How to Become a Project Manager

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

The role of a project manager is to ensure that operations run smoothly. Project managers do what their title indicates: They manage projects, make plans to execute ideas, establish processes and timelines, and shepherd the projects to completion. Whether a project manager is creating a specific piece of software, sales plans for new markets, or is planning construction or physical production, individual projects tend to be temporary. However, there’s also a need for someone to organize the resources and people to make it happen, and that’s also part of project management.1 As such, an effective project manager can have a vital role in an organization’s ability to execute plans and realize its vision.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) projects that by 2020, approximately 940,000 project management jobs will be created in fields as diverse as business services, utilities, construction, finance, information technology (IT) and manufacturing.1 Given the potential for rapid growth of the field, pursuing a career as a project manager may prove beneficial.

Career Path and Prospects

Perhaps more important than the question, “How do I become a project manager?” is the question, “What can I do as one?” The fields in which project managers work span much of the economy. A skilled project manager may be useful in any industry; however, the Project Management Institute projects that the following industries will show the most growth through 2027: 2

  • Management and professional services
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance and insurance
  • Information services and publishing
  • Construction
  • Utilities
  • Oil and gas

The project management profession may be appealing to a variety of people with divergent interests. Perhaps more appealing, however, is the number of jobs projected to be available: The Project Management Institute projects that though 2027, “214,000 project management jobs will be open each year in project-oriented industries.” However, that growth is also expected to expand beyond those industries.3

The Project Management Institute points out that “the practice of project management [will expand] within industries that were traditionally less project-oriented, such as health care, publishing and professional services.”3 Where this may represent an opportunity for students who are considering undertaking project management courses, though, is in the projected talent gap: Employers across the world are projected to need 87.7 million people working in project management roles by 2027. Additionally, as these positions are being created, many of the existing professionals will reach retirement age.4

Studying Project Management

An online project management degree is one option to help students cultivate the skills they may need to pursue a career path in this field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a bachelor’s degree is generally required for the profession. However, while it’s possible to land a job in the field without a degree, it typically necessitates more experience.4

Project management responsibilities may overlap with those in the business world, which could therefore make a Master of Business Administration an appealing choice. As such, some of the skills studied in project management courses may include the following:

  • Creating plans to accomplish organizational goals
  • Identifying stakeholders and developing plans to prioritize tasks according to organizational needs
  • Identifying and capitalizing on the skills of team members to accomplish projects
  • Conducting research and evaluating the research of others to make informed decisions
  • Applying critical thinking skills to understand and resolve issues along the way

Day-to-Day Work

Project managers are primarily responsible for moving a given project forward by using their skills and knowledge to organize people and resources, motivate a team, and keep an eye on big-picture objectives while paying attention to granular details. A successful project manager must be able to work in a dynamic environment wherein objectives sometimes shift, adapt as necessary according to changing conditions, and help others do the same in pursuit of a shared goal.5

The work of a project manager can be boiled down to three key elements:6

  • Planning, Executing and Closing Projects: At its core, this part of the job is where the groundwork is developed: You’ll work with management to define the project goals, take all factors (such as budgetary and time constraints) into consideration, and derive a plan to achieve the goal in light of any restrictions. You’ll then be responsible for shepherding the project.
  • Managing Teams: Management skills are crucial. To see your project to completion, you’ll likely have to rely on several teams with divergent areas of proficiency and established processes. You’ll work to complete the tasks in a timely manner, while sometimes applying pressure to ensure goals are met.
  • Managing Expectations: Conversely, you will have to set realistic expectations for upper management. Part of your job will be framing requests within the capabilities of your organization and the resources available to you.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a project manager, you should have a firm understanding of the role and responsibilities. Contact American InterContinental University to discuss your interests to pursue a degree in project management today.

1. “What is project Management?” Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/skills-underestimated-project-management-tools-5918 (Visited 10/26/18).
2. “Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes importance of project managers.” Federal Times. Retrieved from: https://www.federaltimes.com/management/2016/10/31/bureau-of-labor-statistics-recognizes-importance-of-project-managers/ (Visited 10/26/18). Conditions in your area may vary.
3. “Latest Findings Show Project Management Professionals in High Demand as Industry Job Growth Accelerates.” Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/about/press-media/press-releases/latest-findings-show-project-management-professionals-in-high-demand (Visited 10/26/18). Conditions in your area may vary.
4. “Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017 – 2027.”Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/job-growth-report.pdf (Visited 10/26/18).
5. “Sharpen your soft skills in this workshop of underestimated project management tools.” Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/skills-underestimated-project-management-tools-5918 (Visited 10/26/18).
6. “Who are Project Managers?” Project Management Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/who-are-project-managers (Visited 10/26/18).

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures.
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