Becoming a project manager is a role a worker can either seek out, grow into or inherit. They can apply for and win the job, gain practical workplace experience, receive formal training, or upskill and earn a project management certification.
Why Become a Project Manager?
Project managers have a flair for overseeing a process or product from start to finish. It’s more than a title; it’s also a function as it describes employees who manage, direct, coordinate, and ensure the delivery of work.
Project management is a rewarding career because it can contribute directly to an organization’s bottom line, not to mention its impact on boosting customer satisfaction.
It’s also a profession that helps a wide variety of industries: information technology, health care, government, social services, oil and gas, finance and insurance, manufacturing, construction, utilities, and much more.
Becoming a Project Manager
The “traditional” path to becoming a project manager is to take courses, obtain a certification, and apply for a project management position with an organization.
The “homegrown” path to becoming a project manager is to gain project management experience on the job, and then move laterally or vertically to take on a project manager role.
Let’s take a closer look at the two different approaches to becoming a project manager.
1) Become a Project Manager with On-the-Job Experience
Workers may have more project management experience than they realize. If they have overseen a project or process that involves planning, collaboration, research, setting budgets, and acquiring resources, chances are they have already engaged in some degree of project management.
Executives, managers, supervisors, and team leaders often assume the role of a project manager by default.
The Project Management Institute’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge lists 10 project management knowledge areas:
a) Integration management
b) Scope management
c) Schedule management
d) Cost management
e) Quality management
f) Resource management
g) Risk management
h) Communications management
i) Procurement management
j) Stakeholder management
Workers can enumerate which skills they’ve used in their positions using this list. If a job or project requires project planning and setting timelines and budgets, those are skills required of a project manager.
This list also can be reviewed to determine the areas where an employee lacks experience.
Then, a worker can focus on those areas to gain additional project management experience.
2) How to Become a Project Manager Without Experience
A formal degree or certification is a definite plus in becoming a project manager, especially if the candidate has no prior experience. New project managers with a degree can enroll in project management certificate training to ensure they have marketable skills and know how to use the latest tools.
Those with a bachelor’s degree should assess how many of the Project Management Institute’s 10 project management knowledge areas they already have and then plot out a strategy for gaining experience in the others.
How to Gain Project Management Experience Volunteer
There is an abundant need for project management in the workplace, with charity organizations, and supporting civic and community initiatives. These are ideal for developing a long list of project management skills, from budgeting and resource management to recruiting and motivating groups of people.
1) Take the plunge
Workers can take on a work initiative to gain valuable experience and recognition. It’s a way to learn on the job and gain advice from other project managers.
2) Join professional associations and networks
Professionals who become involved in an industry association have an easy, read-made avenue for project management experience. They can join a committee and take on a leadership role in an association initiative. Also, it helps to build a professional network to learn more about the industry and make valuable career connections that can last many years.
3) Partner with a mentor
Seek advice from a leader or project manager in the workplace or community. Showing interest is a substantial first step in gaining recognition as a team player who wants to assume more responsibility. A mentor can provide needed guidance in bringing projects to fruition.
4) Upskill online
Many professionals don’t have the time or bandwidth to take courses in a traditional university setting. Instead, they gain valuable skills and experience using flexible, online courses. Aspiring and existing project managers can upskill their portfolios by enrolling in the Project Management Training, offered by UMass Amherst and Simplilearn.
Note: A well-crafted Project Management resume can effectively showcase a candidate’s skills, achievements, and experience, making them stand out in a highly competitive job market.
A Bachelor’s Degree is Ideal but Not Required
While a bachelor’s degree is not required to become a project manager, getting a job in the field without one might be challenging.
Therefore, most professionals earn a degree in project or business management before getting hired as project managers. Other study areas include business analytics and economics. Those with a degree will have an advantage over applicants who don’t.
Another distinct advantage to earning a college degree is that project managers with a bachelor’s degree make about $20,000 more per year than professionals without one.
To earn a full-time project manager position, professionals without bachelor’s degrees must be outstanding performers. Also, they have to have an excellent, stable work history. A stellar record of work demonstrates competence, professionalism, and stability.
Employers also want to see that project managers are organized and have exceptional communication and leadership abilities. As stated earlier, it helps to have experience leading or managing work, volunteer, and community projects.
Choose the Proper Project Management Certification
The Project Management Institute® (PMI) administers the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification and the Certified Associate in Project Management Certification (CAPM).
a) PMP® – Earning the PMP requires a four-year degree and a minimum of 4,500 hours of experience.
b) CAPM® – The CAPM requires a high school diploma and 1,500 hours of work-related experience.
Candidates can substitute additional training with work experience for the CAPM.
Professionals in project management need to realize that upskilling and staying current on new practices, tools, and technologies is essential to become a project manager and remain marketable and competitive.
Maintaining a Project Management Certification
A project management certification is a crucial advantage in demonstrating one’s competency and marketability. It also can incentivize a company to provide a healthier salary. However, once a professional becomes a certified project manager, they must maintain that certification. For example, the PMP certification expires after a few years. It simply requires retaking the certification exam every few years to demonstrate knowledge and competency with project management best practices and standards.
After earning a project management certification, professionals want to take on new responsibilities and projects to demonstrate their newly honed skills.
How to Become an IT Project Manager
IT professionals with organizational and leadership skills may consider transitioning to IT project management. IT project managers have strategic, managerial, and operational responsibilities. They are proficient in organization-specific technology and techniques. IT project manager candidates must generally have five years of relevant experience in a mid-level or entry-level position. Professionals with a couple of years in a managerial position are preferred.
Do IT Project Managers Need a Degree?
IT project managers should have a bachelor’s degree as well as skill certifications and a strong history of work experience. Also, many IT project managers hold graduate degrees.
What is the Career Outlook for IT Project Managers?
There’s a high demand for IT project managers. According to Lightcast, employers posted more than 600,000 job openings for project managers and IT project managers in the U.S. between May 2021 and April 2022. The prior year, just 399,607 jobs were posted, a difference that demonstrates a rapidly expanding need for IT project managers.
Project Managers Remain in Demand
Project management is a job that promises to stay in demand for the foreseeable future. According to the Project Management Institute, employers will have 2.2 million new project-oriented roles to fill worldwide every year through 2027. The U.S. share of those new project management jobs is 213,974 each year.
Project Manager Salary Range
Indeed.com pegs the average base salary for a project manager at $81,121 annually, with a high of $127,124. However, many talented project managers at high-profile companies can earn even more.
Note: Thoroughly preparing for Project Management interview questions, such as those related to leadership, communication, and problem-solving, can help candidates confidently demonstrate their suitability for the role.
Start Your Project Management Journey
Project professionals, managers, and engineers who want to acquire marketable skills and credentials should enroll in the Post Graduate Program in Project Management, offered by UMass Amherst and Simplilearn. This project management certification course is affiliated with PMI-PMP® and IASSC-Lean Six Sigma.
UMass Amherst’s six-month online bootcamp is ideal for management and non management professionals who want to take the next step in a project management career. The course offers live, online interactive classes in project management, Agile management, design thinking, leadership skills, customer experience design, digital transformation, Len Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB), and project risk management. A bachelor’s degree in any discipline is required.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is among the top 25 premier public universities by U.S. News Education Rankings, and its Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst is ranked among the top 50 business schools in the U.S.
UMass Amherst partners with Simplilearn to offer its nationally recognized, online professional programs. Simplilearn’s award-winning immersive learning model uses live virtual classes that use applied learning to help grow skill sets and positively impact careers. In addition to obtaining a world-class learning experience, program graduates gain membership in UMass Amherst Alumni Association.