision-making: Decision-making skills allow the project manager to examine all the relevant information related to a decision, weigh the pros and cons of each potential option, and choose the best option for the project and staff.

  • Industry knowledge: A project manager with experience in an industry is capable of better understanding their staff's needs and making more informed decisions about the direction of a project.

  • Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills help a project manager convey information clearly and listen to others to create connections that enable the project manager to communicate with each team member as effectively as possible.

  • Leadership: A project manager with strong leadership skills understands how to motivate staff members, as well as how to provide meaningful instruction to staff members which can mean stronger overall performance on the project.

  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow a project manager to identify what went wrong, find the cause of the problem, and the best solution to rectify the situation and get the project moving toward completion again.

  • Risk assessment: Risk assessment skills are beneficial because they help a project manager estimate potential risks on a project along with their costs and probabilities.

  • Time management: Time management skills allow a project manager to use their time efficiently to provide as much value to their team as possible and keep the project on schedule and on budget.

Related: Highlighting Project Manager Skills on a Resume

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7 levels for a project manager

Although the title of project manager is common, the field of project management contains multiple levels of project management positions. The different levels of project manager roles have varied levels of responsibilities and expectations. The most common project manager levels are:

1. Project manager

A project manager is a position at a company that is usually a mid-level role in the corporate hierarchy. At a smaller company, a project manager may not work with any other employees in project management roles. At larger companies, a project manager may report to a senior project manager or director of program management, oversee work by a project coordinator or project scheduler, or both.

Related: 6 of the Highest-Paying Project Manager Jobs

2. Assistant project manager

An assistant project manager often reports directly to the project manager. Often, a project manager for a large project works with an assistant project manager and delegates tasks to the assistant project manager.

An assistant project manager has a diverse skill set, as they complete many of the same duties as the project manager. This also makes a job as an assistant manager an excellent midpoint for an employee who has aspirations of higher project management positions, allowing the assistant project manager to develop their skills in a practical setting and learn from the project manager's example.

3. Senior project manager

A senior project manager is an advanced management role, often filled by employees with previous experience as a project manager. Earning a promotion to senior project management may primarily comprise a new title and raise, while maintaining similar responsibilities to working as a project manager, or may involve the senior project manager taking on supervisor responsibilities for other project managers at the company.

4. Director of program management

The director of project management is often the highest-ranking employee in a company's project management operation. The director of program management oversees the company's big-picture planning, including all projects executed by the company.

The company's project managers often report directly to the director of program management, who ensures that all projects remain on schedule and facilitates interaction between projects when necessary.

5. Project coordinator

A project coordinator works in a junior project manager role, often under the direct supervision of a project manager. The project coordinator often specializes in the budgeting aspects of a project and tracks both the funding provided for a project and any spending on the project.

Often a project coordinator creates spreadsheets, graphs and reports on the budget for a project which they present to the project manager or other senior staff members. When a project's budget needs to be changed, or unforeseen spending forces an alteration to budget allocation, the project coordinator may perform budget analysis and provide options to the project manager to choose an alternative plan.

6. Project scheduler

As another specialized junior project management position, a project scheduler often works under a project manager and focuses their attention on maintaining the schedule of a project. The project scheduler ensures staff completes the project on time and usually accomplishes this by setting intermediary schedules and target dates for elements of the project.

The project scheduler may work directly with members of the staff and with team leaders to discuss their scheduling needs and the company's expectations to create schedules that are both aspirational and achievable. The project scheduler may work with scheduling software to provide resources to staff to ensure each employee understands their deadlines and expectations.

7. Team leader

The lowest level of project management does not always come with a formal title change. When organizing a workforce into smaller teams, an employer may choose one member of a team working on a project and label them as the team leader. This creates a structure for the team and provides one staff member with final decision-making powers in the event of disagreements on how to proceed.

Being a team leader still comes with an increase in both power and responsibility for the end product of the team. Being a team leader is an excellent way to build your resume for future promotion into a project manager position. The experience as a team leader also allows you to develop the skills you need to succeed if hired or promoted into a project management role.

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