How to Become a Project Manager (With Salary Expectations)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 6, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you love working with people to accomplish goals within a specified time, a career as a project manager might be an ideal path for you. Businesses are increasingly adopting a project-based approach to product development, making project management a career with several long-term opportunities. Understanding the typical tasks and responsibilities of this role can help you decide whether this career path is right for you.

In this article, we explain what a project manager is, show you how to become a project manager, discuss typical work environments for this role, outline essential skills, share the average salary, and explore the benefits of pursuing this career path.

What is a project manager?

There are different types of project managers, mostly distinguished by the industry in which they work. A project manager's objective typically involves planning, procuring, and supervising the execution of a project. A project is a time-bound activity designed to achieve specified goals within a set budget. Project managers work with other professionals to oversee the success of a project.

Project managers need to balance the triple constraints of time, scope, and resources, which makes them ultimately responsible for the success of a project. Here are some typical duties and responsibilities in this role:

  • Develop an action plan for project completion

  • Divide the project into smaller tasks

  • Delegate tasks to team members

  • Identify project stakeholders and manage their expectations

  • Mobilize resources to ensure project completion

  • Manage procurement processes and supplier relationship

  • Perform regular monitoring to track project progress

  • Undertake corrective measures to ensure project success

  • Document project activities, lessons learned, and goals achieved

  • Present and report on completed projects

Read more: How To Improve Your Management Skills

How to become a project manager

Here are some steps you can follow when learning how to become a project manager:

1. Get an undergraduate degree

The initial step to becoming a project manager is to get a relevant degree. While most degree holders can pivot into project management, earning a degree in business or project management gives you an advantage in the job market. You can pursue other relevant degree programs, including engineering, construction, IT, or marketing and use this expertise to prepare you for managing projects related to those roles. You can complement a degree in another field with a short online course or another certification in project management.

Related: What It Takes to Be a Project Manager (Including Duties)

2. Choose your niche

There are many industries that require project managers. It is important for aspiring project managers to decide which field they are likely to specialize in before deciding on the next steps. For instance, if you are looking to become an IT project manager, you may need to pursue an IT-related degree to give you a firm foundation. Other areas of specialization for project managers include construction, energy, product development and engineering.

Related: What Is an Agile Project Manager? (With Crucial Skills)

3. Prepare for and pass the certification exam

Successful project managers need a certificate. Certification helps you improve your skills and employability and shows your commitment to the profession. Some of the most common certifications for project managers are the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. The Project Management Institute (PMI) administers both certifications. In addition, the Project Management Association of Canada also offers the Project Management Competence Certification and several specialty certifications such as Certified Agile Project Manager, Certified Project Coordinator and the Advanced Certificate in Critical and Structured Thinking.

Different certifications have their own eligibility requirements. For instance, the CAPM certification requires a degree and a minimum of 1500 hours of relevant work experience. The PMP certification requires one to have a four-year degree, at least 4500 hours of work experience and relevant project management education. Typically, aspiring project managers need expertise in the following areas:

  • Scope management

  • Schedule management

  • Cost management

  • Integration management

  • Quality management

  • Resource management

  • Risk management

  • Communication management

  • Procurement management

  • Stakeholder management

Related:

  • How To Get a PMP Certification (With Benefits and FAQs)

  • A Guide to Becoming a Certified Project Manager (And Skills)

4. Gain work experience

Project managers need experience to excel in their chosen fields. You can gain experience by looking for internship positions with companies that manage projects. You can also volunteer to take on extra responsibilities that would expose you to project management roles, such as scheduling tasks, budgeting and stakeholder mapping. Gaining relevant experience enables you to stand out to recruiters.

You can craft an outstanding resume and a cover letter to show prospective employers which of your skills, experiences and studies make you a great candidate for a project management role. Review job postings for positions you qualify for and apply.

5. Maintain certification

You need to maintain your certification by taking continuous professional development, such as undertaking additional training, attending conferences and other learning journeys. Some certifications expire after several years, so you need to retake the certification exam. Maintaining certification shows that you are up to date on the project management best practices and standards.

Read more: 22 Essential Project Management Skills

Essential skills for project managers

Here are some essential skills that successful project managers share:

  • Leadership skills: Project managers lead project teams in order to enable the project to achieve the intended goals. They need effective leadership skills to motivate their teams toward goal achievement.

  • Financial management skills: Projects cost money, and project managers need excellent financial management skills to manage project funds efficiently. A project manager's success typically relates to how efficiently their team finishes a project and whether it's within budget.

  • Decision-making skills: Projects entail making decisions that would enhance the project's progress and ultimate success. Project managers need practical decision-making skills to enable them to make the correct decisions throughout the entire project cycle.

  • Team-building skills: Projects involve several team members from different backgrounds and departments. Project managers need superb team-building skills to bring diverse players into consensus to ensure project success.

  • Time management skills: Projects typically comprise various time-bound tasks, culminating in the entire project duration. Project managers need excellent time management skills to ensure project tasks, and the entire project ends within the stipulated time frame.

  • Communication skills: Project managers need to communicate with the project team and stakeholders. They need excellent communication skills, such as active listening and written communication, to ensure they convey the right message to their audiences.

  • Critical thinking skills: Projects are complex undertakings that may not progress as conceptualized. Project managers need critical thinking skills to enable them to steer projects from potentially dangerous setbacks.

  • Negotiating skills: Projects bring together different business units, personalities, stakeholders and interests. Project managers need excellent negotiation skills to enable them to resolve conflicting positions and build consensus on how a project needs to develop.

  • Technological skills: Projects rely on technological tools such as computers, software and applications to enable easier management and monitoring. Project managers need basic technical skills to allow them to manage projects and the people involved in the project.

Related:

  • Essential Project Manager Technical Skills

  • Top Project Manager Qualities (With Duties and Salary)

Work environment

Project managers typically work in an office environment, working 40 hours per week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some project managers, such as those in the construction and extraction industries, may travel to various work sites in the field. Regardless of where they work, project managers sometimes work long hours planning and discussing project activities to ensure that projects meet the set deadlines.

Typically, project managers work in the following industries:

  • Technology companies

  • Construction firms

  • Manufacturers

  • Engineering companies

  • Architectural firms

  • Retailers

Salary expectations for project managers

The national average salary of a project manager is $79,935 per year. Some companies pay as much as $119,302 per year. Project managers working in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta earn higher salaries than the national average. To increase your earning potential, you can narrow your search to lucrative industries and locations. Your chances of earning a higher salary increase with advanced certification and experience.

Benefits of a career as a project manager

Here are the benefits of pursuing a career as a project manager:

  • Improved leadership skills: A career as a project manager enables you to develop leadership traits. Project management enables you to learn how to lead effectively, motivate your team and make better decisions.

  • Better problem-solving capability: Project management enables you to learn how to identify and resolve diverse challenges in the workplace. Trained managers develop logistics planning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to analyze data to solve various challenges.

  • Improves your interpersonal skills: Project managers need to communicate and relate with different stakeholders, project teams and project owners. As a result, a career in project management may lead to improved people skills, which may benefit other facets of your career or life.

  • Better reach your personal goals: Project manager skills allow you to progress in your career. However, they also enable you to improve and attain personal goals, such as entrepreneurship and personal finance.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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