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How to Become a Project Manager: Career Path, Skills and Education

Category: B2B News

How to become a project manager? You need a combination of educational attainment, certifications, and experience to master the fundamentals of leading a project to successful completion. Beyond the formal training, you need analytical skills, communication skills, leadership, and even guts, as this field is not without unexpected outcomes. Make sure you land the job by reading some of the tips we have compiled. To help you better understand what this job entails as well as how you can become one, we will be explaining the following topics:

How to Become a Project Manager?

Project management is a core process in many businesses. This is why entrepreneurs and CEOs often look for skilled and experienced professionals to handle this aspect of their business.

All business endeavors should be taken seriously, as they require careful planning, tedious budgeting, extensive paperwork, and a ton of other tasks to be able to accomplish smoothly. Through project management, companies can streamline the way they work and make sure all the tasks they undertake are accomplished as efficiently as possible. However, if entrepreneurs were to do this on their own, it might not leave them much time to handle other aspects of their business. This is why there is a growing demand for project managers.

Demand for PMP Certified Professionals Worldwide by 2020

(GreyCampus.com)

Who is a project manager?

A project manager is the person in charge of conceptualizing, organizing, and executing projects within a company. They are expected to create comprehensive work plans, facilitate the productivity of team members, align projects to business goals, and communicate project statuses. Oftentimes, this job comes with perks that allow them to enjoy a more flexible schedule and secure better job positions in the future.

The average project manager salary ranges from $80,000 to $120,000 per year, depending on their project management education, experience, and certifications. So, it comes as no surprise that it is one of the most highly coveted positions in a company, regardless of the industry.

While many people want to try their hand at being a project manager, they might have a hard time with some of the job’s requirements. These include scheduling the work needed to be done, assembling the right staff, coordinating with your people, meeting deadlines, and more. Even professionals with lots of experience working as a manager can have trouble with the tasks that comes with being in charge of a specific project.

Do you want to know how to become a project manager? In this article, we will be discussing some of the most important points about the job. We will give a summary of what qualifications companies look for in a project manager, some of the responsibilities that this job entails, the tools you will need to familiarize yourself with, as well as a few tips on how to ace your job interview.

Career Path of a Project Manager

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of how you can bag a job as a project manager, let us first discuss the common career path for this job. Many project managers start out as project assistants, coordinators, business analysts, IT experts, and management support specialists. Aside from getting a good college education related to the field, the training that these jobs offer can help gain the necessary project manager skills to make you an eligible candidate for the position.

After which, you can either get promoted to project manager at your current office or apply for the job at another company. During this time, it is a good idea to earn a Master of Business Administration or a PMP certification if you don’t already have one. These two is not exactly necessary for keeping your job as a project manager but they are great for adding more credibility to your skills, and is also a factor in determining pay grade.

Most project managers choose to render five to ten years on the job before moving on to senior managerial positions or other jobs. At that point, the field offers a wide variety of career opportunities depending on the industry you are in as well as the type of senior roles you are gunning for.

For one, you can choose to move up the corporate ladder. Oftentimes, seasoned project managers with impressive portfolios end up as chief operating officers (COOs) and chief executive officers (CEOs) of their companies. It is also possible for you to opt for other senior management roles such as being an IT director or a program director. There are also those who end up creating their own outsourcing project management firms.

Qualifications of a Project Manager

Now that you know what to expect from a project manager career path, we can move on to discussing what qualities companies are looking for in project managers. As with any job position, recruitment agencies and organizations are finicky about their criteria for project managers. They need someone who they can rely on–a professional who is resilient, responsible, adept regarding the inner workings of project management, and great at handling team members.

While the qualities mentioned above are always part of what employers look for in project managers, it is also important to note that other qualifications often vary. They depend on the company the individual wants to apply to and the industry in which the company operates. However, here are some of the key project management qualifications that they might be looking for:

