The Ultimate Project Manager Career Path Guide: How To Become A Senior Project Manager
Navigating the project manager career path can often feel like looking at a map without any compass directions. Just when you think youve got it figured out, it turns out youve been holding it upside down the entire time.
Thats because few organizations have processes, guidance, and support in place to take you from project manager to whatever comes next
Throw in the fact that many of us stumble into project management rather than approaching it head-on, and youve got a situation where everyone wants to move up, but no one knows how.
In this guide:
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This isnt a guide on how to become a project manager. If youre here, youre already working in the field and are ready to take your career to the next level.
Instead, were going to cover everything you need to know to make your next stepfrom the typical career path you might follow to the real-world skills you need to get noticed.
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The North Carolina State University online masters in computer science degree program requires that you already have a BS in computer science from an accredited four-year college. The degree must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher in your major, either science or engineering. Applicants who already have a BS degree in computer science from another university must also complete the Computer Programming Certificate and a CS minor.
The faculty at NC State includes 23 NSF CAREER Award winners, 11 NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers, six IEEE Fellows, and a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The university also has several Emmy award winners and members of the National Academy of Engineering. To name just a few of the distinguished professors in NC States computer science department, the university is home to several award-winning faculty members.
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The Role Of A Project Manager
While the exact role and responsibilities of a project manager will vary between organizations and industries, most project managers will find themselves responsible for the same general duties.
The most important of these responsibilities include:
- Regularly communicating with team members, usually through a mix of emails, phone calls, daily check-ins, and team meetings, in order to understand the status of the project and the progress being made on tasks.
- Issue identification and resolution to ensure that any roadblocks are addressed and removed so work can continue.
- Budgeting and cost control, including resource management and cost approval, the processing of invoices, and allocation/reallocation of resources as necessary.
- Communication and reporting to key stakeholders to ensure that they understand the progress being made on the project and any issues that develop.
- Team building to help team members focus on specific tasks and remain happy and productive as they work toward project completion.
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Project Manager Career Problems
Project management careers are not perfect. Just like any other job, it has its downsides. The reality is that it can be a difficult job, and you have to be the right person to do it and handle all project management challenges. Many PMs keep track of their projects, answer emails, and stay connected with their team after work or on holidays. Some PMs can even work long, stressful hours to ensure that a projectâs on track and deliver it before the deadline. More than this, as a project manager, you canât expect to go home and disconnect entirely from your work.
If youâre working for a smaller company where youâre the only project manager, you might be in charge of all duties. Youâll need to juggle several projects and allocate enough daily time to manage and control them. If youâre barely starting your career, this could be impossible since you donât yet have the necessary knowledge to manage your time accordingly.
On the other hand, you might not get to choose the project youâll work on. In this case, youâll get small projects that could waste your time. Similarly, you could come across a project related to a field youâre not interested in, making it difficult for you to want to learn more and grasp complete control of that domain.
How Do I Become A Project Manager
You can become a project manager by obtaining a project management or business administration degree or professional certification. In addition to this, you will also need to master important project management tools such as Microsoft project, Atlassian, Basecamp, etc. And of course, good people management and communication skills are mandatory.
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Business Improvement And Transformation
If youre looking for a career path outside of the construction, infrastructure and information technology industries, you could try your hand at business improvement and transformation, as our research also showed high levels of projects completed in this area at 45%.
The benefit of becoming a business improvement specialist is that you will be able to transfer these skills across a range of industries, from health, finance, to entertainment and hospitality. After all, whether its delivering a mobile app or opening a restaurant, a highly skilled project manager is needed to manage the project to ensure that it is delivered successfully.
A Project Managers Skills
Knowledge of project management is sometimes just not enough for you to become a great PM. As discussed above, you need soft skills as well. Being a good communicator and an open leader is not enough. Tackling daily project management challenges also requires accountability, adaptability, analytical and strategic thinking, decisiveness, a stress-resistant personality, and love for risk-taking. Being a multitasker with excellent written and oral communication skills can place you among the top project managers in your sector.
When it comes to hard skills, you should know that there is no specific project management skill. Depending on the project, youâll have to know everything. General business knowledge is highly desired. Donât worry, though. You donât need to be an expert in technical skills such as coding. However, giving accurate and detailed tasks to your developers is essential. Leading a project is all about making sure that your team members lack no crucial information to finish a task and deliver the final project successfully.
