Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator: What Makes Them Different?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 22, 2023

Published July 26, 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.

Project management is a lucrative field with growing opportunities. The roles of project managers and project coordinators are the most common positions in the field. Knowing the key differences between them can help you decide which of the two positions you are better suited for. In this article, we discuss a project manager vs. project coordinator, explore their responsibilities and skills, evaluate the differences between them, and provide details on how a project coordinator can become a project manager.

What is a project manager?

Project managers are professionals who direct and supervise the implementation of a project on behalf of individuals or organizations. Project managers are the leaders of a project and are responsible for it from start to finish. They strategize, delegate tasks, and ensure each component of the project is progressing on time. Clients hold them responsible for the project's quality.

Related:

  • Top 12 Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers

  • Project Charts for Effective Project Management (With 8 Types)

  • How to Become a Project Manager (With Salary Expectations)

Responsibilities of a project manager

A project manager brings a project idea to reality, and their role encompasses all aspects of project execution. Some responsibilities of a project manager are:

  • They design the execution plan for a project.

  • They determine the timelines for each part of a project.

  • They determine and obtain needed resources.

  • They collaborate with various vendors and suppliers to get resources.

  • They break down projects into various components and delegate each to the team.

  • They oversee all overlapping components of the plan and ensure progress.

  • They carry out risk assessments and quality control on all aspects of the project.

  • They constantly give updated reports to their supervisor or client.

Related: Create an Effective Work Plan For a Successful Project (With Template)

Skills you need to be a project manager

Project managers manage people, processes, and resources. Here are some skills you need to become a project manager:

  • Strategic thinking: Project managers consider relevant variables and make strategic plans to accomplish long-term goals. These tasks both involve strong strategic thinking skills.

  • Resourcefulness: The project manager buys and manages resources to execute a project. They require resourcefulness to perform optimally with little waste.

  • Communication skills: Project managers communicate with various team leads, project coordinators, and vendors to execute a plan. They need strong communication skills to deliver instructions and receive feedback.

  • Leadership skills: Project managers supervise and direct everyone working on the project. They require leadership skills to manage workers and take charge of situations effectively.

  • Time management: The project manager designs project timelines and ensure everyone meets deadlines. They also oversee all parts of the project, requiring time management skills to schedule their time effectively.

Related:

  • Essential Project Manager Technical Skills

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

What is a project coordinator?

A project coordinator oversees the implementation of a project. They handle administrative tasks related to the execution of various components of a project. Their role is to assist project managers in focusing on the bigger tasks and overseeing the overall project's details.

Responsibilities of a project coordinator

Once the project manager has designed the project plan and allocated timelines to each component, the project coordinator carries out the plan. Here are some responsibilities of a project coordinator:

  • They supervise various processes, communicate with clients, and direct workers.

  • They report any problem with the plan to the project manager.

  • They ensure workers use resources in line with the budget and devise cost-effective ways to execute tasks.

  • They arrange meetings and ensure employee attendance.

  • They prepare spreadsheets and reports detailing the running of the project.

  • They manage all relevant documents relating to the project.

  • They recruit workers and design employment policies.

Skills needed by a project coordinator

Project coordinators handle the day-to-day administration of projects. Here are some skills you need as a project coordinator:

  • Conflict resolution skills: Project coordinators handle the daily operations of a project, frequently interacting with workers, vendors, and clients while under pressure. They use conflict resolution skills to navigate stressful situations while accomplishing tasks.

  • Problem-solving skills: The project coordinator can encounter challenges the project manager didn't anticipate while creating the plan. The project coordinator needs problem-solving skills to handle such challenges and deliver quality work.

  • Initiative: Project coordinators require the initiative to make necessary modifications to the project plans to assure quality. They also need to decide on the specifics of the project's execution, which requires independent thinking.

  • Technical skills: Project coordinators handle all administrative work, including creating spreadsheets and reports. They require technical skills and knowledge of data entry to create, understand, and manage paperwork effectively.

  • Organization skills: Project coordinators handle multiple tasks and manage a lot of documents. They need organization skills to ensure that files and schedules are in order while completing tasks with minimal errors.

Related: 22 Essential Project Management Skills

Difference between the project manager vs. project coordinator

While many of the duties of a project manager and project coordinator are interchangeable, there are some significant differences between both roles. Here are some distinctions:

Duties

The major difference between both roles is the scope of their duties. Project managers design the project strategy and employ coordinators to complete each component. They oversee the project from planning to completion, while the project coordinator executes specific parts of the plan.

Project coordinators make sure everything is in place for the project plan to run smoothly. While project coordinators report to the project manager, the project manager reports directly to the supervisor or client. Thus, project managers are responsible for the overall success of the project.

Education

Project coordinators typically have one to four years of field experience and a degree related to their project. Project managers usually study management or business. They also often have master's degrees and project management certifications.

Related: How to Create a Junior Project Manager Resume (With Sample)

Salary

Both roles also have different salary ranges. For example, a project manager earns an average salary of $79,500 per year. On the other hand, a project coordinator can expect an average pay of $56,601 per year, depending on their location.

Related: How to Write an Entry-Level Project Manager Resume

How to become a project manager as a project coordinator

If you're a project coordinator, you can become a project manager and expose yourself to better pay and a broader work experience. Outlined below is what you need to do to progress your career:

1. Develop relevant skills

The job of a project manager is wider and more complex than that of a project coordinator. Project managers need advanced strategic-thinking skills to develop long-term project plans. They also need leadership skills to supervise all aspects of their plan effectively and communication skills to persuade supervisors and communicate clearly with their project coordinators. You can use your role as a project coordinator to focus on developing these skills.

Related: Project Coordinator Skills (With a Definition and Examples)

2. Take on more responsibilities

Taking on more responsibilities can help you meet the work hour requirements for certain professional certifications. It also helps you improve the skills you need to be a successful project manager. In addition, extra work exposes you to more industry knowledge. This can help you understand a project manager's role better and make you a better strategist and administrator.

3. Obtain professional certifications

There are several professional certifications for project management, and these certifications show employers you're competent and well-trained. Here are some prestigious certifications you can consider:

Project Management Professional (PMP)

The PMP is the most prestigious project management certification in the world. It requires a high school diploma, 7,500 hours of experience managing projects, and 35 hours of education on project management. If you have a college degree, you need 4,500 hours of project management experience. The certification costs $450 for members of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and $550 for non-members.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)

This certification requires a high school diploma and 1,500 hours of project management experience, or 23 hours of project management education when taking the exam. It is a thorough certification that takes you through the fundamentals of project management and is renewable every five years. The certification costs $225 for PMI members and $300 for non-members.

Project Management Association of Canada (PMAC)

PMAC is a national member association of the International Project Management Association (IPMA). They offer a range of certification courses for project managers, program directors, and portfolio directors. IPMA is the world's oldest professional association for project management.

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

4. Apply for project manager roles

Once you've secured a certification, you're ready to take on a role as a project manager. First, update your CV to reflect all your new qualifications. Then, you can apply for a role at the company where you work or at another company as a project coordinator.

Related:

  • 11 Project Coordinator Interview Questions and Sample Answers

  • Project Lead vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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