  1. Undergraduate Degree. It goes without saying that earning an undergraduate degree in management is a great place to start if you want to be a project manager. This is what will help you get a background in critical areas of the field such as business management, human resource management, communication, and many more. Moreover, professionals with degrees related to project management take less time to train, making them more attractive in the eyes of employers.
  2. Industry Experience. A solid educational background gives you an edge over other candidates, but what will really set you apart is your industry experience. Nothing beats on-the-job training. Employers prefer individuals who have extensive project management experience. This is because there are certain skills and abilities that can only be learned by actually working in the field.
  3. PMP Certification. Other than a good educational background and industry experience, it is also a must for you to have a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. This signifies your capability to speak the global language of project management and shows that you can work as a project manager in virtually any industry following any methodology in any location. While not all companies require this, it can often be a huge factor for employers and can give you significant advantage when it comes to salary and earning potential. You must take note, however, that this is also part of your continuing education as they require a re-certification every 3 or so years.  
  4. Master’s Degree. Many employers see greater potential in well-educated candidates. So, while not all companies look for professionals with master’s degrees, continuing your project management education is still a great way to land a job as a project manager. Gaining higher education that specializes in project management can increase your credibility and value to you as a candidate for the position. On top of that, this can be grounds for getting a higher pay grade.
  5. Excellent Communication Skills. Being a project manager will require you to know how to communicate with your team effectively. This skill is needed in order to delegate tasks as clearly as possible and to relay information more efficiently. There are plenty of professionals who seem to have this skill innately but if you feel that you may be lacking in this particular area, there plenty of courses and seminars that will help you pick this skill up in no time.  
  6. Impressive Leadership Skills. As a project manager, you will be leading fellow professionals in order to achieve the goals of the company. Because of this, you need to know how to interact with your subordinates, understand how to keep employees motivated, and be able to resolve conflicts before they have a negative impact on your work.

Essential Project Management Tools

Aside from the qualities and criteria mentioned above, it is also important for you to familiarize yourself with how project management software work. These can provide you with real-time collaboration, document sharing, cost management, and reporting solutions that can streamline your workflow and optimize your operations. By learning the tools of the trade, overseeing your projects and your team members can be significantly more productive. Some examples of project management applications on the market are:

1. monday.com

monday dashboard example

One of the major tasks of a project manager is to stay on top of everything — knowing who’s doing what — which today’s software can easily handle.

Previously known as Dapulse, monday.com is one of the leading collaboration and communication applications in the industry. The software currently ranks #1 among our project management solutions based on our comprehensive reviews and evaluation. It is an all-in-one platform that syncs all project information for agents and team members. Known for its compact interface, it can streamline collaboration and enable teams to perform more efficiently.

Among monday.com’s most notable features are its advanced scheduling capability, real-time activity monitoring, and budgeting tool. It also smartly integrates with apps like Dropbox, Zapier, and Google Drive. Additionally, it has an open API architecture for more customizable user experience. The vendor offers a free trial option, so that you can take the product for a test run before committing to a subscription package. 

You can easily sign up for monday.com free trial here.

monday.com

An award given to products our B2B experts find especially valuable for companies

monday.com won our Expert's Choice Award for 2019

Our score
9.8
User satisfaction
99%

monday.com offers four subscription packages priced depending on the number of users, the storage capacity, and the set of features you will be needing for your operations. They have a Basic plan that costs $39/month, a Standard plan priced at $49/month, a Pro Package costing $79/month, and a quote-based Enterprise plan.

2. Wrike

wrike dashboard example

Wrike has one of the more intuitive dashboards in the category, giving project leaders the flexibility to view projects in various modes including Gantt Chart.

Wrike is designed to improve the efficiency of operations in co-located and distributed offices. Used by Fortune 500 companies like Google, Adobe, HTC, and others, this software lets multifunctional groups to collaborate, schedule, prioritize, discuss, and track their work. The vendor offers a comprehensive free trial to get you up to speed with the features.

You can sign up for Wrike free trial here.

Wrike is known for its user-friendly three-pane project view and simple navigation. Completely mobile-ready, this is great for project managers who are always on the go. It even serves as a central hub for all your work. To make it even better, it is equipped with excellent security measures and can support powerful integrations.

Wrike offers a free plan with basic project management tools. This can support basic applications, advanced email integrations, and can accommodate unlimited collaborators. For larger companies, Wrike has three paid plans namely the Professional Plan, Business Plan, and Wrike for Marketers that cost $9.80/user/month and $24.80/user/month. They also offer customized plans that are available on a quote basis.

Of course, monday.com and Wrike aren’t the only project management systems available on the market. So, make sure you learn more about other solutions; you can take a look at our list of top 20 project management systems of 2019 as a starting point. If you need to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of project management, check our guide on project management software to get a better understanding of what these systems can do, the type of applications you may encounter, as well as the top solutions of today.