Another critical skill is understanding resource allocation and determining the proper timing of the resources needed within the project schedule. Whether you run a small or large business, choosing the best online resource management software can ease your work.
Take a look at the skills of the most successful project managers and find out if you have what it takes to become like them and what you have to improve:
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Is Pmp Certification Worth It
Yes, PMP certification is worth your time and effort. In fact, it is considered a gold standard in the field of project management. It greatly enhances your earning potential and value in an organization. As PMI mentions, this certification can help you earn as high as 25% than your non-certified peers. It enables you to stand out in the organization due to exceptional skills and best practices acquired during PMP training and certification.
Get Your Bachelor’s Degree In Business Management Or Business Administration
There are specific minimum educational requirements that must be met to become a project manager. You must at least have a high school diploma or equivalent to begin a career. Many project managers hold bachelor’s degrees in fields such as business management or business administration. If you wish to specialize in a particular field, such as the IT field, for example, you may be able to enter the field with a computer science degree.
What type of degree should you pursue to become a Project Manager?
87% of people working as a Project Manager earned a Bachelor’s Degree
What skills do you need to be a Project Manager?
- Excellent Communication
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Pmi’s Career Framework The Future State
As PMI continues to perform research with a wide variety of organizations, there is the potential for the identification of a consistent set of metrics for the variables that influence the creation of job descriptions. Typically, as a corporation creates a job ladder, human resource professionals evaluate the level of experience, e.g., time in position, size of project team, size of the project measured as value of the project and other variables as they create the job descriptions that are components of the ladder. In most instances, jobs higher on the ladder have increased responsibility as categorized by these variables. However, these metrics vary considerably based on the industry. An example of this is the value of the project measured in financial terms for a first level project manager. In some industries, a first level project manager has responsibility for a project valued at less than $250,000. However, in the case of the United States Department of Energy, a first level project manager has responsibility for a project valued at $1,000,000. In a similar fashion, project team size varies considerably based on industry. It would appear that a consistent set of metrics might be created based on industry type. Research in this area is ongoing and may confirm this suspicion.
How To Take The Next Step On Your Career Ladder In 7 Steps
Taking your next big step on the project manager career path takes work, commitment, and purpose.
As much as youd love your work to speak for itself, its rarely enough. Instead, you need to be more proactive if you want to move up in the industry. Here are a few best practices for how to successfully navigate your career move.
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Pmp Certificate
A PMP certificate is proof of your top-notch skills in the field of project management. It verifies an individuals ability to speak the global language of project managers and brings all kinds of projects to successful completion. By achieving the credential, you can work in virtually any industry as a project manager.
Project Manager Career Path: From Entry
Project managers might go on to become senior project managers, directors, or even vice presidents and other executives.
Thereâs no one way to become a project manager. And although that means youâll have many options as you embark on your project manager journey, it can make deciding what to do next a little confusing. Plus, what options do you have after youâve been a project manager for several years?
An aspiring project manager might build experience in an industry before stepping into this role, then go on to become a senior project manager, director, or even vice president or other executive. Hereâs a closer look at a project managerâs potential career path.
All salary information comes from Glassdoor as of December 2021.
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What Is A Project Management Process
There are five general phases of a project:
- Initiation: A project is proposed, agreed upon, and determined to be realistic, within budget, and helpful for the business.
- Planning: Details are figured out, finalized, and approved.
- Execution: The project begins, tasks are assigned, and results begin to be monitored.
- Project Monitoring and Control: The project is carried out and tracked to ensure it stays on schedule and within budget.
- Closure: The project comes to an end and delivers its final results.
As a project manager, your responsibilities will shift during each phase. The phases are a general guideline for moving through a project. Different organizations might have different names for these phases or might want additional steps included.
“Each industry may require different standards in projects, thus requiring a different set of tools, processes, or approaches,” says Buyurgan. For example, a construction project will require different approaches than a software development project.
Each industry may require different standards in projects, thus requiring a different set of tools.
