The following article provides information about the critical aspects of a career in project management. You will learn what project managers do, where they work, job duties, how to become a project manager, and popular career paths.
What We Do
Project managers are different than regular department managers who typically oversee a certain area of the business. Project managers instead are responsible for all areas and parts of a specific and time limited business initiative. For example, a project manager may be responsible for:
- Launching a new type of product for a medical device or pharmaceutical company
- Developing a new cell phone mobile application for a telecommunications firm
- Implementing a new banking system online for a major financial institution
- Rolling out a new product for an international retailer
A project manager’s job description will usually reflect the specific needs of the firm. But generally, a project manager will plan, coordinate, implement and finalize company projects on deadline, while they keep the project under budget.
Most project managers will do most of the following duties:
- Oversee projects from the initial planning phase, through implementation, testing and reporting
- Assemble project teams from personnel from several departments, including IT, purchasing, product development, distribution and marketing
- Ensure that contractors and suppliers are providing services and goods as they are contracted to do
- Make certain that the project is progressing on time and on budget
- Determine the cost of the business project, the resources needed and work schedules
- Provide the client or senior management with regular progress reports
- Planning resources needed for various projects
- Managing risks and issues on projects
- Achieve operational objectives in the project
Project managers will usually choose the people on the project team and manage their work. The project manager is ultimately the one responsible for the success or failure of the project. Success usually is measured on whether or not the project has been completed within budget and in the time frame that was laid out.
Where We Work
Project managers will find work in most industries and in cities and states where the economy is strong and has a wide industrial base. According to Monster.com, the below cities are looking especially promising for managers and specifically project managers:
- Houston, Texas: This is the biggest city in Texas and by some measures the third or fourth biggest in the US. It is the home to many large industries, including oil and gas, aeronautics, and healthcare. Healthcare jobs are growing especially fast because the population is increasing and getting older.
- Dallas, Texas: This is a booming Texas metropolis and has many new management jobs in telecommunications, technology and defense.
- Boston, Massachusetts: This is a booming northeast city with growing healthcare, finance and biotechnology fields. Project managers are needed to manage many new projects as the economy is expanding.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota: This economy is thriving in manufacturing, especially in electronics, medical equipment and advanced machinery. Project management jobs are big here.
- Seattle, Washington: This city is well known as a tech leader in the world. Workers here enjoy high paying jobs in IT, aerospace and software development. Project managers are always needed at the many IT and software companies in the area.
The salary level of project managers will depend upon the industry and level of experience the PM has. However, various online sources report that a typical median salary for PMs starts in the range of $45,000 per year and can go as high as $125,000.
Payscale.com reports that PMs earn a median salary of $84,725 with a range of $53,000 to $121,341.
Project managers are needed in virtually all companies of any size in most industries. Some of the types of companies that hire project managers are:
- Aerospace companies
- Architectural and engineering firms
- Colleges and universities
- Construction companies
- Government departments
- Hospitals and healthcare organizations
- Information technology companies
- Interior design firms
- Marketing companies
- Oil, gas and mining companies
- Scientific research organizations
- Software development companies
- Telecommunications companies
Project managers enjoy wide demand for their skills and services, thus you can find good work in a variety of careers:
- Marketing manager: These managers are responsible for creating, identifying and evaluating sales strategies to effectively promote a company’s products and services and to boost sales. Project managers are always needed to lead new marketing efforts for all types of products and services in various industries.
- Operations manager: Ensures the smooth operation of a company or manufacturing facility that provides production of goods and services. Project managers are often needed to lead new efforts to streamline operations and improve efficiency. When a new product is introduced, projects are often required to ensure that the production line is working properly.
- Market research analyst: Study conditions of the market and determine what the possible sales potential is of a new or existing product or service. Advanced project management skills are needed to lead efforts to improve sales for a specific line of products.
- IT project manager: You will be needed to lead various IT projects that can range from the installation of new servers, moving data to cloud based systems and building and launching a new company intranet.
One of the most common career paths for project managers is to be employed as a management analyst or management consultant. These project management professionals are in charge of proposing methods to improve the efficiency and profits of a company or specific product line.
Management analysts provide advice to senior managers about how they can reduce costs and enhance revenue. They are often needed to head projects in inventory management or the reorganization of a corporate structure to eliminate jobs that are not needed. You may specialize as a project manager as a management analyst in a specific industry, including healthcare or IT.
You can become a project manager by getting a bachelor’s degree in business management. Or, you may also choose to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a more specific field, including marketing, engineering or computer science. A more specific bachelor’s degree can be useful if you want to be a PM in a specific industry, such as IT or engineering.
Some universities also will offer project management degree programs that you can choose. For example, many online universities offer MBAs with a specialization in project management. Another option is to earn your bachelor’s in business, and then earn a certificate in project management.
Project managers are needed in just about all industries. Depending upon your skills and interests, you may want to consider specializing in these types of project manager jobs:
- Construction: Project managers are needed to be in charge of all types of building projects both in the private and public sectors.
- Healthcare: All of the biggest healthcare companies in the US, such as Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, employ thousands of project managers.
- Engineering: Whether the engineering is for product development or building some type of structure, engineering project managers are needed in the growing economy
- IT: If you want to work in IT project management, it is very useful to have a good background in software development and the software development life cycle.
- Energy: The oil and gas industry definitely needs more project managers in this era of fracking, which has led to greatly increased oil and gas output in the United States. The Department of Energy also hires many project managers.
Training and Certifications
Project managers are dealing with a corporate environment today that is more complex and multi faceted than in the past. Employers want to know that their project managers are completely qualified to lead their top business efforts. That is why many companies that employ project managers often require their PMs to have project manager certification.
The most widely known and respected certification in the project manager industry today is the Project Management Professional or PMP designation. This certification is awarded by PMI – the Project Management Institute.
PMI developed robust industry standards to ensure companies that PMP holders have received the highest level of project management certification. It is becoming more common today for some companies and job opportunities to require PMP certification. A certification such as PMP will often result in a salary increase.
Surveys suggest that project managers who hold the PMP credential for four years will on average make 15% more than those who do not, at the same level of work experience.
PMP certification helps to show future employers that you have the skills to lead their most challenging business projects. It also is highly useful to earn the respect of peers and employers. Most PMs with PMP certification can compete for some of the highest paying project management roles.
- Villanova University. Project Manager Jobs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/project-manager-jobs/#.WO-JefnyuUk
- IT Project Manager Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Project_Manager%2C_Information_Technology_(IT)/Salary
- Market Research Analysts. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm#tab-2
- Moore, A. 5 Best Cities for Your Career. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/5-best-cities-for-your-career-in-2013