CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a project manager.

Step 1

Is becoming a project manager right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do project managers do?
Career Satisfaction
Are project managers happy with their careers?
What are project managers like?

Still unsure if becoming a project manager is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a project manager or another similar career!

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Step 2

High School

While there is no specific high school curriculum for becoming a project manager, there are several courses and skills that can be helpful for students who are interested in pursuing a career in project management. Here are some examples:

  • Math: Project managers often work with budgets, schedules, and other numerical data, so strong math skills are essential.
  • English: Project managers need strong communication skills to convey ideas, negotiate contracts, and manage teams effectively. English courses can help develop these skills.
  • Business and Economics: Understanding basic business and economic concepts can help students develop a foundation for managing projects in various industries.
  • Technology and Computer Science: Project managers often work with software tools to manage projects, so courses in computer science and technology can be beneficial.
  • Leadership and Management: Taking courses in leadership, management, or team-building can help students develop skills in leading and motivating teams.
  • Problem-solving: Project managers need to be skilled in identifying and solving problems, so courses in critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making can be helpful.

In addition to these courses, extracurricular activities such as participating in student government, volunteering for community projects, or organizing events can help develop leadership, communication, and project management skills. Finally, pursuing internships or part-time jobs in industries related to project management can provide valuable hands-on experience and help students develop a better understanding of what it takes to become a project manager.

Step 3

Steps to Becoming a Project Manager

Becoming a project manager involves a combination of education, experience, and professional development. Here is a guide on how to become a project manager:

  • Educational Background: Obtain a relevant educational background, usually a bachelor's degree in a field related to project management. Common disciplines include business administration, business management, engineering, information technology, or a related field.
  • Gain Relevant Experience: Acquire practical experience in project management by working in entry-level roles or internships. This experience allows you to understand the fundamentals of project work, team dynamics, and organizational processes.
  • Pursue Advanced Education (Optional): Consider pursuing advanced education such as a Master's Degree in Project Management or Business Administration. Consider earning project management certifications to enhance your credibility and marketability (see below).
  • Develop Technical Skills: Develop proficiency in project management tools and software, as well as relevant technical skills depending on your industry. Familiarity with tools like Microsoft Project, Jira, or others used in your field can be valuable.
  • Build Leadership and Communication Skills: Project managers need strong leadership and communication skills. Develop your ability to lead teams, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and resolve conflicts. These soft skills are crucial for successful project management.
  • Network and Seek Mentoring: Build a professional network by attending industry events, joining professional associations, and connecting with experienced project managers. Seek mentors who can provide guidance and insights into the field.
  • Gain Industry-specific Knowledge: Depending on your career goals, gain industry-specific knowledge relevant to the type of projects you want to manage. This can include understanding the regulatory environment, industry standards, and best practices.
  • Apply for Entry-Level Project Management Positions: Look for entry-level project management positions or roles that involve project coordination or assistant responsibilities. This could include roles like project coordinator, assistant project manager, or junior project manager.
  • Build a Portfolio of Projects: Document and showcase your experience by building a portfolio of projects you've managed or contributed to. Highlight key achievements, challenges, and outcomes to demonstrate your project management capabilities.
  • Seek Career Advancement: As you gain experience, seek opportunities for career advancement within your organization or by applying for more senior project management roles. Showcase your accomplishments and contributions to demonstrate your readiness for increased responsibilities.