You’ll likely touch on the essential phases of project management during your educational program, but you’ll need to be prepared to adapt them for your specific employer and project. Additionally, new technology and new best practices might redefine what these phases look like as your career progresses. They provide a good framework, but are not set in stone.
How Much Do Project Manager Jobs Pay
PayScale data suggests tech-centric project managers make nearly $90,000 per year on average, climbing to roughly $129,000 annually. Thats pretty close to the average tech professional salary, which rose 6.9 percent between 2020 and 2021 to hit $104,566, according to the most recent Dice Tech Salary Report.
If youre a project manager and want to boost your payor open up new career opportunitiesconsider learning a highly specialized skill. Project managers with an extensive background in complex artificial intelligence and machine learning projects, for example, are worth their weight in gold to companies that are devoting extensive resources to cutting-edge technologies.
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Getting The Job: Senior Project Manager Interview Questions
Whether youre moving up at your current organization or switching to an entirely different one, theres no getting past the interview process.
Especially for senior roles, companies want to see that you have the experience and insights to back up your resume.
Here are a few common interview questions for senior project managers to help you prepare:
What Do Qualifications Mean
According to Jennifer Bridges, PMP, the meaning behind project manager qualifications can change depending on the business and the role theyre hiring for. Essentially, a project manager whos qualified has the temperament, skills, and experience needed for the position. Typical requirements generally include at least three years of experience in a related role, the ability to communicate, formal training, and a PMP certification. Certification can be acquired through a professional association, a university or college, or through a specially focused online learning program.
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Skills Needed To Become A Project Manager
Having the right skill set is invaluable to a good career, and project management is no exception. The right skills will set you on the path to a successful career as you build the confidence to perform your role well. This involves developing both hard as well as soft skills to ensure you have a well-rounded knowledge-base and the capacity to form good working relationships.
Hard skills or technical skills are industry-specific skills. They tend to be non-transferable across industries. For example, the technical skills required to become an engineer cant be readily transferred to another job, like a health professional. Hard skills define your expertise in a particular domain.
Soft skills are interpersonal skills. Theyre just as important as hard skills and show how well you will function in the workplace. Since project management requires interaction with multiple teams, colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders, its important to have great interpersonal skills. These are skills are transferable across industries.
Whats The Secret Of A Project Management Career Path
Project managers are good at their job for various reasons. There is no definite secret. Thinking that you hold the secrets of this job can make you believe that youâre prepared for any situation. Nevertheless, many problems could occur anytime, making it impossible for you to know how to solve them without too much struggle. For this reason, itâs better to focus on being a great professional rather than hunting down the secrets of success. Doing what the best PMs are doing wonât guarantee youâll become successful like themâbeing passionate and open to change whenever something is not working right is more important. The project management world is one of the most dynamic business environments. You should be able to adapt to its changing nature and become comfortable with it.
Another tip that project managers might hesitate to share is the use of project planning software. This software can automate their tasks and help them plan and manage projects with ease. Finding the best tools often takes a lot of time and testing. Also, the apps and techniques you choose can depend on your work style.
More experienced project managers might even be able to tell you some secrets that youâll find nowhere else. The true secrets of this profession come only with experience. Even in project management, making mistakes and learning from them is a valid statement.
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Tools And Resources For Project Managers
Sometimes it takes more than just a great project manager to complete a project on time and within budget. Times have changed. Project management tools can now ease your work and eliminate the hassle of working with paperwork that can be lost forever.
Letâs start with the essential tools we recommend you use from the beginning of your career.
Your entire team will need a complete system for creating project documentation. Your best free option, in this case, is the Google Suite. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can all be used collaboratively. In this way, youâll be able to work with your team members efficiently, even when working remotely. Also, using Google Drive, you can ensure the safety of your data. Remember always to connect your files to cloud storage providers so that you donât lose any of your documents. Other similar file-sharing systems include Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud Drive.
Efficient collaboration is key to ensuring that each task is completed according to your clientâs requirements and that no mistakes are made. For this, youâll need a place to ask questions, share news, plan meetings, clarify tasks, and get feedback. In this sense, there are many collaboration tools, such as Slack, that you can connect your entire team to. If you prefer face-to-face interaction, you can also use video chat services. In this case, Slack works as a video calling system too, but you can opt for other alternatives like Skype, , or Viber.