Responsibilities of a Project Manager

So, what duties does being a project manager entail? Like any other job position, this comes with many responsibilities that range from overseeing employees and making crucial business decisions to allocating company resources and executing critical project plans. To give you a better idea on what to expect once you get hired, we have compiled and explained some of the core duties of a project manager:

  1. Planning and Defining Projects. Business endeavors, large and small, need to be broken down into manageable tasks. This allows employees to better execute the steps necessary to finish a project. Project managers are in charge of defining and planning these tasks as well as the sequence by which they should be done.
  2. Schedule Management. Most projects have deadlines that need to be met. In order to make sure that no project is overdue, project managers need to manage the schedules of the employees and the timeline of the tasks to be done. This allows businesses to gauge their productivity and estimate labor costs better.
  3. Budgeting. Every project requires the use of company resources. To ensure that no money or materials are wasted, project managers need to be able to allocate these resources and make sure that they are used wisely. This is done through proper planning and budget development.
  4. Progress Measurement. Project managers are also expected to document the progress of the tasks they are assigned to. Meaning, they need to create comprehensive reports about where they are on their project timeline, the resources they’ve used up, and other important aspects of their project. This allows them to assess how they are doing and determine how they can improve how they handle projects in the future.
  5. Mentoring. As with any leader, it is also important for project managers to mentor their team members. They need to guide them as they learn the basics of project management, make sure they are getting the training they need in order to make strides in the industry and be able to pass on their knowledge of the field.
  6. Ensuring Team Collaboration. Other than leading your team members, it is also crucial that you help them collaborate seamlessly. You can do this by designing project tasks that will require teamwork or by scheduling activities that will help them build camaraderie.
  7. Quality Control. Whether you become an IT project manager, a construction project manager, or a corporate project manager, you must also know how to ensure the quality of your output. This means rolling out the necessary quality control practices and keeping tabs on your progress at all times.

How to Land a Job as a Project Manager

Other than having a good educational background and a solid work experience, another way to land a job as a project manager is by doing well in your interview. You need to exhibit mastery of your craft and show them how efficient you can be as a project manager. So, what are some of the project manager interview questions that you should prepare for?

What are the three key challenges for our industry today and how can these be tackled effectively?

This is probably one of the most common interview questions for this job position. It is used by employers to gauge a candidate’s understanding of the industry and the market. The key to answering this the best way possible is by staying up-to-date on what’s new in the field. In addition to that, it’s also nice to continually think of ways to resolve certain project management challenges that are plaguing the industry.

What is your communication style with your team?

As mentioned previously, it is important for project managers to have good communication and leadership skills. So, it is only right for employers and recruiters to ask you about your communication style. This question will help them understand how you engage with others and let them get a good sense of how effectively you use language.

How easily do you delegate responsibility?

Of course, other than understanding your communication style, it is also important for employers to know how you delegate responsibility. This question will allow them to gauge how effectively you can mobilize their workforce and whether or not you can make tough decisions on-the-fly.

Describe two areas in your current project where there is a high level of uncertainty. How do you tackle these uncertainties?

In any project, you will encounter inevitable road bumps such as problems with funding and inventory among others. This is why many employers ask this question to get a better idea of how you deal with uncertainty. To answer this question, it is important that you demonstrate that you can identify and prioritize risks, manage concerns in changing environments, as well as take appropriate action in any situation.

How do you ensure that your project is always on track?

Project managers are expected to juggle multiple tasks at once. So, naturally, employers would want to know if you can manage your time wisely and make sure that you can keep tabs on all your responsibilities while meeting deadlines. The best way to answer this question would be by giving concrete scenarios in which you were able to handle multiple projects efficiently.

Conclusion

Being a project manager is no easy feat. It requires passion, attention to detail, tenacity, and patience. Moreover, despite the long hours of painstaking work, it is one of the most satisfying jobs out there. This line of work will allow you to keep learning about your industry (including the goal to know the best project management tools today) meet interesting people, and enjoy unpredictable and challenging work where there is never a dull moment. If you think you’re up to the task then, hopefully, this guide on how to become a project manager was of help to you. Remember also to try one of the leading project management solutions we mentioned, the better you can get up to speed. You can easily sign up for monday.com free trial here.

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

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