Several certifications are highly valued in the field of project management. These certifications validate a project manager's skills and knowledge, making them more competitive in the job market. Here are some widely recognized project management certifications:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the PMP is one of the most globally recognized certifications. It demonstrates a project manager's knowledge and experience in leading and directing projects. Eligibility criteria include a combination of education and project management experience.
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): Also offered by PMI, the CAPM is designed for individuals with less experience in project management. It's an entry-level certification that demonstrates a foundational understanding of project management concepts and terminology.
  • PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments): PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management methodology widely used in the UK and Europe. The certification is recognized globally and focuses on tailoring the project management process to fit the needs of the project.
  • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM): Offered by the Scrum Alliance, the CSM certification is particularly relevant for project managers working in Agile environments. It validates knowledge of Scrum principles and practices and is beneficial for those leading or participating in Agile teams.
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP): Also offered by PMI, the PMI-ACP is for project managers with experience working in Agile environments. It demonstrates knowledge of Agile principles, practices, and tools.
  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA): Offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the CRMA is for professionals who specialize in risk management. It covers areas such as risk assurance, control assurance, governance, and business process risk.
  • CompTIA Project+: This is a vendor-neutral certification that covers project management fundamentals. It's suitable for individuals at the beginning of their project management career.
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) by Scrum Alliance: This certification is suitable for project managers working in Agile environments who want to demonstrate their proficiency in Agile practices and principles.
  • Certification of Project Management (CPM) by IPMA-USA: Offered by the International Project Management Association USA (IPMA-USA), the CPM certification is based on the IPMA Competence Baseline and assesses a project manager's competence in various areas.
  • Certified Project Director (CPD) by IPMA-USA: Also offered by IPMA-USA, the CPD certification is designed for experienced project managers who have demonstrated excellence in managing complex projects and programs.
Step 4

Employment Opportunities

Project managers enjoy a robust job market with diverse employment opportunities across various industries. Here's a detailed exploration of employment opportunities for project managers:

  • Information Technology (IT): With the ever-expanding IT sector, project managers are in high demand for roles such as IT project manager, software project manager, and technology implementation specialist. Opportunities span software development, system upgrades, cybersecurity projects, and IT infrastructure enhancements.
  • Construction and Engineering: Project managers play an important role in the construction and engineering sectors, overseeing projects like building construction, infrastructure development, and engineering initiatives. Opportunities abound in both the public and private sectors, working for construction firms, engineering companies, or government agencies.
  • Healthcare: The healthcare industry seeks project managers to lead initiatives such as the implementation of electronic health records, facility expansions, and process improvements. Project managers in healthcare work with interdisciplinary teams to ensure projects align with regulatory standards and patient care objectives.
  • Finance and Banking: Financial institutions often hire project managers to lead projects related to system implementations, mergers and acquisitions, and process optimizations. Regulatory compliance projects are also common, making this sector a promising avenue for project management professionals.
  • Telecommunications: With the continuous evolution of telecommunications technology, project managers are needed to oversee network upgrades, technology implementations, and the expansion of telecommunication infrastructure. Opportunities exist with telecommunications companies, network service providers, and technology firms.
  • Manufacturing and Product Development: In manufacturing, project managers lead product development initiatives, process improvements, and facility expansions. They ensure efficient production processes and collaborate with cross-functional teams to bring new products to market.
  • Consulting: Project management consultants work across industries, providing expertise to organizations undergoing strategic initiatives, process improvements, or organizational transformations. Consulting firms and independent consulting opportunities are prevalent in this space.
  • Energy and Environmental: The energy sector offers opportunities for project managers in areas such as renewable energy projects, infrastructure development, and environmental conservation initiatives. Project managers may work with utilities, energy companies, or environmental agencies.
  • Nonprofit and Government: Nonprofit organizations and government agencies hire project managers to lead community development projects, social services initiatives, and public sector programs. These roles often involve a focus on delivering positive social impact within budgetary constraints.
  • Event Management: Event project managers find opportunities in the hospitality and entertainment industries, organizing and coordinating events such as conferences, festivals, and corporate functions. These roles require strong organizational and logistical skills.
  • Pharmaceutical and Research: In the pharmaceutical and research sectors, project managers oversee research and development projects, clinical trials, and product launches. They collaborate with scientists, researchers, and regulatory bodies to ensure project success.
  • Retail and E-Commerce: Retailers and e-commerce companies hire project managers for various initiatives, including system implementations, logistics improvements, and the launch of new products or services. E-commerce platforms often have ongoing projects related to website development and user experience enhancements.
  • Aerospace and Defense: Project managers in the aerospace and defense industries lead projects related to aircraft development, defense system upgrades, and aerospace technology advancements. These roles often involve collaboration with engineering and technology teams.
  • Education: Educational institutions hire project managers for initiatives such as curriculum development, campus expansions, and technology implementations. Project managers contribute to the efficient operation and growth of educational institutions.
  • Remote Work Opportunities: The rise of remote work has expanded opportunities for project managers to work with organizations irrespective of geographical location. Remote project management roles are prevalent in various industries, offering flexibility and access to a global job market.