If you love organising schemes, resources and people, a career as a project manager may suit you
As a project manager it is your responsibility to deliver projects on time and in budget, by planning and organising resources and people.
You'll need to track work to be completed, set deadlines and delegate tasks to the project team, identifying any potential risks.
Ultimately, you are responsible for completing the project work in line with the plan and will often report progress to senior managers.
Project managers work in a variety of sectors, such as:
Positions can be advertised under a variety of titles, including:
While job titles may vary, you will use the same skills to deliver projects in the workplace.
Project managers are accountable for delivering outcomes, so you'll have high levels of responsibility to ensure that you and your team are on track. Regardless of the content of the project and the sector you are working in, all projects follow a standard process, as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) UK. These are:
As a project manager, you'll need to:
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You can expect to work normal business hours Monday to Friday, but this will vary for each sector. You may be expected to work additional hours to meet deadlines and paid overtime is unlikely.
Working hours will vary if you are working freelance, and short-term contracts for the duration of specific projects are available.
You can get into project management with a degree in any subject. However, studying towards a foundation degree, HND or degree in business or project management will provide practical knowledge about the commercial aspects of projects.
Postgraduate study in project management will increase your understanding but is not a pre-requisite to employment. Search for postgraduate courses in project management.
Degrees accredited by the Association for Project Management (APM) are listed on their website.
As a new graduate you are unlikely to go straight into project management. Some graduate schemes may start you off in a junior or assistant project manager position, with the opportunity to progress to management as you develop experience.
In some sectors, such as IT and engineering, your subject knowledge will be more important than a business or project management degree. You can move into project management from technical roles after gaining experience in a project team or in a supporting administrative role.
To be a project manager, you'll need:
Technical knowledge related to the project may also be required.
Work experience in managing resources, costs and people will help you to get into project management - look for opportunities in supporting roles, such as administrator, coordinator and scheduling positions.
If you are successful in supporting project roles, there may be opportunity to formalise your experience and undertake professional qualifications to progress into management.
Extra-curricular clubs and societies, including the international organisation Enactus, can help to develop your project skills. Technical work placements will develop your sector knowledge and skills, increasing your credibility as a project manager.
You can join a professional body, such as the APM or the PMI, as a student member. This may provide opportunities to network with other professionals, keep your skills up to date through training, events, news and publications, as well as pointing you towards job opportunities.
As a project manager, you can work in a variety of sectors in both public and private sector organisations, such as:
Larger organisations employ project managers, whereas smaller companies are more likely to hire freelance project managers. Some specialist project management consultancy firms have graduate entry schemes. Professional services outsourcing firms also provide project managers for short-term contracts.
You are most likely to progress into project management through support or technical roles on project teams, so developing your professional network will help you to keep up to date with any job openings.
When you can demonstrate success, you can send speculative applications highlighting your relevant project and sector-specific experience.
Most project work is in addition to the core day-to-day activities of the business, for example implementing a new internal system. This means that you may be able to work as a freelance project manager on a short-term contract. If you develop a niche area of expertise you may be approached with opportunities.
Look for job vacancies at:
Taking professional qualifications before entering a project management role is not essential, as employers provide training for new recruits.
You are likely to develop your skills on the job through formal, accredited-training courses. As a project manager, you may be expected to apply standard methods and techniques such as:
You can also gain professional qualifications through these organisations:
Sector specific organisations, such as The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), also offer professional qualifications.
Your employer may provide software training on packages such as Microsoft Project or Open Workbench to help you monitor your projects.
You will develop transferable skills, which will help you progress either in project management or general management.
To help your career prospects, you may want to look into joining professional bodies and undertake further qualifications to make sure your skills are up to date.
With greater experience in project management, you could progress to programme manager, where you would be responsible for a team of project managers. Programme managers report directly to senior management and work at a strategic level.
The next level up consists of project management office (PMO) manager, where you would focus on ensuring a consistent approach across all project work within the organisation. This role requires strong project management skills.
Alternatively, you could apply your leadership skills and move into senior management roles. Progression within senior management can include positions such as head of department, director or chief executive.